Mills Novelty Co. | Submarine Lung Tester



The Mills Submarine Lung Tester has long been considered the most illusive arcade collectible of all time. To date, no original examples of this marvelous machine have been found although there is evidence of at least one surviving example from a photo and description in a 1920s coin machine journal. The Submarine Lung Tester owes its demise to the spread of tuberculosis in the early twentieth century, when machines of this kind were banned to prevent the spread of this deadly disease amongst the general population.


It was with this challenge in mind that John Papa and his team began to design and reproduce the machine only from existing old sales literature and catalog renderings. Consequently, it has become the most valuable of all Papa’s re-creation’s.


The toy divers used by the Mills Novelty Co. at the turn of the 20th century were originally believed to be made by the German manufacturer Gebruder Bing, but now it is believed that Ernst Plank, the toy repairer and manufacturer, made the original diver for the Submarine Lung Tester.


The object of the game is to see how many of the divers the player can surface to the top of the water-filled aquarium which depicts an ocean dive operation. This elaborate scale diorama is evidence of the lengths Mills Novelty Co. went to in order to entice a penny deposit from the player.


Read more in No Tampering! A Guide to Papa's Re-creations.

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