Dr. Herb is looking for slot machinesAs a boy, Herb Weinfield begged his mother for pennies and nickels so he could go to town and play the slot machines. Slot machines at the time were in general stores, restaurants and bars. It was 40 years ago, though, that Dr. Weinfield, a 1948 graduate of the Loyola University School of Dentistry, had his first opportunity to actually own one.
The opportunity arrived one day when Dr. Weinfield had an air conditioner repairman over to do some work on his home. The repairman took one look at the finished basement and said, “What this basement needs is a slot machine.” Dr. Weinfield asked where he could find one, and the repairman sold Dr. Weinfield his own.
Today, Dr. Weinfield is a proud owner of 22 different slot machines. He finds his machines through collectors groups, dealers, collectors shows, and by word of mouth. While Dr. Weinfield finds joy in admiring his collection and playing them, he said, “to me, the most fun is chasing them down.”
After work one Saturday, he drove 300 miles with his wife to northern Wisconsin to purchase a slot machine. The next day, having purchased the machine, he drove home with a smile from ear to ear.
“You go nutty, collectors are nutty. But it’s fun!” said Dr. Weinfield.
When he had his practice, Dr. Weinfield loved to share his passion with his patients. He had four, fully restored, original machines displayed in his office that he would let patients and their children play with. Dr. Weinfield felt that by having part of his collection there, “it humanized the dental office” because it showed that the dentist was interested in something more than just dentistry.
Each machine had a bowl of coins next to it so people could play the slot. And next to each machine was also a sign that read, “Dr. Herb is always looking for slot machines. Do you know where he can find one?”
Dr. Weinfield has found a few through his patients, but the machine he covets the most he has been trying to get the patient to sell for 20 years. It is a rare machine made by a small manufacturer here in Chicago.
“It’s a family heirloom. No amount of money can make them part with a family heirloom. You see it all the time,” said Dr. Weinfield.
Dr. Weinfield’s dental office was even featured in an issue of Gameroom Magazine, a magazine for collectors of jukeboxes, slot machines and other coin-operated machines.
He is also part of the Coin Operated Collectors Association, a group of about 600 members. Every year they hold a meeting in a different location, and local collectors open up their homes so members can view their collections.
“There is a guy in Los Angeles, I was in his house, he has over a 1,000 machines and no duplicates,” said Dr. Weinfield.
Dr. Weinfield’s love and excitement for these antique machines hasn’t waned in the last 40 years. That first slot machine bought from the repairman started a hobby that continues today.
“It’s what you enjoy. It’s wonderful, you can do whatever you like,” said Dr. Weinfield. “You like golf, ok. You like tennis, ok. You like slot machines, it’s ok. But you do it with a passion!”
By the numbers
- 1899: the year Charles Fey, a pioneer slot machine manufacturer, completed the Liberty Bell, the first slot machine.
- 4: Liberty Bell machines are still in existence.
- 25: years or older is how old a slot machine has to be to be legal in Illinois
- 205,726: slot machines in Nevada in 1999; this is one for every 10 residents
- 36: the weight in pounds of Dr. Weinfield’s favorite slot machine, The Q.T.
Ms. Azark is the CDS editorial assistant.