(Click on image to enlarge it)
Columbus Vending Company, Columbus, OH, c. 1916, 16" (without marquee). This model was made by Columbus for the Ad-Lee Novelty Company of Chicago. It started as a Columbus Model D that had been modified to accept a nickel.
There were several versions of this machine:
I consider the first version to be rare. Since 1991 I've seen only one of these, and this is it. The globe and lid (but especially the globe) set it apart from the later versions of this model. The football-shaped globe was used on the Columbus Model D, and since the E-Z is a kissin' cousin of that model it makes sense that the earliest E-Z's would have this globe. The decal is exactly like the earliest Columbus decals except that the manufacturer is listed as Ad-Lee instead of Columbus. A more minor difference is the lid, which is the same on the first 2 versions except that the second version has a threaded hole for the marquee holder. The earliest version doesn't have that, I presume because they didn't yet have a marquee for this model. The third and fourth versions also have a threaded hole, but they have the larger-nippled lid.
- The first version is the earliest of the 4. It has a small-nippled lid, 2 paper decals on a football-shaped globe, an arched front opening with no tag above it, and a slanted coin entry. The vending wheel has a single hole that goes back and forth as it vends, like that on a Columbus Model A but with a hole, not a pocket for bulk product as on the Model A. The lever on this version won't move all the way to the left without a nickel; instead, it moves part way across and then stops (again, as on the Model A).
- The second version is the same as the first except for 2 things: 1) It has a round globe with the paper decal usually seen on this version, and has a threaded hole in the lid nipple, into which the marquee holder screws. This particular machine has paper labels inside the coin door, on the underside of the lid, and on the machine's bottom to be sure you order the Right Kind of Gum when you need to restock. Few E-Z's have paper remaining in any of these spots, much less in all 3. You can see a close-up of the globe decal here, and can compare it to a similar close-up of the decal in the version described in the next bullet.
- The third version is later; it has a large-nippled lid, a water-transfer decal, a smaller coin door (which is not shown in this picture), a flat-topped smaller front opening with a brass manufacturer ID tag above it, and a horizontal coin entry. The vending wheel on this version has multiple holes around the inside of its perimeter, like that on a Columbus Model K or Ford. The lever on this version swings freely from left to right but won't vend unless you've inserted a nickel (or, I guess, a slug) to bridge the lever to the vending wheel.
- The fourth version is the same as the third except for the color and the marquee holder. I've not seen this marquee holder on another E-Z. I don't think it's unique to this version.
One other difference between versions is the bottom. The first 2 machines above have flat bottoms without any manufacturer identification other than a paper label on the second machine. The third machine has a deeper bottom and is stamped with Ad-Lee's name and city on the bottom.
The yellow and green version on the right is the most recent purchase of the 4, and is one I sought for years without success. This appeared on ebay one day and looked like a very nice example (which indeed it is). I'd run out of patience looking for a yellow and green E-Z and this was a nice example, so I bid high and hoped it was enough. It was. Collectors believe this model to be the youngest of the 4 versions, although I know of no documented evidence to support that. It's exactly the same as #3 except for the color. It's a tough color combination to find, and sells for more than examples with the olive color pictured on the other 3 examples above.
All 4 machines are 100% original, and you can see remnants of pinstriping on the middle 2 machines, such as this on the third one. Not all E-Zs were pinstriped, but it's nice to have that feature if you can get it.
Both marquees shown above are original, but note that they differ. The one on the left is celluloid, which I've been told is the earlier of the 2 versions. The one on the right is paper held by a tin frame, and it makes sense that this would be a later version since its manufacturing cost was probably lower.
As far as I know all E-Z's were nickel machines that vended a gumball with a small hole drilled through it, which contained a small rolled piece of paper with a number or word on it. Poke the paper out and match the number (in the case of the marquees shown) or word (in cases of other marquees) to the marquee---which is actually just an award card---and see what you won. Ad-Lee E-Z's were gamblers, which explains why someone would spend the outrageous sum of 5 cents for a small gumball in the 1920's and 30's.
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