A rookie's questions: comparing two Lion's Heads

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A rookie's questions: comparing two Lion's Heads

Postby djvanyel » Sat May 09, 2015 1:49 pm

So as a rookie aspiring collector who hopes one day to live somewhere where it isn't illegal to own these machines, I recently came across this forum after reading the article linked by Dave on spotting fakes/revamps and have since tried to hone my "fake detector" for future use. Since the Lion's Head (aka, Wolf's Head, Gooseneck Silent Bell?) is one of my favorites and there just happens to be two similar, but distinctly different, versions currently listed on eBay, I tried my hand at comparing the two. While I don't think either are reproductions ("fake"), I found myself unable to make a concrete call on whether or not one had been revamped. Since this might be a good learning exercise for myself and any other new collectors out there, I thought perhaps I'd give my own rookie analysis of the two to the forum and ask some of the more seasoned vets if they could maybe point out the finer details that the more junior collectors might miss and if there are any other red flags to be aware of. Or, maybe I'm just totally wrong and both are fine. Either way, I'd love to have a pro's analysis and know for sure.

Disclaimer: I am making no judgement or statement about either listing or their respective sellers and do not mean to cast any doubt as to the legitimacy or honesty of either. I'm merely using the exhibited photographs of the two machines as examples for a side-by-side visual comparison in order to study the minute differences between the machines. In other words: this is simply an academic exercise. Apologies in advance if this seems mis-categorized or is superfluous.

Commonalities between the two: Both seem to be correct denomination (5 cent) and neither pays out on a single cherry (at least according to the award cards). The base nails are both in place, and neither seems to have any obvious abnormalities beyond cosmetic defects which are likely the result of age and are to be expected (if not essential). In general, they both seem like good collector candidates although one has definite differences from the other. Here's my take:

Candidate A (looks real to me) http://www.ebay.com/itm/331545724089:
This one looks real to me. After comparing it with others around the internet everything seems to be appropriate and the machine seems to show wear consistent with its age (if not being a little on the rough side). The back plate is matte and the "Dear Mr. Owner" sticker seems to look like it's been there for 80+ years of service. The only thing that I thought may be of concern is that the front of the case looks almost as if it was re-painted (amateurly) at some point in the past. The base also looks like it may have been re-varnished at some point since you can barely make out the nails and it's considerably darker than most others I've seen. My e-bay radar also flags slightly at the continued use of "Real Deal" in quotes (makes me think there's something not real about it) but that's beside the point. We also aren't shown the mech out of the casting, so therefore no view of the serial number or the mech by itself to see if the elusive "free play lemon" feature is installed or not (I've heard this is a rare feature, is this true?). It also looks like some of the lock hardware on the back plate might have been replaced, although this doesn't seem like a big deal. The questions here are: is the seemingly minor cosmetic damage and slight degree of unknown a factor here or is this the survivor collector piece that it seems to be?

Candidate B (looks like she may have had some work done) http://www.ebay.com/itm/161697842764:
This one looks in much better condition, which immediately makes me wonder. We are, however, clearly shown a stamped serial number on the inside of the front plate (I am assuming that is the serial number and it's in the correct place). The casting also looks like it's been repainted, albeit more recently and by a much steadier hand. I've seen a variety of color schemes in my research so I'm assuming both A's and B's are "correct". From the basics of the article I see a few warning signs:
    - The cash box and the reel strips look almost too clean and fresh.
    - The mech is very clean, which makes me think it's a "fake" despite it not paying out on 1 cherry (so the card says, at least).
    - The award card, while being aged in appearance, doesn't match any of the others I've seen. This one has the actual symbols rather than being plain text and makes no mention of the Jackpot that we can see. I'm thinking this came from another machine.
    - The back plate looks glossy and therefore could be a reproduction.
    - The case doesn't look right. This at first didn't seem like a big deal until I really looked at it. The big giveaway was not seeing the authenticity seal. While this may have just been left out of the pictures, there is one angle (a close-up of damage to one corner of the casing) that seems like it should have captured the seal in the frame. I also don't see the white detail work near the corners of the sides that is present on Candidate A. The wood seems to match the base though, so I think this is either a replacement or the original was re-finished.
My conclusion here was that this machine has been rebuilt or at least had some parts replaced. The next question here being: what's been changed and does the machine still have any value as it stands now?

Again, sorry if this rather large post is in any way misguided/misplaced. As someone who's appreciated the beauty of these classic machines from an early age, and who also appreciates the difference between an original machine and an "original" machine, I thought it might be an interesting exercise to use as a tool for future reference for any aspiring collector since I'm a big believer in learning from the experts.

