A vending machine is an automated device from which consumers can purchase goods by depositing money. They are found in a large number of public spaces such as airports, train stations, schools, universities, pubs, shopping malls and sports venues.
The majority of vending machines dispense food and beverages such as chocolate bars, sandwiches, coffee and cold drinks, but others contain items as diverse as newspapers, children’s toys, disposable cameras, umbrellas and contraceptives.
Many people collect antique and vintage vending machines as antique objects, cultural artefacts, examples of old technology or as memorabilia connected to companies such as Coca Cola.
The first vending machines
The world’s first commercially-viable vending machine was created in 1883 by Percival Everitt.
The machine, made of cast-iron and as tall as an average sized adult, sold postcards and proved so popular that over 100 boxes were installed around London.
Soon after he developed machines to sell other products such as stamps, and pioneered the idea of a coin slot that closed itself when the machine was empty to prevent customers losing their money.
19th century vending machines
In 1888 American inventor Thomas Adams obtained the American patent rights to Everitt’s machine, and adapted it to sell chewing gum.
The Thomas Adams Gum Company machines were the first vending machines to appear in the U.S, and were placed on train platforms.
This was followed in 1897 by a chewing gum machine featuring moving figures to attract customers, built by the Pulvar Manufacturing Company, and in 1907 round-topped glass gumball machines began to appear across America.
20th century vending machines
The 1920s saw the first automated soda machines, the first tampon machines, and in 1926 the world’s first cigarette machine was created by William Rowe.
During the Depression machines were built to sell individual cigarettes as many people could not afford an entire pack.
In 1929 the first refrigerated Coca Cola vending machines appeared in stores, built by Glascock Brothers Manufacturing Co. of Muncie, Indiana, and in 1937 the first automatic machines were developed.
They were initially built and maintained by two competing companies, the Vendo Company of Missouri and the Vendorlator Manufacturing Company based in Fresno, California, until the companies merged in 1956.
Coke machines from this period are particularly sought-after by collectors of both vending machine and Coca Cola memorabilia.
The surge in Japanese interest in vending machines began with the Tokyo Olympics of 1964, with the need to supply large numbers of people with a number of goods and a severe lack of space and staff. Today the country has 6 million machines (one for every twenty-three people), selling everything from noodles, live crabs and fried food to iPods, cameras and potted plants.
The bookmarklet lets you save things you find to your collections.
Note: Make sure your bookmarks are visible.
Click and drag the Collect It button to your browser's Bookmark Bar.