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”)

PinballHQ.com

PinballHQ.com

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    

Columbus Mod M Coin Op Peanut Gumball Machine Parts As Is1 Cent Columbus Pistachio Or Bulk Candy Vending Machine1950s Vintage Victor Vending Football Gum Machine30's Coin Op Penny Sel-mor Antique Vending Gumball Nut Candy Machine Works 1centPenny Gumball Machine Cast Iron Grandbois Co. Gum Ball Vending VintageVintage Columbus 5 Cent Gumball Machine Gum Ball Vending Original Octagon Globe Antique Vintage Machine That Dispenses Two Kinds Of Wrigley's GumEarly 30's Columbus Model M Cast-iron Metal Bubblegum Machine Glass GlobeAdvance Gumball Machine Vintage/antique Peanut Machine Atlas Bantam 1940s 5 CentNice Old Oak Acorn 1 Cent / 5 Cent Gum Gumball Candy Vending MachineAntique Original Coin Op Ford Gumball Peanut Machine 1 Cent With *stand* CleanVintage Original 1930's Advance Gumball Candy Vendor Coin-op MachineVintage The Master Gumball Gum Ball Vending Machine 1920's Penny Vintage Northwestern Penny Gumball Gum Ball Vending Machine Porcelain Works!1930's Penny Gumball Machine Penny Standard Mfg Duplex Log Cabin Peanut Gum BallVintage Ford One Cent Gumball Vending Machine With Lock & KeyRed Akron New York 1c Glass Ford Gumball Machine Lions Club Decal1950's Chrome Ford 1c Glass Gumball Machine Fired On Ford Decal Lions ClubAntique Northwestern Morris Illinois Penny Gumball Machine Columbus Lock Works!“zeno” Etching Co. Collar Button Dispenser Machine.Columbus "b" Peanut MachineRestored 1940's Antique Victor Model V 1 Cent Gumball Vending MachineRare Vintage Dean 1 Cent Penny Arcade Vending Machine Coin Op Great ConditionSuper V Victor Original Antique Vending MachineVintage 10 Cent Victor Vendorama Gumball Candy Vending Machine Coca Cola CokeFord Gumball Machine Stand Stand Bottom Only UnrestoredLot Of 2 Vending Or Gaming Machine 1/2 Inch Cam LocksVintage Ford Gumball Machine WorkingVintage 1960 Mini Steel Switchblade Snuf Gumball Toy Cracker Jack Knife Rat FinkVintage Teal Green Junior Bubble Ball Gum Bank United Metal Products Usa Vintage Bubble Gum One Cent Vending MachineVintage Yellow Goodies Gumball Machine Candy Dispenser Metal Embossed Cupid 10" Classic-red-vintage-candy- Gumball-machine-bankVintage Oak Gumball Vending Machine, Uses Tokens Or Coins, Has 35 TokensVintage Victor Vendorama Gumball MachineVintage Original Choo Gum Bank 1940's Plastic Vending Machine Advertising Bank Vintage 1 Cent Gumball Machine Glass Globe Works, Yes Have The Key1 Cent Topper Gumball Machine-parkway-vending-with Key-works Great!Penny 1 Cent Metal Gumball Machine Vintage Collectible With KeyNorthwestern Gumball Machine Model 60Vintage Ford .10 Cent 10c Glass Vending Gumball. Machine Please Read DescriptioVintage Collectible Carousel Red Gas Pump Gumball/candy Machine Coin MachineCoca Cola Coke Coin Op Gumball Candy Peanut Vending Machine / Sign Carousel Reproduction Of 1965 Bubble Gum Machine M M Candies PeanutsSweet Factory 15" Vintage Gumball Machine Brand New With Tags Vintage 1950-60s Becker Toy N Joy Dime Gumball Candy Machine 10 Cent Coin Op Rare Vintage Folz 1c Vending Candy MachineVintage Folz 25 Cent Prize MachineDuel Gumball Machine With Stand!Bulk Gumball Machine Or Superballs 25cent Classic Pn 95Pink Hello Kitty Plastic Gumball MachineL@@k Red & Gold Candy Machine Large Globe Genuine Ford Penny Gumball Candy Machine Coin Op Jerry Lewis 1940-50s AntiqueGood Globe Bulk Gumball Machine 25cent Classic Pn 95Bulk Gumball Machine 25cent Classic Pn 95Bulk Gumball Machine 1 Inch Capsule Wheel 25cent Classic Pn 95L@@k Black Base & Gold Top & 25cent Mech Candy Machine PartsGumball Machine By CarouselAcorn Gumball Machine Base (bottom Of Machine) (cash Box)