Menu
header photo

The Penny Arcade

 The Coin Operated Machine Information Site 

                                       

.

                                                        The Shefras Collection

                       

                                                                Solomon Shefras at his trade stand 1935

              

The Shefras family hold a unique and important position in the history of amusement machines in the UK but their history is strangely lacking in detail and full of holes. With that in mind I have done the best with the information I've managed to find. If any one can add or correct anything on this page (or any other page for that matter) please let us know and I will gladly update the facts.

                                   our thanks to the pennymachines.co.uk forum for the use of many of these photos.

As far as the amusement machine industry is concerned the Shefras family initially consisted of three men. Solomon and his two sons Phillip and Morris (who were later joined by their sons).Solomon was born in 1882 probably in Russia for he took the British oath of allegiance on 26th Sept 1910 at the Seven Stars pub in Bethnal Green,at that time he gave his occupation as Tobacconist and his address as 189 Brick Lane Bethnal Green (which appears to have been the Seven stars pub), Solomon seems to have formed his first slot machine related business in 1925.  "Solly" as he was known died in 1954 aged 72.

Solomon had two sons, Morry and Philip and two daughters Helen and  Doris . During WW2 Morris (Morry) saw service in the Royal Army Ordinance corps and Philip was in the Navy.Before the war  both sons worked with their father but rather than the usual family business tradition of   moving on from father to sons Shefras developed into three separate companies (although Solomon's business seems to have closed as the other two opened) but it was from Solomon that the two boys learnt their trade.

                          

                                               Morris Shafras  with his three sons Michael,David and John

                                                         Our thanks to Morris's grandson  Ian Shefras for this great photo

Around 1946/47 they moved on to form their own companies in London ,south of the Thames  (Morris)  and in the east end (Philip).Just to add to the confusion the families business' dissolved and reformed several times and changed address over and over again. below is just a hint of some of the changes

                                               

  Earliest know Shefras date is from this Tivoli machine token declaring"Shefras ,London,established 1899

                        but this date is hard to justify as Solomon was listed as a Tobacconist in 1910

    Is it possible Solomon's father (also named Solomon) played any part in the amusements business ?

 

Shefras Novelty Co. - Solomon "Solly" Shefras, Jr. - established Shefras Novelty Co. in Bow Common Lane in 1925, relocated to Cambridge Road in 1927, changed to Shefras Automatics, Ltd. in 1933.

In 1933 a change of name and address of the firm was made from “Shefras Novelty Company,” 39-40-41 Wickford St., to “Shefras Auto­matics, Ltd.,” 62-63 Fetter Lane, London with sons Philip and Morris as directors. Application to wind up the company LG 1947 (dissolved LG 1953)

Later again, c1947, we have Morris Shefras & Sons Ltd., 23 Vine Rd ,east molsey, Surrey moving later to 225 Blackfriars Road, S.E.1 and Philip Shefras (Sales) Ltd., Hollybush Place, Bethnal Green Road, London E.2 (05 Mar 1951 - 25 Jun 1990) and Philip Shefras Spares

Also listed: Buckley Shefras, Ltd. c1966 (dissolved LG 1976)

        

             Philip Shefras (left) busy selling at a trade show in 1960 while Morris (middle) does the same on his stand

 

Although all three made interesting and often innovative machines of their own (or at least had them made for them ) their strength was in supply/distribution ,invention and adaptation as well as arcade/bingo hall management and a large and successful spares service.     

 Its quite clear that Shefras often had close links with many other slot machine makers both in the UK and the USA and this policy of working closely with others goes a long way to shrouding and fogging the companies history. Many machines can be found with Shefras nameplates but as to  who actually who made them, well this  can take some investigation with often no definite outcome. Shefras themselves didn't make things any easier by making machines using names other than "Shefras" .Morris labelled  machines  "Amusement Machine Mart" and Philip may have  used the name "Allwin Supreme" on some of his machines .

Add to this that Shefras were often the "sole agents" for another companies machines which they labeled "Shefras"  as well as registering joint patents with other makers  for new machines which never did have a Shafras name on them, and so... confusion ensues to this day!

