AskGenie: What is the Oldest Slot Machine Symbol?

AskGenie: What is the Oldest Slot Machine Symbol?
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Why do fruit machines have ‘BAR’ symbols, and why fruit in the first place? Why are playing cards used in my favorite slots? These questions will be answered in today's article as we hunt for the oldest slot machine symbols out there. Join us on our whistle-stop journey of slots history, as we learn about one-armed bandits and fruit gum machines in our quest to find the oldest slot machine symbol.

The First Slots

The first slot machines were called one-armed bandits because they 'stole' your money like the infamous Wild West Outlaws of the day, and were controlled by a single protruding lever that looked like an arm that players would crank to make the machine spin.

During the 1800s, these devices could be found in almost all American bars—places where poker was also very popular. As a result, it's only natural that the original slot machine creators were inspired by poker, and their machines featured card symbols on their reels.

The Liberty Bell is another of the oldest slot machine symbols. Argued to be one of the first ‘modern’ slot machines, the Liberty Bell machine was patented by Charles Fey in 1895. And was the first completely automated slot machine, which allowed the winner to receive cash instead of having to collect their winnings from a bartender. Fey's slot machine had three reels and five symbols. The Liberty Bell was one of these symbols, and the machine was named for it. A horseshoe was also there, as well as card suits that were seen before in one-arm bandit slot games. Players that managed to collect three bell symbols received the maximum reward, hence the name of the game. 

Fruit symbols, that are now so popular in slot games, didn’t actually make their first appearance until the turn of the century. When slot machines were outlawed in 1902, slot machine designers devised a clever strategy to get around the new regulation. They invented slot machines—or vending machines—that gave out chewing gum instead of cash. The fruit slot symbols were often cherries, oranges, melons, and apples, as this chewing gum was offered in a variety of fruity flavors. The Bell Fruit Gum Company was one of these slot producers. They branded their reels with a stick of gum as one of their symbols. The Bar symbol can still be found on slot machines today.

Sign up and Play at Spin Genie

So now you know, when you’re playing your favorite fruit machine why there’s a ‘BAR’ symbol, or why your online slot of choice uses playing card symbols. It’s all a homage to the exciting and vibrant history of slot machines, and you can still play a piece of that history today. To start playing slot machines, sign up and play at Spin Genie today.


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