The Marathon Cycle Race machine, £6300 at John Taylors.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Those that escaped the scrapyard have become highly sought after by collectors.

The collection of 25 amusement machines that came up for auction at John Taylors (18% buyer’s premium) of Louth on March 12 had been “picked up for next to nothing when they were about to be scrapped half a century ago”, said James Laverack from the auction house.

The top result was achieved by an “ultra-rare” The Marathon Cycle Race, a game in which two players spin wheels to race cyclists round a track. The winner gets their penny back.

There are said to be fewer than 10 known examples of this 1930 machine extant, said Laverack. He added that the £1500-1800 estimate “was passed in seconds”. At £6300, “the lot won by a bidder present in the room who quickly loaded his buy into the back of a hatchback and departed in triumph to Yorkshire”.


Wright monkey climbing machine, £4200 at John Taylors.

A variation of the same game made by the Bridlington amusement firm R Wright & Son was expected to make £200-400 but sold at £4200. Rather than cyclists round a track, it involved two players competing to propel monkeys up trees. It received a round of applause when it was knocked down to a Lincolnshire buyer.


Gypsy Fortune Teller machine (detail), £5200 at John Taylors.

A Welsh bidder paid £5200 for a 1935 Gypsy Fortune Teller machine (estimate £2000-3000), a rare 1931 Green Ray Television machine, a Cleethorpes Promenade amusement that claimed to be able to read the mind using ‘television rays’, sold for £4500 (guide £2000-3000), and a Chamber of Horrors automaton, one of the few post-war machines in the collection, raised another £2700 (estimate £600-800).


Green Ray Television machine, £4500 at John Taylors.

Meanwhile, a Payramid by William Bryans, “regarded by many collectors as the greatest slot machine game ever invented”, went for a double estimate £1300.

Saved from scrap

Laverack said: “The £40,000 total the collection made in the auction was more than double expectations, a great result and something of a triumph for the vendors, a local couple who all those years ago decided to save some of the old machines that were being scrapped in their thousands when their working lives in seaside amusement arcades along the East Coast were over.”


Chamber of Horrors machine, £2700 at John Taylors.

British penny in the slot machines had also proved popular at Newbury saleroom Special Auction Services in December last year, such as a John Dennison of Leeds fortunetelling machine c.1890s that took £3600. Many had a Blackpool Tower connection. See ATG No 2627.