        

 The distribution/supply and spares side of the business were perhaps what made the biggest profits and are pretty much self explanatory, the spares business was particularly extensive and advertised its self as "your one stop spares supplier" as late as 1999

   Our great thanks to Michael Shefras MBE (son of Morris)for his help with the Shefras history from 1947 to 1990

                                   

              

 

 The clever inventions patented by Shefras deserve a closer look,the most well know is the Shefras roll down escalator invented to handle coin conversion to UK coins and  replace the standard Mills escalator which was prone to wear and jams in the cheaper faster moving fairground market of the UK. Most of us in the UK who are bandit collectors are often disappointed to find a Shefras escalator in our latest Mills hi-top rather than the more interesting but troublesome original .

                                        

                                    The simple but trouble free Shefras escalator 

Many other inventions such as  coin accepters ,coin reject systems and even revised jackpots, all of which were primarily aimed at conversions of US machines to UK coinage ,can also be found.

 

  Adaptation went hand in hand with collaboration (or even downright copying ) ,projects like the Buckley-Shefras bandits and Shefras flashers that look remarkably like Jamieson's bare testament to this.

                    

                   Buckley /Shefras collaboration Bandit             Although Sheras did work with Jamieson this machine

                                                                                              was almost certainly not made by Jamieson despite looking

                                                                                                                              as if it might have been

Ian Jamieson  is known to have payed this machine and said he didn't believe the company ever made a machine like it

                                 And so to the machines they did ,or might have made.

                                                     

Solamon's first machines seem to have been close copies of the standard "tivoli" machines of that earlier era. The later well known Shefras "punch Ball" machine certainly had new features but was still pretty much a revamp of the Ahrens design.

                                       

                        Early patent by Solomon Shefras              Shefras punch bag drawing strongly on the Ahrens machine

 

 By the time Philip and Morris were running their own business the allwin market ,was still strong in the Uk, and the big names dominated the market and continuing to turn out Allwins like those of other,bigger makers was not going to work so Shefras looked at new styles including electric parts ,these would be more expensive to produce and savings were made on the cosmetic side and the cases in particular were often made of cheap plywood which was a shame as the machines are often exceptional in there concept and their mechanical and  electo-mechanical  ingenuity 

         

   

   Not all their innovations were complex or electronic ,the easy to change payout display helped make it quick and simple for the operator to change payout ratios ,the hammer lock devise on the right allowed multi coin  payouts on allwins by only releasing the correct slides on a win

Morris at least saw the coming rise of the Bingo hall and produced a range  of innovative  bingo equipment such as lite up display boards and electric powered  ball blowers/dispensers he also moved more and more into the running of Bingo Halls and arcades and Philip specialised in German "Rotomint " style machines and American "Bingo" pin tables made in the USA and copied and improved in Belgium  and this variation in production styles and business departments proved a good move in keeping the companies profitable in a slot market hampered by out dated gambling laws and  fast changing from mechanical to electronic.

                               

Time limit was a classic example of a semi electric allwin using the electric additions to create something new. The player got unlimited chances to try for a win as long as the timer ran.

        This machine may well have been made by Kraft on behalf of  Shefras

                   Beat The Clock

                          

 

                           Crackerjack employed a turning  reel to determine the payout.

 

                          

 The  "Extrawin" was another machine with a new twist,every win moved the center wheel one stop and an extra win                                                                             when a ball reached the top

Thanks to "Grains" for the photos of his extra win

 

 

             

        The "Colourwin" allowed the player to select the colour that would be a winner if the ball hit that colour

                                    this machine was also unusual in having a pin table shaped ball run              

                                                                            The instructions read     

    THE SKILL MACHINE ON WHICH YOU CHOOSE YOUR OWN WINNING COLOUR. PLACE COIN IN SLOT THEN SELECT YOUR COLOUR.                                          cOLOUR SELECTED CANNOT BE CHANGED AFTER SHOOTING BALL.

 

 

                              

               The "Numbola" seems to have been a pure breed Shefras attempt at the popular "flashers" of the 60's

                      its uninteresting design (and name)meant it was not popular and few seem to have been made

                      

                                                   

                                       Race track and cyclone were better designed flashers and sold better

                                                                    

         a variation on "Cyclone"using the same electrics was this "Love Machine" which had the added benefit of not                                                                                                 having to pay out 

                                      

                            The innovative "Jackpot"                                                     The stylish "Flash win"

  The use of very springy dividing rods between the payout tubes made these easy looking winners quite hard to win on

              

          The traditional style "Shares" proved a success and is much sort after

 

                 

                       "Cigaretto" and "Double win" clearly have much in common and are quite early models

                   note the somewhat weak attempt to avoid gambling laws by calling the cigarette paying "Cigaretto" 

