Ad-Lee E-Z

(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.

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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