Thanks!
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Re: A rookie's questions: comparing two Lion's Heads

Postby Midcoast Vintage » Sat May 09, 2015 3:58 pm

both machines appear to be originals.
b obviously has been redone at some time, by redone, i mean amateur restoration.
a appears to be a decent original machine, although a bit over priced.

do not let the fact that the mills decals are missing from a machine deter you from a purchase. the person who did the the repaint, may not have had access, or, even have been aware that they were available.
by the same token, do not let the fact that a machine does have the decals is authentic. decals are available for just about anything, and everything... as last weeks vegas auction proved.
there was a restored kerosene space heater... you know the ones... usually baby blue with nickel parts...there's one in every antique mall...they are about 2 feet tall and round... well, someone OVER restored one, and, put a caille decal on it.
so.... don't be fooled by a decal... it authenticates nothing.
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Re: A rookie's questions: comparing two Lion's Heads

Postby djvanyel » Sat May 09, 2015 4:15 pm

Thanks for the reply! I know the presence of the decal really means nothing (the facsimile ones are also available on ebay) but the absence of it on Candidate B made me wonder. The case looks like it matches the base, but I suppose that also doesn't necessarily mean anything. I questioned whether or not the wood had been replaced or not, or if it had just been refinished. I guess in light of your comments it's probably more likely that it was refinished by the same amateur restorer. Are there any aspects besides those I mentioned that stand out as having been an amateur restoration? Also, that being said, how much does that detract from the value of it? I know that the little details like having the wrong award card would bug the hell out of me, being a bit of a purist, but does that translate to a big difference in collector value of a machine in general?
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Re: A rookie's questions: comparing two Lion's Heads

Postby YourBestBet » Sat May 09, 2015 4:54 pm

Both machines appear to be original and both have been repainted at some point (though neither is 100% correct).

Both have 10 stop mechanisms, which is accurate for the Lion's Head.

See below example of an all original Lion's Head with correct color scheme. I've decided to collect untouched machines and only repaint/restore if the machine has been altered.
Attachments
IMG_0211.JPG
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Re: A rookie's questions: comparing two Lion's Heads

Postby djvanyel » Sat May 09, 2015 6:54 pm

Nice machine. Thanks for the photo example of a completely unmolested one. I can see the small details where both of the example machines are close, but slightly different. I noticed your reward card has the symbols rather than the plain text. I guess there must have been two styles of reward card printed for this machine?
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Re: A rookie's questions: comparing two Lion's Heads

Postby goodguy » Sun May 10, 2015 5:46 am

Hi DJ- by NOW YOU HAVE RECIEVED THE BEST OF PROFESSIONAL EVALUATION,
YOU MADE A DECISION???? REMEMBER IN COLLECTING NOTHING IS PERFECT-- YOU YOURSELF
WILL HAVE TO LOOK PAST IMPERFECTIONS, REMEMBER THE MACHINE IS 70 YEARS + OLD.
nOTHING CAN MAKE IT NEW.
BUY THE ONE YOU LIKE, ENJOY IT, NEVER LOOK ON IT AS AN INVESTMENT,
BUT AS A HOBBY, A GREAT HOBBY WITH MANY THINGS TO LEARN AND
EXPLORE. I'VE B EEN COLLECTING FOR 40 YEARS, GOOD DEALS, AND BAD DEALS, GREAT
PEOPLE TO HELP you. I HOPE BUY NOW YOU'VE BOUGHT ONE OF THE TWO-
(WOULD BUY THE ONE WITH THE ORIGINAL AWARD CARD) GOODLUCK
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Re: A rookie's questions: comparing two Lion's Heads

Postby YourBestBet » Sun May 10, 2015 9:03 am

The award card on my machine is original but most likely not to the machine. Here an example of a Mills Lion Head I found in the automatic age magazine:
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2015-05-10_10-59-10.jpg
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Re: A rookie's questions: comparing two Lion's Heads

Postby nvmos2 » Sun May 10, 2015 2:05 pm

The "STANDARD" Lion's head that appears in most, if not all, of the contemporary advertising is a 5 cent model with the paint job as shown in the photo above, only with a word (spelled out) award card (rather than the symbol version card shown in the above photo). Other variations are also original, most likely including the symbol award card; that card seems to come up regularly on the Lion's Head and is on the machines used as examples of the model by both Fey and Mead in their books.

It should be noted, however, that it also came in 10 cent and quarter play and in regular and mystery payout;
and, when the model didn't sell well, Mills used them to get rid of their pre-silent mechanisms and sold them "at bargain prices in 1932 and 1933 as the rebuilt gooseneck.........and changed some of the colors..... They aren't particularly rare, but it's hard to find two alike." (Bueschel, Slots 1)
Last edited by nvmos2 on Sun May 10, 2015 4:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A rookie's questions: comparing two Lion's Heads

Postby Anglobritish » Sun May 10, 2015 3:40 pm

scan0056.jpg
Hi Guy's,
Find attached a picture and description of the Wolf Head Goose neck Silent of 1931, this is the original add from the Mills Spinning Reels magazine of 1931, it described the features, note the award card.

Freddy Bailey
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Re: A rookie's questions: comparing two Lion's Heads

Postby Midcoast Vintage » Sun May 10, 2015 4:33 pm

MILLS LION FRONT / WOLF'S HEAD REWARD CARD:
viewtopic.php?f=29&t=3551
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