MUSÈE MECANIQUÈ, SAN FRANCISCO
The Musée Mécanique is an antique coin operated arcade and interactive museum located on Pier 45 at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. In addition to the 20th century penny arcade games, the museum also houses some fascinating musical artifacts such as self-playing pianos and music boxes.
With over 300 machines, it is one of the largest collections of coin-operated mechanical art in the world and was started by fifth-generation San Franciscan, Edward Galland Zelinsky when he was 11 years old. After winning the Grand Prize (5 quarts of motor oil) at the local bingo hall, he sold it to his piano teacher for 75 cents and, with this money, bought a penny skill game which ignited his passion for arcade games and machines. In the following years he saved money and bought more equipment - and also obtained a lot of his music boxes and pianos by trading items with his friends.
In 1946, while visiting the Mills Novelty Company, he spotted a Seeburg piano with a xylophone and mandolin attachment lying idle in the factory. The manager was keen to get rid of it as it was taking up space and distracting his workers who often spent time trying to get it working, so he sold it to Zelinsky for $200. With several piano restoration companies trying - and failing - to get it up and running, he decided to try and fix it himself and, by blowing cigar smoke through the tubes to see where the smoke led, he eventually got it playing - and it's still playing today.
As well as this and the various other piano and music machines, the museum holds a vast array of really beautiful and interesting artifacts from the early 20th century including old photo booths, dancing puppets, pinball machines, shooting games, a mechanical opium den (?), and an old fortune teller machine that, if you drop in a quarter, spits out a card telling you your future.
The Musée Mécanique is a really unique place - walking through the doors is like stepping back in time and it's a great way to spend a few hours when in San Francisco. It's free to enter, although be sure to bring a stash of Quarters and have a go on the old machines.
More info can be found here.