Gumball machines are among the earliest coin-operated vending machines. The late Victorian Era tinkerers, coming up with every sort of device imaginable, developed gadgets in the 1880s that could dispense gum, breath mints, and candy, as well as pencils, perfume, razor blades, and even toilet paper. Found in train stations, general stores, smoke shops, and pubs, these machines, constructed of wood and metal, were thought of as “silent salesmen,” working 24 hours a day.

The early-20th-century vending machines looked like what most people think of as old-fashioned gumball machines, with claw feet, florid scroll embellishments made of cast iron, and glass globes that showed off their contents and kept the products fresh. However, the mechanisms that worked these devices were complex and costly to repair.

Gumball machines made in the 1920s and 1930s were built using steel construction or finished with porcelain enamel over cast iron, giving the device a durable and attractive appearance, often in a cheerful fire-engine red.

A particularly collectible machine of that era is the boxy globe-less Ro-bo machine, which is similar to the Pulver machines of the early 1900s that held nodding puppets. In the Ro-bo, once you inserted a penny, a gumball dropped from a display case at the top and then an automated human figurine would pick it up and drop it to you down a chute. Any ’20s gumball machine with such clever automated action is highly sought-after.

During Prohibition, gambling, be it cards or slot machines, was banned along with alcohol. You might be surprised to know that some gumball machines were disposed of, as they were considered a form of gambling. One such outlawed machine, the Hawkeye, was built so that on every 10th pull of its lever, a bell would ring and the customer would get his or her penny back along with the gumball.

The 1930s Ad-Lee E-Z had a marquee attached to the top and contained gum with paper inserted into it through a hole drilled in the center. The customer would compare the score on their piece of paper to the score on the marquee, and receive a prize from the store clerk.

Vending machines got simpler after World War II; they were made of plastic and cheaper metal like aluminum, and their mechanical inner workings were uncomplicated and easy to rep...

Often, sellers don’t have the keys to vintage gumball machines. However, a locksmith can usually make a key for you. Then, inside, you may find treasure. Of course, odds are, you don’t want to try a 50-year-old piece of gum.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth something—the United States has half a dozen serious chewing gum collectors. Extremely rare sticks of gum like Colgan’s Taffy Tolu Chewing Gum can go for hundreds of dollars, whereas more common gum sticks sell for $35 a piece. Also, the coin box could have wheat pennies, buffalo nickels, or mercury dimes inside it.

Antique gumball machines are becoming increasingly rare, so you’re likely to find one with a broken globe or missing parts. Peanut machines, which look a lot like gumball machines, can have damage from the nuts’ salt and oil. Collectors who enjoy restoration often look for globes, chutes, and other usable parts.

Beware of reproductions and vintage machines with reproduction parts like the inexpensive and colorful Carousel brand gumball machines. Look at the casting to see if the item is stamped or marked as a reproduction.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

An enormous database focusing on pinball machines and other arcade games from the 1930s and on, from a collector wh… [read review or visit site]

International Arcade Museum

International Arcade Museum

This site boasts more than 13,000 pages of educational content on arcade and coin-op collecting, including innumera… [read review or visit site]

