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The Penny Arcade

 The Coin Operated machine Information Site 

                                                The Groetchen Tool & Mfg Co

                                                                         

                                                                        Richard Groetchen 1882-1966

 

The Groetchen Tool Co are a bit of an odd ball in the list of coin operated machine makers ,although the words "coin operated" and "automatic" run right through their history  they were far from being just a slot machine maker.

   Richard Groetchen was a talented engineer and inventor who patented many varied inventions during his working life. His first mechanical creation came in 1913 and embraced three  themes that would reoccur throughout the companies life, food, coin operated and being just a little different to all the others. For this first machine was a coin operated hard boiled egg dispenser.

For the next 18 years the company expanded making  equipment for many large companies but in 1930 they entered the coin operated amusement machine market with three  machines the "21" Vendor, the Dandy Vendor and the little Prince.

                                 

                                                "21" vendor                                                             Dandy Vendor

                                                                                 

                                                                                     Little Prince                                                        

       All these machine set the mark for most of the Groetchen machines that would follow in the next 20 years. They were small,they were trade Stimulators and they were a little different from the competition. Over the next five years they released at least 27 machines,all trade stims,all compact and often using five reels with various reel strips including cigarette packets,tavern themes ,playing cards and horse racing themes. Groetchen designed his own type of mechanism  which was very small allowing for five reels . 

                                      

                                                

 

    By 1935 Groetchen were one of the market leaders in trade Stims and decided to try their hand at a true slot machine , the mech was expanded to include a payout system and is one of (if not the only) slot machine mechanism  that does not resemble the Mills  Bell type in any way. The result was the Columbia and for the next ten years this machine,with various small  changes to the case, was their successful flagship slot machine. In true Groetchen fashion the machine had several unique features.

                                                                  

 The coin mech was designed to be quickly and easily changed between coin denominations,on site, by the operator and the machine was sold with several different coin sizes included. Reel strips could be  easily and quickly changed on site allowing for the game to be updated to fresh look whenever needed. 

The payout system was powered by a single rod that moved into the mech in varying distances  when a payout was detected , the escalator took the form of a circular glass fronted reel showing the coins moving round until they dropped into individual slots in a large circular tray that moved one space forward with each pull of the handle. This tray was spring loaded in the opposite direction to the handle pull movement and when the payout rod released the tray by moving forward on the win the tray retreated the correct number of positions indicated by the win paying out the desired number of coins . This reduced the design needed in the coin entry as far as dud coins needing to be detected because if the player was using slugs to play the machine his winners would be paid in the slugs he had been putting in.

 

                         

                                       Columbia Mech(note the escalator and payout coin tray)             

The Columbia was much cheaper to make(and so sold cheaper) than the standard slot of the day and this was a big part of its success. However it was prone to jamming . The Columbia was pretty much the only Bandit style slot machine the company ever made with the last versions being released  in 1946-48. They made an attempt at another bandit style machine in 1950 with the corona Blue bell but it was not a success.

During WW2 ,unlike most slot companies, Groetchen were not compelled to cease slot production and switch to war production although they do seem to have halted the Columbia during the war years, probably due to the shortage of aluminium .They did bring out a few very unique wood cased machines with a propaganda  theme " Poison  the Rat" "Kill the Jap" and "Smack a Jap". These machines now considered very much "not  politically correct"  are very much sort after by collectors and fetch high prices. Interestingly "Poison the Rat" came out a good year before the USA entered the war in 1941.

                                

                           Kill the Jap 1943                                Poison the Rat 1940                              Smack a Jap 1941

 

   During this war time period they also produced several  other very successful wood case machines, notably "Pikes Peak" and "Skill Jump" as well as,quite surprisingly to UK collectors , at least two Allwins "Zoom" and "skill Shot."

 

       

                       Skill jump   1940                                                                 Pikes peak  1941

             

                                                 

                                                                            Skill Shot 1940 

    Interesting to see this machine in action, it has an interesting coin entry for an Allwin it also has a reserve ball feature much like the British "Electric Amuser". It also has (typically for Groetchen) one,I think) unique feature for an Allwin,a tilt mechanism. Also some of the art work was directly placed onto the glass,an idea not used in the UK on Allwins,this must have given the machines a nice 3D look.                                                                                    (see it in action page top left.)

                                    

 

                                               

                                 

                                                                                Zoom 1940        

                 Also during the war years Richard Groetchen  started to look again at automated cooking equipment patenting several cookers in 1943 including early rotisseries  and rotary  broilers. After the war he owned and operated a very up market restaurant called the Grotechen  in Madison Ave New York and was clearly thinking the automatic food cooker was the way to go,At a trade fair in 1947 he personally demonstrated his steak cooker and handed out free  steaks to all comers .

                                                          

                                                                    Grotechen Rotary Cooker Patent 1943    

                                        The company was still interested in making slots,especially trade stimulators. Grotechen and several other makers mistakenly believed that the failing trade stim market would boom again after the war with demand for new machines to replace the old worn out machines from before the war. This was huge mistake, despite launching five new models including the rather nice "wings" the public's interest had moved on and the demand never returned.

 

                                 

                                                        

                                                              

 In 1949 the company launched a very modern 3D viewer called "Look" which was available as battery operated or mains and what was pitched as "the smallest slot machine ever" the "Imp" 

                                                                  

                                                                        The Imp Vendor           

but both failed to impress and with one last try with the very interchangeable Corona Blue Bell the company moved out of slot production in 1950 and Richard sold his factory and tooling to the Herbel Corp in 1951 by which time they were mostly making ice cream cabinets. Richard,not ready to retire although aged 69, then rented space in his own old factory from Hebel and founded Grotechen Broil-a-Matic making automatic cookers.

In 1954 an advert in Billboard shows Grotechen Broil-A-matic selling off their stock (including old slots) in a "must vacate building" sale.

Richard Groetchen died in California  in 1966 aged 84  leaving behind him some of the nicest and unique coin operated machines ever made .        

 

                                                                   A few Groetchen Machines

        

                         

                                The Penny Smoke                                                           The Tavern  

               

                   High Stakes(note the unusual reel strips)            Blackjack (this cleaver machine used hidden windows to                                                                                                                                            create a blackjack score

                                                                                                                                              

                                      

                              The very nice looking "ZigZag"                                                    The rare "Solitaire"

 

                                 

                                             Liberty Bell                                                                                   Zephyr        

 

                                    

                                                 Sparks                                                                                  Candy Vendor

                            

                                   Columbia(Vendor only)                                                      Columbia double jackpot

                                            

                                             Eagle (1948)                                                                        Gold Award  

 

                                                  

                              Sparks "club" with tavern reels                              the last of their  trade Stims   "Wings"        

 

                          

                                                          

                                                                                          The Sugar King  

         this war time console machine usually had a wooden case,the metal case one on the right is most likley post war

 This well made machine used a standard Columbia mech hooked up to an electric flasher unit to replace the reels

        (see the video top left)

                                                          

          Note the cleaver attempt to make players think they were helping the war effort by playing "Poison the Rat"

                                                                                                 Flyers  

 

      

 

                                           

                                    "Look" 3D Viewer (1949)                                                                     Eagle (1948)    

         A bargain at $29.50 inc 1 set of 9 "risque" 3D photos