Mills Slot Machine Not Paying Out


A while back I acquired a Mills High Top antique slot machine from a local seller that I found through Craigslist. The machine was not functioning, but appeared to be reasonably complete. The price was right, so I bought the machine and brought it home.

I’ve worked on several slot machines in the past, but this will be my first complete tear-down and ground-up restoration. I decided that documenting the process would be a good exercise for me and might prove valuable to other collectors contemplating a similar restoration, so I built this blog to serve as my restoration diary.

  1. Mills Novelty Co. Released 671 machines in our database under this trade name, starting in 1896. The 5 most common machines by Mills Novelty Co. Owned by VAPS members are (in order): Do-Re-Mi, Hi Top, Black Cherry Bell, Bursting Cherry, and Conjurer Fortune Teller.
  2. Demand was popular and Fey could not keep up with the demand for the machines. He refused to sell manufacturing rights to his slot machines, so other companies began producing knock offs. By 1908, slot machines could be found in saloons, cigar stores, bowling alleys, barber shops, and brothels.

The last step in our disassembly of the Mills High Top antique slot machine is the removal of the horizontal payout fingers, payout slides, and related parts. Slot Restoration. Restoring an antique Mills slot machine. I have two of them one took my money and would not pay out i took this thing apart 5 times today, then i came across your.

Hopefully the end result will be an attractive and fully-functional slot machine. Resurrecting an old, neglected coin-0p of any variety can be a very fulfilling experience. I’m not undertaking this restoration with the expectation of selling the machine, nor am I trying to make every part on the machine look brand new. My intention is to do a thorough and fundamentally sound job on the mechanism and an attractive restoration of the exterior.

One caveat, however: I’m in no hurry. I’m going to be tackling this project bit by bit as time permits, and I have no deadlines to meet, so the restoration may take a while.

Mills Slot Machine For Sale

Now we’re ready to take the reel bundle out of the machine. The first thing we need to do is cycle the mechanism. You can pull the handle (or screwdriver) down all the way and stop the clock if you want, but it is sometimes easier to pull it down almost all the way and leave the mechanism in a partially-cocked state. We’re just trying to get the reel stop levers to pull away from the star wheels and have the payout fingers pulled away from the discs. Once you do this a couple of times you will get the hang of it. If you have done it correctly the reels will be able to spin freely. At this point we need to loosen the reel shaft retaining screw.

Notice that I said “loosen” and not “remove”. Although you can remove the screw entirely, it’s a bad habit and should be avoided. Screws are easy to misplace, and it will be much easier to reassemble the mechanism later if we keep all the screws in their proper place. In fact, even if you need to remove a screw as part of the disassembly process, it’s a good practice to replace the screw after you’ve removed the related part. Trust me on this one… you will thank me later. After we have the screw loosened, we can unscrew and remove the shaft itself.

You may want to support the reel bundle with your free hand while you are unscrewing the shaft, just to keep it from slipping down as the shaft comes loose from the other side of the mech. After the shaft has been completely unscrewed, grab the end of it and pull. It should slide right out. Here’s what it looks like once it’s been removed.

It isn’t much to look at, and it’s pretty much guaranteed to be covered in oil and dirt. There’s really only one part of the slot machine to which oil or dirt can do permanent and irreversible damage, and that’s the reel strips. If you are trying to save your strips, you need to be extra careful not to get them dirty, so a good hand cleaning may be in order before you go any further. We’re going to be handling the reel tins (the part of the mechanism that holds the reel strips) as we remove the reel bundle, which brings us to another law of slot machine restoration: Reel tins are vampires. They want your blood. If you spend any amount of time working on an antique slot machine, you are going to end up cutting yourself on one of the reel tins. They are made of sheet metal and their edges are very sharp. Blood isn’t any better for reel strips than dirt or oil, so be careful. A Tetanus shot is probably not a bad idea either… I always keep mine current. Anyway, the process of removing the bundle is hard to photograph, so I’m just going to describe it. Essentially, you hold the bundle and lift it pretty much straight up, maneuvering the reel tins around the reel stop levers. Both the reel stop levers and the reel tins have a bit of “play” in them, so it shouldn’t be too hard. Here’s what the reel bundle looks like once it is removed from the mech:

Outside of the mech, it’s easier to see how the bundle functions. Turning the left-most reel causes the right-most reel disc to turn. It seems backwards at first, but it makes sense when you remember where the payout fingers were located. Let’s take a look at it from a couple of other angles.

Here we can see the reel discs and all the various holes they contain. Each hole corresponds to a specific symbol on the corresponding reel strip. Let’s look at it dead on.

Look at the numbers above. They all represent the positions of the payout fingers for a particular spot on the corresponding reel. Since our Mills “21″ Bell has melons, there are six symbols that correspond to potential payoff combinations. In general, the closer you get to the center of the disc, the more valuable the symbols are. On our machine, the numbers above represent the symbols as follows:

1. Cherry
2. Orange
3. Plum
4. Bell
5. Melon
6. Bar

If we look at number 3 above, we see that there is a hole in the disc, meaning that a plum would be in the payout position if the reel stopped with that hole under the payout fingers. In addition to the other symbols listed above, the reels also have lemons, which generally don’t have any associated payoff so they don’t have any holes or a payout finger to detect them. Some Mills slot machines feature “Mystery Payoffs” which really aren’t any mystery at all if you look at the reel discs. Usually a mystery payoff is accomplished by having a hole punched in the orange position when a specific bar or melon is displayed, meaning that normally non-paying combinations like Melon-Orange-Orange or Bar-Orange-Orange would pay off. Likewise, on machines that feature a “Deuces Wild” theme, the reel discs have holes in all the symbol positions whenever a deuce is displayed, making it function as a wild card. If you recall from earlier entries, the “21″ Bell has a special award feature that awards a super-jackpot token when the player hits a 7-7-7 combination. Since the 7s are displayed on top of other symbols on the reels and there is no hole that corresponds to 7s, the token award payout is accomplished through a different means.

Mills Slot Machine By Year

Mills slot machine prices

In the photo above you can see the special notches cut into the reel discs that correspond to a 7-7-7 combination. If we look at the front disc (which corresponds to left-most reel when looking from the front of the machine) and draw a line from the notch towards the center of the disc we see that no holes are punched for that particular position. This tells us that the 7 on the first reel shares its position with a lemon. Let’s see what the front of the mech looks like now that the reel bundle has been removed.

As you can see, everything is much more accessible now that the reels are out of the way. See if you can spot the kicker that we discussed earlier in the above photo. If not, don’t worry about it… we’ll get to it later. Before we move on, there are a couple of things we should do. First, we should put the reel bundle somewhere safe, particularly if we’re trying to save the reel strips. We’ll disassemble it later on, but we don’t need it now. Next, we should start filling a box with the parts that we’re going to clean and degrease. The reel shaft will be the first part to go into the box. Again, it’s very easy to misplace parts, so a little bit of caution is warranted. Last, it’s probably a good idea to get any remaining coins out of the mechanism. Assuming that the payout slides are working, the easiest way to do this is to cycle the mechanism a few times. Since the reel discs are not in place, there is nothing to stop the payout fingers from traveling all the way forward, making the mechanism think that we have hit every possible payout combination. As far as the machine is concerned, we hit a jackpot every time! After each spin, tip the mechanism up and remove the coins from underneath. It will probably take 7-8 cycles to empty the payout tube on most machines. That about does it for the reel bundle removal. Now the real fun begins.