Country's biggest penny slot machine collection leaves Southport home
by Natasha Young
A QUIRKY Southport tourist attraction which drew visitors from far and wide and brought TV crews to the town was taken away this week, and is set to partly relocate to Blackpool.
The National Museum of Penny Slot Machines had been situated within the resort's Pier Pavilion for nine years, and was home to the country's largest collection of antique machines which were in working order for visitors to play on.
The collection of more than 100 machines, owned by Southampton-based Clive Baker and his wife Rosalind, is now set to be broken down and relocated after Sefton Council awarded the tender for the whole of the pavilion facility to the concessionaires who already run the Pier Pavilion Cafe and the Pier Tram.
As he gets set to move slot machines to South Sea in Portsmouth and Milestones Museum in Basingstoke, along with a 35-strong collection going to the North Pier in fellow North West seaside town Blackpool, Mr Baker told the Champion: “It's disappointing because we've been here Southport for over nine years and we've built the collection up from about 50 machines to 100.
”I'm sure it will be sadly missed and it's a shame they couldn't find some way to accommodate us.“
Mr Baker said the couple will ”see how it goes“ with the machines during the forthcoming season in Blackpool, and suggested there may be potential to add to the collection there if it's well received by tourists.
He added that the museum had been ”tremendously successful“ on Southport Pier, and said: ”It's a prime location for a penny arcade but on the other hand, Blackpool is also a good location with an historic pier.“
Visitors could purchase old pennies to play on the machines at their Southport home, and the free-to-enter attraction was said to be a hit with tourists from around the country as well as school trips.
It had also featured on BBC's ‘Coast' series, had recently been visited by camera crews from BBC's ‘Antiques Uncovered',
and a further TV appearance for a celebrity antiques show is set to be filmed next month.
In previous years Mr Baker sourced a lot of his penny slot machine collection from sales at Sotheby's and Bonhams, although he explained that in recent years the machines have been harder to come by as it is no longer ”viable“ for the likes of Sotheby's to hold the sales.
”It's taken me 30 years to build up my collection to this size and to get them into the order where they are working properly,“ said Mr Baker.
Concessionaires Colin Poole and Colin Jamieson, who are taking over the museum's site in the Pier Pavilion, are now hoping to maintain a collection of old penny slot machines in the resort and are already working to build up their own collection so that they can open it for business on June 2.
Mr Poole told the Champion: ”It is going to take us a long time to get it to his Mr Baker's standard. We're fairly confident that by the season proper we will be up and running with a high quality penny arcade though, we're committed to do so.“
Mr Baker said: ”It would be nice to see old machines there but I'm sceptical as to whether there could be anything on the same scale. I wish them the best in their endeavours because Southport does deserve it.“
A spokesman for Sefton Council said: ”As a result of the existing contracts ending, the new agreement was awarded in line with all the standard procedures that the council has to follow.
“The new concessionaires are Southport-based and have a proven track record - running attractions such as the Pier Tram, the Marine Lake and the Pier Pavilion Cafe.
”We understand that the old-fashioned penny arcade games are very popular and there is an agreement that similar traditional machines will be brought in by the new operator.“
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