                                                                                  a vending machine

                                                       

    Shefras had exclusive rights to supply  this rather nice "shocker" made by Bradley and it is often found with a

                                                                                    Shefras name plate 

                                                             

                                               

       These two machines claim to be made by Philip Shefras yet the three barrels is a Haydon & Urry design and most                 likley made by them despite its Shefras badge,the second one may have indeed been "re-worked" by Shefras

 

                                                      

         Two more machines by Philip Shefras, the earlier "Allwin supreme"  sporting a better made solid wood case 

                                 while the later "Safari" has a pleasing but cheaper painted plywood case

 

                                                     

          Inside a Philip Shefras "jackpot" note the electric payout system, it can also be found as a mechanical payout  both gave the illusion of paying the 12 coins visible in the jackpot window . In fact the coins were simply hidden from view while a standard slide (or solenoid) payout paid the winner  . Shefras "Payola" also used a version of this illusionary jackpot                                                                                        

                                             see them both  in action (inside and out) below and top left    

                         

                                     

  Despite Speedway being a more popular sport in the UK than football in the early 1950's Shefras were the only slot maker to use a speedway theme. This machine can also be found with the electric payout system seen on the right.

 

                                     

                                                           two versions of "Win a pack of polo fruits" 

                                                      

                                                                                         the polo dispenser 

                                        

   There has been a lot of discussion between collectors as to who made the range of Allwins labeled "Allwin Supreme"                                      and there is now a strong case for them being made for but not by Philip Shefras

 

                                                     

                                               

                                          Time Limit in Action

   

                         

                        

              The Jackpot in action,note the "false" jackpot

                                                   ,       

 

          The "Big Cherry" was most likley part of the Buckley/Shefras collaboration ,the series of "royal" bandits are a bit of a mystery,they often carry the Shefras badge but its doubtful they made them or even adapted them, most likely they imported them under a deal with the company who was either cloning or revamping them from older Sagas using                                                                                                  mills Mechs

 

                              

 this 1963  photo of the London amusement machine trade fair at the Horticultural halls shows Ruffler&Walker's stand front middle with Morris Shefras' behind and Philip Shefras ' behind that. Morris's stand seems to consist of mostly Bingo equipment    

 

     Its unlikely that Shefras made  this remarkable shooting gallery type machine .Most likely they distributed and serviced it .I remember these myself,there was a bank of three next to each other on Brighton Pier on the south coast of England when I was young.They were fearsomely expensive to play at one shilling per go but there was ALWAYS a wait to play.

                                                                

The game simulated aircraft dogfights  and used a film loop and audio of WW2 aircraft combat,the player controlled the sights and trigger  of the gun and racked up points for hits,in the 60's this was a thrill of a game not to be seen again until the coming of modern video games. The makers claimed that US air gunners actually used these machines during training. This claim seemed far fetched to me but while researching this section I found articles  in both                                    Billboard and Aircraft Magazine  which confirmed, without doubt, that this was true

 

           

 

                this flyer shows machines being offered by Morris Shefras,in 1953 and below the accompanying wording 

                  

 

                   

                     

   In 1953 Morris Shefras issued two new allwins,(mentioned in the flyer) Double Diamond and Double diamond deluxe

 These were interesting in that the operator could adjust not only the payout amounts but the payout types,the standard default setting for the DD was 9 cups ,4 paying cigarettes and 5 paying 1d but this could be varied, the DD deluxe was a 20 cup version of the same machine.

   This is a rare machine and these are the only photos we have ever seen of it,our thanks to Arrgee for finding the photos for us                  

                                              

 

                                          The "Double Diamond" variable payout  mech (cigarettes and/or coins)

 

                               

                                               Double your money                                                              n an Aero

                                  

    This standard Allwin was clearly put together very cheaply          The "Safari" in a better  hard wood case

 

                             

                                                         

                           

                                 These three hint at a more modern style of art work and are most likley late 60's   

                                                 

                                    

                                                

 

                                   

 

                                          The first of these choc bar machines is by Morris and the second by Philip 

 

                       

                              Perhaps a hint of a "Bryans" machine in the art work for these two Allwin Supreme

           

                                                                    

                                  I rather like the simple artwork on this "win a cig" from the Philip Shefras stable

 

                                                           

                           This complex (and interesting) looking "Football" game was made by Shields and supplied and                                            distributed by Shefras . This flyer states the rather odd selling point "simply beat Fulham to win"