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Service Games Nevada

Sega Retro

Hey, History Channel: I’m Calling You Out on Sega Slots!

So, I heard through forums member Donnyku that this week’s episode of the History Channel’s American Pickers featured an old Sega slot machine. “Maybe you could use the episode to get some pictures for the wiki,” he said.

C’mon, Donnyku. Like I’m going to turn down a fabulous opportunity to talk about old Sega items. When I go to the parts of the Internet that actually do talk about these things, it’s just me and a bunch of 60-year-old British men. I need to proselytize.

In this episode, the Pickers stop by Smitty’s Big Barn Antiques in Mayer, Ariz., and find a working Sega Mad Money slot machine. The owner, Smitty, mentions that it’s a 1940s slot machine, but hey, we’re Sega nerds. We know better than to take the word of one guy. Besides, the Mad Money is one of Service Games’ more interesting slot machines.

The Sega Mad Money was originally branded to highlight the popularity of the then-new Mad magazine, and featured the publication’s iconic Alfred E. Neuman on the machine’s attraction display. However, at this time, Service Games was a rather rogue company, and had not bothered to actually obtain the license for Mad‘s mascot. When Sega heard that Mad wanted to bring a lawsuit, the company decided to just sell the machine overseas to avoid any legal issues.

So, how did a machine that was never meant to be in America wind up in Mayer, Arizona, and with no Mad artwork on it?

Mayer is located about five hours southeast of Las Vegas. In the late 1950s, after Service Games was increasingly banned from U.S. military bases, the company decided to come back to America (where slot machines sales were legal once again) to try to sell to the domestic gaming industry, so they opened a small office in Las Vegas. Sega of Nevada, if you will. In order to sell in the American market, the infringing material would have to be removed, so the attraction showing various payouts instead makes sense.

(Trivia: the site of Service Games Nevada’s office today has an adult video store built on it.)

So, what does this mean for the actual date of this slot machine? Given that the machine would have to be distributed from that office, and given that the Mad Money shares many parts with the Sega Diamond 3 Star (manufactured in 1958 and sold in 1960), this slot machine is realistically dated somewhere between 1959 and 1962—a good 20 years off the owner’s guess. The Mad Money model continued to be popular for a while, though: Sega later manufactured two newer versions of the machine, and continued to sell it with the Mad branding overseas even after becoming Sega Enterprises.

At any rate, it’s a neat little slot machine. Check out the episode if you get the chance–I imagine it’ll be on rerun for a good while.