header photo

The Penny Arcade

 The Coin Operated Machine Information Site 


                     Tom Boland & Co, Leeds, England


Most slot machine collectors in the UK have a soft spot for Tom Boland and his machines. At first glance, it's not easy to see why, for the most part, he refurbished other peoples old machines in pretty much a back street workshop environment. Cases were whatever came to hand and external castings were varied and very much "mix and match" (sometimes they didn't even match). The mechs he used were often very old, usually from pre-war mills or Callie machines and very often heavily "doctored" to suit his machines. A lot of his machines suited the fairground market being solid and pretty much indestructible and not too expensive. Usually, they are not very interesting to play, so why does every UK bandit collector want at least one in his collection? 


Firstly they are always interesting to look at, their varied cases and ornaments make them stand out every time. Cases range from fine wooden ones to solid metal ones built like tanks, castings found on one "film Stars" can often be found on "the White City", a photo of a film star might turn up on the front of a greyhound racing theme machine. Although built in the late '40s to late 50's period they often contain mechs close to 100 years old..and still going strong.

Also, they appeal very strongly to the restorer. So often we buy machines that have seen a lot of use but still retain more than enough of there originality to make it preferable to keep it as is. But it would be rare to find an untouched  Boland machine that didn't cry out for restoration, often big time.,and they respond to it better than most.


                                             Before                                                                                After

Tom Boland started out in the slot industry as a machine operator in 1926 working with his brothers but by 1942 was also servicing and repairing machines.  By the end of WW2 with the shortage of new machines, Boland had found a market revamping old (mostly American) machines giving them a totally new look. By 1950 Boland was importing old unwanted bandits and not only giving them new cases but adapting the mechs. He employed engineer J.Davis to convert three-reel mechs into one reel machines offering the customer something a little new.


 Reel strips were often made up using the names of famous film stars of the time. These machines were very popular yet strangely uninteresting to actually play!



By the 1950s the company was trading as The "Automatic Agency" from 56a Elland Rd. Leeds. And on several occasions, Boland machines were also displayed at trade shows on the "Chicago Automatics" stands.


                                                                           Automatic Agency trade flyer

In an article, he wrote for Billboard magazine in 1948 Tom talks of how the war had all but destroyed his business and of having to start again in 1945, its clear from what he wrote that the lack of available machines had caused him problems, he mentions for example that no new pin tables had been seen in the UK for over nine years and that he was "working alone".But went on to hint that things were picking up and the future looked better. His one reel machines seem to have been catching on by then.


                                                                                   Single Reel display

As new modern machines became more available in the UK in the late '50s/early 60's Boland & Co seem to have faded from view. Thankfully many robust, solid built Boland machine survive and continue to please collectors, and not just in the UK.


 Although the models are limited  the styles are many and varied

                                   here are but a few 



                                 Stars of the silver screen                                             The Very Latest

                                                             Featuring film Stars on the reel strips               



                         Two of this  previously unknown "Film Stars"model suddenly popped up in 2020, both in the USA!


                                  Wood Cased Film Stars                                                        The White city


               Another unknown model this time football-themed emerged in 2020, again in the USA.

Once again underlining the charm or Boland machines, even 70+ years on an unknown model can still turn up



                                             Fair Play                                                                        Brooklands



                                       Bomber command                                                          Special Prize 

               This machine featured names of famous planes

                                         on its single reel



                                    Brooklands Jackpot                                                                 The Mills               



                                                                                     Screen Stars with Reel display



                                                                                      White City with reel display



                                                  Spinning Reels                                                        See The Guvnor



                                                                                              Black Beauty                  




                                                                                           Screen Stars



                                                               Two "Fair Play" one wood-cased one Metal cased



                                                                Two very well Restored Brooklands Models

                                                 The grey machine  restored to better than new by "Treefrog"

       our thanks to him for the use of his photos & to for  the use of many of the other images