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage One Cent 1c Aluminum Gumball, Peanut Machine With Kiwanis Club StickerAntique Vintage Northwestern Green Porcelain 1 Cent Gumball Vending MachineVintage Old Antique Gumball, Peanut Machine Green Porcelain Over Cast IronVintage 1930s Columbus Star Gumball Peanut Machine ProjectVintage Vending Machine Advance Machine Co.Vintage Coin Operated Nut Dispenser MachineVintage 5 Cent Atlas Bantam Aluminum Gumball, Peanut Vending Machine Original Columbus Model A Penny 1 Cent Bubble Gum Machine - Rust BucketVintage 1910-1920 Gumball Machine Derby Confections Industrial Art Deco Vintage Red Original Porcelain Model 33 Northwestern Peanut Gumball MachineRare Antique Pat. 1928/1924 Norris Mfg. Co. Master 1 & 5 Cent Gumball Machine Original Columbus Model A Penny 1 Cent Bubble Gum Machine Glass Globe OnlyVintage Northwestern Morris .5 Cent Gum Ball Machine Nickel Embossed Glass1947 Ajax Challenger Hot Nuts Machine Peanuts Gum Coin Op Art Deco Complete L@@kVintage Northwestern 5 Cent Gumball Vending Machine1940s Victor Universal 1 Cent Gumball Machine W Northwestern Model 60 Dome & KeyVintage Bubble Gum Ball Gumball Machine Peanut Nuts Candy Vending Bank Antique1947 Challenger Hot Nuts Machine Peanuts Gum Coin Op Canadian QuartersVintage/antique Gumball/peanut Machine Coke Theme Oak 1950s Powder Coated 1cent Original 1920s Ad-lee Co Ez Home Run Baseball Gum Ball Machine Cardboard SignCoca Cola Coke Coin Op Gumball Candy Peanut Vending Machine / Sign Carlton Rocket Bubble Gum MachineJolly Good Delicious Chewing Gum Yellow Vending Machine 1 One Penny Stick No Res Abbey Mfg Co. Cash Tray Vending Gum Or Nut Machine Vintage 10 Cent Ford Gumball MachineSelectivend Multi-vending Gumball Machine With Stand1950's Red Lockport & Akron 1c Glass Ford Gumball Machine With Lions Marquees Bam ☆☆☆☆☆ Vtg Gumball Candy Peanut Prize Machine Folz Rare Vending Red Iron Ford Gumball Machine Metal Globe RingAcorn 5 Cent Vintage Gumball MachineCool Working Gumball Machine Northwestern Super 60 Quarter Mechanism With Key #1Vintage 10 Cent Victor Vendorama Gumball Candy Vending Machine Sinclair Gas OilDean Penny Arcade Vending Machine 1 Cent Peanut Nuts Gumball Candy YellowFord Cobra Gumball Peanut Gas Station Machine Pump SignVtg Carousel Standing Bubble Gum Machine Glass Cast Iron 38" Tall Nice Carousel Coin Op Gumball Candy Nuts Bubblegum Dispenser Machine W/standVintage Small Gumball Machine Gum/candy Dispenser Pink Glass Globe Cool Working Gumball Machine Northwestern Super 60 Quarter Mechanism With Key #2Vintage Taiwan Gumball Machine, Glass & MetalCustom Built Rahal-letterman-lanigan Indy Car Northwestern Gumball MachineOriginal Ford Gumball Machine F-50 Cylinder Lock, Bar & KeyRare- Northwestern Penny-nickel Mod. 60 Gumball Vending Machine - Works No ResVtg-original 1985 Carousel-metal & Glass Globe 11 1/2" Tall Gumball Machine~11"Vintage Toy N' Joy #934 Gumball Candy Capsule Vending Dispenser Machine 10 Cent Vintage Ford Gumball Machine Topper Gold Tip Gum Metal Sign With SpringVintage Ford Gumball Machine Topper Fan Tan Metal Sign With SpringVintage Carousel Industries Mallard Duck Gumball Machine Coin BankVictor Gumball Machine Half Cabinet 1940/1950sVintage Gumball MachineBubble Gum Ball Machine Picture Dispenser With Real Gum BallsAmerivend Bubblegum Machine Plastic Globe Size 1.0" Gumballs 25 Cents OnlyVintage Popeye Gumball MachineVtg 60s Gumball Machine Prize Mr Satan Plastic Japan Devil Charm Label Oni ToyVintage 1 Cent Northwestern Model 60 Gumball Machine W Glass Dome & Key Works!Vintage Mallard Duck Carousel Industries Gumball Vending Machine Coin Bank Vintage Wolfschmidt Genuine Vodka 15" Green 25 Cent Gumball Machine Vintage Cast Metal Red Gumball Machine Glass Globe Original Box Superior Classic16" Tall Red Metal And Glass Gum Ball Machine- Very Nice!Coin Operated Ford Branded Fresh Chiclet Gum 5 Pound Bag With Black LicoriceSilver Mini Gumball Machine Ups Advertisement United Parcel Service Vintage Styl