Posted on: Tuesday 2nd May 2023

If you were to think about visiting a seaside arcade, a couple of popular games would likely come to mind first, namely the 2p Coin Pushers and the Crane Grabbers! These games have long dominated the floors of arcades all around the British coastline for many years, including the arcade at Coral Island.


We thought we’d have a closer look at these two games, and see when they first appeared, and why they are so popular!


Coin Pushers


Recently voted the most popular seaside arcade game by the public, the 2p Coin Pushers are THE arcade game in the UK and can be found all over the country, not just in your favourite seaside arcades. Many of us will have memories of our childhoods of carrying a pot of twopenny pieces, dropping them one by one into the machines.


This iconic game sees players push their 2p coins into slots on the top of the machine, which then roll down to a shelf covered in coins, keyrings, and other small prizes. A large platform then pushes the coins towards the edge of the shelf, onto another level of coins and prizes, where another platform pushes them further, and anything that falls off the final shelf is yours to keep!


A skilled player will aim to drop the coins in time with the rhythm of the pusher to help maximise their chances of winning and causing an avalanche of coins or trinkets.


Why is it so popular?


One of the main reasons why the Coin Pushers are always so busy must be the low price per play - a mere £1 in 2p coins will give you 50 chances to play and win! This makes it an affordable and fun, long-lasting game that’s simple to play and easy to understand for everyone.


At Coral Island, as well as stacks of twopenny pieces to win, you’ll also find keyrings, toys, and more, all there for the taking for the savvy player. You’ll see the Coin Pushers at Coral Island with fancy lights and branded with the latest and classic Disney and video game characters, but they are not that different from the games that first started the craze.


The History of the Coin Pusher


While there is some debate as to the date of the first Coin Pushers, it is thought to be around 1963.


Cromptons, a company that manufactured coin-operated amusements in the late 1940s, released a machine called Wheel-a-Win in 1962, which featured a sweeping arm that pushed coins into holes spread around the surface of the cabinet. This is considered the first coin-pushing machine, and you can still find versions of that game, but it was their next invention that more resembled the Coin Pusher we know and love today.


Cromptons Penny Falls Coin Pusher was released in 1964, and became the template for all the Coin Pusher games that followed. Coins would be inserted to drop onto a surface with more coins, which would then be pushed forward over the edge, where the player would collect them.


Wheel-a-Win and Penny Falls spurred Cromptons into developing more Coin Pusher concepts, and the company released many more that operated similarly, but with a variety of themes. The game became a huge success in arcades all around the world, and can still be found in arcades in the UK and Japan.


Crane Grabbers


The Crane Grabbers are another instantly recognisable arcade machine, seen all over the UK in arcades, and have made numerous appearances in pop culture, such as in films like Toy Story.


The machine involves a player controlling a metal claw or grabber using buttons or levers. The grabber hangs above a pit full of prizes, typically soft toys. The claw lowers and tries to snag a prize, but it can be fiendishly difficult to win!


It can be quite an addictive game, as you try over and over to win the soft toy you desire - at Coral Island, we constantly refill and change the prizes for the latest Disney, Star Wars, and video game characters.


Why is it so popular?


The immediate draw is that the prize is visible, just out of reach! This makes it instantly appealing, especially to children, who can be drawn to the huge franchises, such as the latest Marvel superhero release, or video game tie-ins like Super Mario.


The History of the Crane Grabber


The first Crane Grabbers were inspired by the machines that dug out the Panama Canal! People were fascinated in the early 20th century by the steam-powered shovels that excavated the mounds of earth, and the first arcade versions imitated this, using a shovel not to dig earth, but sweets and candy.


As electricity replaced steam power, the prizes and games also changed, and some games even had cigars, lighters, and jewellery in place of candy. These machines had gold cabinets and also included rolls of silver coins to attract gamblers in casinos, no longer a simple arcade game, but a source of luxury goods.


However, in the 1950s in the US, new legislation was introduced that targeted the crane grabbers and claw machines, making them a gambling violation, and the government began to close many of them down, with only a few surviving in hotels in remote areas.


Desperate for a rebirth of the crane grabbers, a syndicate of amusement and recreation owners lobbied the government, intending to redefine the machines as amusement equipment. After two years of seeking a compromise, they succeeded, albeit accompanied by stringent regulations.


These crane grabbers could no longer be powered by electricity, and could not accept coins, thus removing the possibility of making money for the owners.


But in the 1980s, the crane grabbers began to move away from the strict regulations and back to how people wanted them, slowly occupying important positions in restaurant chains such as Pizza Hut, and by the 1990s, the crane grabber craze had spread to Southeast Asia, particularly Japan and South Korea, where they have become part of everyday life.


These days, crane grabbers are a common sight in arcades, and are always a popular draw with everyone wanting to win the latest soft toys from their favourite TV show, film, or computer game!


The next time you go to Coral Island and see the Crane Grabbers and Coin Pushers, you’ll now know a bit more about where they came from! So grab your pot of 2p coins, or choose the machine with the soft toys you want to win, and good luck!

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