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The Penny Arcade

 The Coin Operated Machine Information Site 

                                                 The Bell-Fruit Manufacturing Co

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 Im not going to write a history of this interesting British slot machine company as there exists a very good and detailed history online. Written by Freddy Bailey in can be seen HERE  I shall content my self with a gallery of Bell fruit machines and a few important dates and facts

The Bell fruit slot machine company,despite its name hinting at the old days of slot machines, came very late to the slot world. In the late 1950's the slot industry in the USA hamstrung by crippling laws was failing. The famous Watling slot company,who had not kept up with modern designs was the first major maker to decide to get out of the slot machine industry.They,having moved to Reno in a failed attempt to stay in the slot business, sold their tooling to two local men who re--branded as Bell-Fruit and set out to build their own machines,this venture soon failed although it did result in a new style front opening case. The tooling,now marked Bell-fruit Manufacturing corp, was sold to Kenyon Wilkinson an American who had been selling slot machines to the US military for their bases in Europe.

Seeing a market, predominantly in pubs, in the UK Kenyon Wilkinson and his partner George Prock bought the tooling from Watling (and,at first possibly some complete mechanisms) and contacted Sam Norman of Balfour Marine (Engineering) who was assembling Bal-Ami juke boxs at the time about making a British one armed bandit. The result was the "Silver Queen" followed soon after by the "Mills Penny"

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        Kenyon Wilkinson was not over impressed with these basically "old mechs in new cases" even though certain aspects of their design would become standard on BELL-Fruit's later machines (the cash tray rails and the flat front are clear to see) Seeing himself as an out and out slot maker rather than a refurbisher he soon bought out his old partners took on a failed cash register makers factory in Nottingham to form The Bell-Fruit Manufacturing Co. The result was the first true Bell-Fruit machines "three alike", "line em up" and "Penny special" in 1963

 

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           The standard Bell-fruit case quickly developed into the very "60's" look it retained through the mechanical era

 

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       This machine , the "7-T" seems to have been fitted with a very different mech to other Bell          machines although that particular art work can be found on several models and hints at             re-casing old complete mechs

       Wilkinson had been right about the UK pub market and Bell machines were soon  becoming a regular sight in pubs where the pub was run by a tenant who had the power to install a machine rather than in pubs owned by a brewery and run by a manager who did not.

   Determined not to miss out  Wilkinson went direct to Charingtons brewery and convinced them to take his machines in large number of their pubs, An inspired selling point was to change the usual fruit reels strips to symbols of the breweries different beers as well as customised art work on the front glass, this "in your face" advertising  proved to be a big hit and soon  other breweries wanted the same treatment.

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                                  Bell-Fruit made for Flowers Brewery                          Beer label reel strips

        The company flourished making a variety of machines,all very similar in style and simple in                        operation for both pubs ,clubs and arcades pretty much always in low value coinage,1D (later 1p) 6D and even some dedicated  3d machines. They made some extravagant console machines that look a little dated now but were considered stylish in their day.

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  a rarity ,a slot machine designed to run on 3D coins            "Cop-a-Lot" a 1p machine from my own collection

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     The "giant Jackpot" is one of their rarer machines                 "Krazy Koins" looking very much like "Cop-A-lot"

     used a modified case for its more complex payouts

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             In a rare departure from bandits Bell-Fruit made this very popular drop case machine still sort after today 

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                  Bell-fruit casings always retained the Reno Nevada stamp marks from their early days             

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             "keep it simple" and "if it aint broke dont fix it" seem to have been the watch words,and it paid off!

  A quick note about the company badge that adorns many Bell-fruit machines. This has to be the best quality badge seen on any slot machine,anywhere. It was made by Frattorini in Birmingham, this very upmarket jewelers made (as they still do today) Royal regalia,watches,swords etc , In the 60's they also made quality badges for the likes of Rolls Royce and Aston Martin cars. The Bell fruit badge is quality made and  fully enameled, a special edition seems to have been issued in 1965 combined with a Churchill Crown piece.

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   By 1970 Bell-fruit were looking to go international and made inroads into the lucrative German and Dutch markets with their new eletro mechanical machines          

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                  Export  electro mechanical machine looking very much like German machines of the era

   By 1969 Bell-Fruit were pushing a head with new modern ideas and in July of that year launched the Wildcat, this was a development of several earlier cabinet machines and was to become the basis of their new generation of electric slot machines.

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    As the 70's progressed we start to leave the scope of this slot site as fully electronic machines become the norm. Bell-fruit went on to make many  cabinet style machines both for the UK and Europe and today, still working from Nottingham, are a prime mover in the electronic games market,Still operating as Bell-Fruit but part of the massive Novamatic empire