Who is James Roller?
Retired Showman – Restoration Artist
For over 25 years, beginning in 1959, I was an operator of Skill Cranes, Claw, and Digger game machines.
I operated these machines at County Fairs, State Fairs, Carnivals, Amusement Parks and one World’s Fair. In the 1970’s my family operated almost 100 of these coin-operated games with America’s largest railroad carnival: Royal American Shows.
In following years I helped to develop the first portable Skee-Ball games, owned two carnivals, and a tent circus, and served for several years as General Superintendent of America’s largest Big Top circus – Carson & Barnes Circus.
I am a retired showman, featured in a new book from Jeretta Horn Nord, “A Cup of Cappuccino for the Entrepreneur’s Spirit I”
After retiring, I began to search for three old digger machines to restore: one for each of our two children and one for a museum in Florida. For some time I did not have much luck. Then, when I did locate what I wanted, I started finding more of them. I soon realized that I had become a collector. And, I accumulated quite a large collection. During my years of operating these games, I repaired, rebuilt, and modified digger games extensively. I was involved in the manufacture of new mechanisms and of new cabinets. I found that this old expertise was very useful in expanding the quality of my collection and with helping other collectors to acquire a quality digger.
While doing the work of restoring some duplicate diggers to offer for sale I realized that I enjoyed the creative process every bit as much as the collecting, and so I slowly restored and sold much of my extensive collection. I enjoy profiting by the sale of my skills.
These digger machines, like all old coin-operated equipment, were industrial art of their time. Much of factory manufacturing in the 1930 –40’s art deco era was still done by hand, by skilled craftsmen, and the products were beautiful combinations of cabinetry, machinery, and style. I applied my skills to hand restore each digger in meticulous detail. I have completed many wonderful pieces which are now in the private collections of discriminating collectors and investors. The owners consider their diggers to be restoration art.
I am a restoration artist.