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Aces & Kings, 1970

Features: Flippers (2), Pop bumpers (3), Slingshots (2), Standup targets (8), Kick-out holes (2), Spinning posts, Up-post between flippers. 3 or 5 ball play. Maximum displayed point score is 9,999 points per player. Replay wheel maximum: 37 Sound: 1 bell, knocker.
Manufacturer: Williams Electronics, Incorporated (1967-1985) [Trade Name: Williams]
Date of Manufacture: June 08, 1970
Players: June 08, 1970 / 4
Year: 1970
Production: 4,153 units   (confirmed)
MPU:
Model Number: 377
Theme: Cards/Gambling
Design by: Steve Kordek
Art by:
Animated by:
Music by:
Sound by:
Software by:
Machine Type: Electro-mechanical (EM) 
Notes: This game is the first use of the playfield spinner by a U.S. manufacturer. The spinner had already been used in French pinball machines, such as Rally's 1967 'Playboy'. Pictured in this listing is a backglass with no color silkscreening, just black ink on clear glass. The artwork is different than the production backglass art. We asked former Williams employee Duncan Brown to identify and explain this item. He replies: That's a "keyline" version of the glass. For both glasses and playfields I've seen keylines done (sometimes on the wood or glass, sometimes just on a large sheet of mylar or paper). It's a cheap and easy early check method for the art. For instance, in the case of a backglass, it is used to make sure that all the score display holes line up properly, before going to all the extra work of cutting the color screens and printing the glass. If you look at any playfield or backglass, you can see that there's always a keyline layer (first one printed on a glass, last one printed on a playfield) that traps the separate colors, gives some edge definition to the art near blank areas, contains the text messages, etc. That pencil sketch of the Vagabond backglass I sent you is essentially a keyline. I'm kind of surprised that one that old lasted all these years. By and large they were something to be used during the design process and then discarded. Interesting too that the art completely changed! I guess that's another reason for a keyline - to make sure that The Powers That Be like the direction the art is headed... Also pictured is a game having a backglass that matches the artwork of the keyline glass. The game was purchased (with this glass installed) from a distributor in Long Island, New York at a date the owner estimates as before 1980. The game has a mid-production serial number 71396 and looks like a regular production game in all other respects, including having ten match number lamps on its backbox insert even though the backglass itself does not have match numbers. While the front of the backglass is professionally done, the reverse side is less so, and Duncan Brown theorizes that this glass may have been hurriedly prepared for a trade show. He notes that neither this glass nor the keyline glass carry the Williams logo as might be expected. We do not know how this 'prototype' glass came to be on this mid-production game prior to 1980 nor how it got from Chicago to New York. Perhaps the original glass broke and a desperate operator contacted Williams to be shipped this glass as a left-over. In later years, select pinball parts retailers in Chicago would purchase from the manufacturers their prototype and leftover backglasses for resale to hobbyists including those who lived out-of-state, but we do not know if any such retailers existed or operated in this way back in the 1970’s. While we do not know who is the artist for this Williams game, the King that is shown on the keyline and prototype glass reappears intact on the backglass for Gottlieb's 1971 'Drop-A-Card' and again on Gottlieb's 1972 'Pop-A-Card', both games attributed to artist Gordon Morison. Morison hired on with Advertising Posters in late 1969, but was under exclusive contract to Gottlieb, and for this same King to appear on a Williams backglass a year ahead of the Gottlieb games only seems probable if there was collaboration between artists at Advertising Posters. Perhaps Morison lent his art to help out the Williams artist who, as Duncan theorizes, was hurriedly trying to get the prototype backglass ready for a trade show. Pinball artist Christian Marche was already employed at Advertising Posters when Morison was hired and, in an interview published in The Pinball Compendium 1970-1981, Marche said they shared a large studio there, adding, "Gordon and I had always worked side by side, sharing ideas. We liked to work together and we had great esteem for each other." This suggests that Marche could be the artist for 'Aces & Kings' production glass, if not also the King on the keyline and prototype glass, but this game is not on a list of his games that Marche compiled in 1992. It may be argued that the King is not drawn to the standards of Morison, yet the artwork does have the "single pointing finger", an idea frequently found on his backglasses. Manufacturer data for Aces & Kings: Quantity produced for USA/Canada: 720* Quantity produced for export: 3433* Total quantity produced: 4153* Price to Distributor: $602.50 *These quantities may be sales estimates.
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