Coast Vending Inc., c. 1955, 14". This is a simple machine and may technically qualify as a trade stimulator, although I don't know what the technical qualifications for such status are so I can't be sure. It's made of painted pressed steel. Put a penny in the slot, pull the plunger out, and a gumball drops into the windowed compartment above the metal flipper on the right. Push down on the flipper and let it go, and the gumball pops up into the playing field and hopefully drops into the bucket. If it does, you get to eat it. If it doesn't, it falls back into the windowed compartment and you get to try again.
Coast also made a later version of this machine. The bottom half, back, and lid are metal, but the front of the product compartment is a plastic piece that wraps around both sides and goes into the metal back. The sides also aren't tucked as they are on the earlier model above. The mechanism and play field are similar or perhaps even identical, but in my opinion the overall appeal is much less. Neither version is scarce, but the later version is more common than the earlier version.
This example is 100% original except for perhaps the 1¢ decal in the lower left corner. The machine no longer belongs to me; it belongs to my younger daughter. I'd decided I wanted one of these and became smitten with this particular machine at a Chicagoland show in the late 1990's. I passed because the price was too high, but as I walked around I kept thinking about it, hoping that it would still be there on my next pass. I thought it probably would be, but you never know at these shows and I was afraid someone else was also contemplating paying too much for it and would not be as indecisive as I was acting. I realized eventually that my unconscious self was telling my conscious self to buy it, so I did.
It's a neat machine and this is a great example of one, but I didn't stay in love long. After a couple of years I decided it was taking up space that could be better served holding another machine that I liked more, so I decided to part with it. By that time, however, my younger daughter had fallen in love with it, so instead of selling it I gave it to her on her 6th birthday. She moved it into her bedroom, thus creating an opening for a new acquisition.
She was thrilled, it's still in the family, and I got the spot I needed for another machine. It's the most expensive birthday present she's ever gotten, but she doesn't know that; she likes it and couldn't care less what it's worth. Such is the innocence of youth---but she'll learn.
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