Germany; c. 1920s, 17". This is a great German machine that started trickling into the US in the late 1980s/early 1990s. It's a heavy, solid machine with a painted cast iron base, a nickel-plated steel lid, and a prominent brass mechanism. Purportedly, they were originally red and were later refurbished by the vendor in hammertone gold.
This has a counter in the base that you can see when you take the baseplate off, and shows the number of times the machine has vended. A thick string runs from the counter to the mechanism, and every time the mech turns it pulls the string which pulls the counter. I know of only one other vendor with a counter, and that's the GE coin-op fan that was made in the US during the same era this was made in Germany. I don't know what German coin this takes, but some Automatens have been converted to take an American penny or nickel---I can't remember which. I think that's blasphemous, but it's been done.
These are not common but they're not uncommon, either. I've seen another example of this model with another body decal and another type of lid, but most examples have the type of lid on the machine above and do not any decal at all on the body or globe. I think this model is underappreciated because it's foreign, but it's a great machine in its own right; solidly built, attractive, and with an unusual mechanism and unusual counter feature. If this were an American machine available in such limited numbers they'd be highly sought after and would sell for much more.
I've always been intrigued by these machines because of their nationality and era. Germany suffered runaway inflation in the 1920s, and many people's fortunes eroded to nearly nothing because of it. The value of the coin this was designed to take may have been worth only a small fraction of its value a year after the machine was introduced, so how could anyone make a fixed coinage vendor that would stay profitable through such a change? Did Germany keep coin sizes the same but change denominations to higher and higher values as inflation increased? I guess vendors found a way, but I don't know what it was.
This example is 100% original and has not been converted to take American money.
©Small Vintage Vending 2003-2009