Ian Eason - Arcades, Cranes and Coin-Op


Ian Eason grew up in the sleepy seaside village of Chapel St Leonards, neighbouring the coastal resorts of Skegness and Ingoldmells, after his family moved there in 1975. Having started out working in a local coin-op amusement arcade, Ian learnt the trade from being a Floor Walker, Engineer, Arcade Operator to design and manufacture. He soon supplied and built the very best, reliable amusement cranes available to the industry. Read on...

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Growing up in the local amusement arcades

‘My dad Alan was an AA Man. To make ends meet, and to feed and look after us four kids, he worked nights and some of his holidays giving change and looking after the machines in a local arcade for the Green Family . I spent a lot of my youth in the arcades torturing the owners! Then in 1984 I turned from poacher to gamekeeper!

From amusement arcade floor walker to arcade engineer

I started work for Brian Bell at Bell’s Amusements at Ingoldmells as a window cleaner and floorwalker. From there I worked my way up to an engineer, well a mech un-blocker really!

A couple of years later I got an engineer’s job with Rank Amusements at Skegness’ Butlins site... I blagged being an engineer as really I didn’t know much... I still don’t!

Next I got a job with the Stevenson Family that owned the Golden Sands Estate and I worked under Derek Stevenson who taught me what he knew. He gave me a free reign to attempt mending arcade machines, he always said to try to mend it, if couldn’t, it had been worth a try. Good job they had no smoke detectors back then!

In 1992 I decided to set up as a freelance engineer and quickly built up a local customer base. I started working extremely long hours in the seasonal months.

Crane grabbers and the USS Enterprise

USS Enterprise grabber crane

After a couple of years repairing stuff on the arcade floor, I saw a gap in the market specialising in crane grabbers and manufacturing crane machines and equipment to enable cranes to operate profitably and reliably.

I became an agent for "USS" Enterprises in 1993 selling their crane add-on units.

Changing roles to an arcade operator

Ian's business card for Goldmine Amusments

By 1995 my friend, Mark Green (part of the family my dad worked for) and I went into business together. We took a lease on an amusement arcade under the Goldmine Amusements name. After a year we purchased an arcade in the village I grew up in. Now I was an arcade operator as well as repairing arcade machines! At this time we also bought the rights to manufacture the “USS” crane add on units as well as the USS crane. "USS" Enterprises had designed a unique unit that fitted to Crane Machines to render them legal and also to maximise profits and control randomly the amount of prizes paid out by the machines. USS". They had also designed a new type of crane machine which we operated. We soon saw the difference in takings to conventional crane machines and decided to buy the manufacturing rights to it. Shortly after this purchase "USS" decided to sell other products in their range and so we purchased the "USS" Grab Control System and "USS" Sound System for Cranes and other niche crane products.
We first showed the Enterprise Crane at the Blackpool Show in 1996. It was there that I met Joyce Todd - she mothered us as we were clueless! Tina and I are still Joyce’s adopted kids and have been very close right from that first day.

Our wedding, a new business and more cranes

An early Instance logo

In 1997 Mark and I decided to go our separate ways as he liked the operating side and wanted to continue with it. I didn’t! I set up Instance Automatics that year, registered it for VAT and we got our heads down and started the process of building the business.

The same year Tina and I got married and she became a really important part of the company dealing with all the finance side.
We designed the ultimate crane operating system, the USS CCS. After talking to operators and deciding what the industry needed, we designed and unveiled at the "ATEI 2000" the ultimate crane machine with bright striking colours, unlimited sound options, full random processing system and an all metal security cash compartment, comparable to a safe.

A young Ian pictured at one of the early coin-op trade shows

We unveiled a new processor for crane machines called the "SUPERGRAB" as most cranes have a weak grab strength. This unit increased the grab power so that the machine would lift almost any shape or size of toy.
All the hard work paid off and Instance Automatics took a massive amount of orders!
Over the next five years Instance Automatics developed a range of Maxx Grab cranes, popular all around the UK, and we dealt directly with some of the biggest names in the industry.

In October 2002 Instance Automatics became a private limited company.

As business grows we have to relocate

OM Vending of Spain

In 2003 Instance we joined forces with OM Vending of Spain, and continued designing amusement machines for the European market. Then over the next seven years our company grew. We had a sound reputation for arcade machine sales, alongside arcade machine spares, repairs and a massive range of plush and capsules for vending machines.

Our company was growing constantly and we soon outgrew our premises in Huttoft. In 2013 we relocated to Sutton on Sea, to an extensive site that meant we could increase the volume of stock held.

UNIS Games – Friends and partners from across the water

UNIS Technology logo (UNIS Games)

Back in 2012 we became a UK distributor for Universal Space Video Game (now UNIS Technology), who are the largest manufacturers of amusement machines in the world. We became very close with Steven Tan, UNIS`s Worldwide Sales Manager based in Toronto, Canada. Over the next decade we built up a really good reputation and working relationship with UNIS; we helped them develop, test and bring to the market all the best games available. The new type of videmption (video / redemption machines) amusement machine became really popular throughout the UK. In 2022 we became UNIS’s first Partner Company in Europe. Instance Automatics are now part of the UNIS family - we are very proud of this and with our achievements working together.’

And where we are today – A one-stop arcade shop

Instance Automatics have earned their place as one of the most respected suppliers of arcade machines and consumables in the industry. They have a reputation for being a one-stop shop for all arcade supplies.
Ian concludes ‘In this day and age it is important for the operators to be able to deal with a company that they trust, that can offer a comprehensive range of arcade supplies. We deal with only a selected few arcade machine manufacturers as we won’t buy machines that are unreliable or that won’t see the operator through a good many seasons. We are the authorised supplier of spares and repairs for LAI Games and UNIS (UNIS Technical). Unlike many other companies in the industry, we have a team who can repair machines. If a customer has an old crane machine that needs attention, we can usually help them out. We deal with Elaut, Harry Levy, Wu Mar Harng, Paokai, Tommy Bear and most other Chinese/Taiwanese machines. We don’t tell our customers to buy a new machine unless there is absolutely no option – only if it cannot be repaired or if we are unable to sources the arcade spares for it. We recycle wherever we can. We also have a massive range of consumables, plush, capsules and prize every time stock.
We are authorised distributors for Chupa Chups, Swizzels, Fiam, Gamaco, Tarco, Capz & Candy and a few other niche brands too. We are always focused on seeing the new trends and jumping on them. We know what sells in the arcades and we only sell stock that we are 100% sure will attract players.’
With a team of ten, Instance Automatics Ltd has grown from its small beginnings over 25 years ago, but has never lost sight of its customers’ needs.

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