The Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation was the baby of one David C Rockola, originally of Virden, Manitoba, Canada. Rockola tried several vocations in his teens and early 20s, setting up businesses in various places such as Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal before making his way south the land of the slot machines in Chicago, Illinois. His first job there was as a slot machine inspector for O. D. Jennings.
The company was created in 1928 and initially made scales, countertop shooting games and jackpot attachments. The pinball boom came in in the 1931-32 period, and Rock-Ola was in the center of it.
In the long history of Rock-Ola Manufacturing, the pin games they produced are often forgotten, as one associates jukeboxes with the Rock-Ola name (and what a great name “Rock-Ola” is to be branded on machines designed to pump out rock and roll).
But Rock-Ola was a diversified company and for a while they also manufactured off-shoot items such as parking meters, while taking over factory space from an old piano manufacturer. In later years they produced vending machines.
Rockola’s mechanical ingenuity was showcased with the 1932 Juggle Ball game. But the best was yet to come with announcements of not one but two games in the fall of 1933 that would, in hindsight, be considered among the best pin games to ever be produced in this era.
The games would be (World’s Fair) Jigsaw and World’s Series. These two games are among the most actively traded 1930s games today, a reflection on the large number produced originally. The sales volumes for these games (in excess of 50,000 pieces each) can only be looked at in wonder today, where even the bestselling titles only reach a fraction of those totals.
There are more World’s Series games sold and traded currently than any other 1930s game. The Jigsaw game is also sold or traded regularly despite the high price it usually fetches. These days it is typically only outsold by its sibling World’s Series and Gottlieb’s Five Star Final.
Despite the phenomenal dual success of all-mechanical Jigsaw and World’s Series games, Rock-Ola would not rest on their laurels. In late 1934 the company would create perhaps their greatest mechanical marvel, Army Navy. While not sold in the great quantities of the earlier hits, it remains the pinnacle of Rock-Ola mechanical innovation, and fetches astronomical prices compared to most other 1930s pin games.
Price-wise the Jigsaw and World’s Series games also routinely make top ten lists of resale prices for 1930s games.