I don't know how he acquired it, but as long as I can remember, my father had a broken-down machine called "The Mysterious Eye," which held four dice and a slot to put in nickels. I wound up with the machine after my parents died, and in 2000, I shipped it off to have it restored. It was in pretty bad shape. Jeff Frahm, who did the restoration, had this to say in one of the emails we exchanged:
As I'm sure that you are aware, your Mysterious Eye is a mess and needs a lot of help. There are some serious parts that are missing as well as some that are broken beyond repair. This will require some extensive fabrication in order to put it back into working condition. Also, the front casting at the top was broken where someone tried breaking into the machine and a piece of tin was glued over the spot and painted red to disguise it. The broken out piece is missing and the casting will have to be heliarced and machined in order to get the back door to be able to be locked on again. This machine was introduced into the coin machine market back in 1935 and was a dismal flop. It is electrically operated and was quite crude in its engineering so it proved to be quite unreliable and a constant headache for the operators that had them on their route. I'm confident that I can get it going again but be forwarned that this machine is not the kind that will hold up to
constant play or abuse.
Several weeks and many dollars later, the restoration was done, and Jeff did an admirable job. Heeding his warning, I seldom run the machine, but I thought I would fire it up and put a video online so people will have a chance to see The Mysterious Eye. Apparently, they are rare, probably because they broke down and were discarded. I don't understand all the intricacies of how this thing works, but I understand it a little better after finding the patent application posted below. Essentially, each die is enclosed in its own compartment. When a nickel is fed into the machine, the platforms the dice rest on drop down, and a small hammer activated by an electromagnet beats on the platforms, shaking the dice. Then the platforms rise up till the dice contact a glass covering over the compartments. The dice are shaved such that the die is thinnest when 1 or 6 is showing, a little thicker when 3 or 4 is showing, and thickest when 2 or 5 is showing. There are contacts attached to the platforms and these contacts are closed depending on the thickness of the dice. So, if any combination of 1 and 6 appears in the first two compartments, the contacts attached to those two compartments are closed, and the machine pays 10 points (two nickels). If any combination of 1 and 6 appears in the first three compartments, those three contacts are closed and the machine pays out 20 points (four nickels). The contacts in the fourth compartment are set so they are held open if a 2 or 5 (the thickest dimension) is showing, and close if either the thinner 3-4 or thinnest 1-6 dimension of the die separates the platform and ceiling of the compartment. When that occurs along with ones or sixes in the first three compartments (all contacts closed), the payout is 50 points (10 nickels--yoo-hoo!)
The Eye is a little slow on the payout now, compared to when I first got it back from Jeff, but it does work.