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Columbus Vending Company, Columbus, OH, c. 1908 through the 1930s, about 16" depending on specific model. Columbus made the Model A for more than 25 years, and like automobile manufacturers they made changes throughout the years. All were cast iron and used basically the same mechanism, but the body styles changed as follows:
Sometime between 1908 and 1915 Columbus also produced a version with a truncated dish---more of a prominent indentation than a fully formed dish---but I don't know whether this came before or after the full thin-lipped dish and the open gate. I know of only 2 examples of that base, so it appears to be a scarce variation.
The earliest Columbus A was painted black with pinstriping. Later versions were available in "a cardinal red baked enamel" and a "forest green baked enamel," although the vast majority are red. I've seen one porcelainized Model A.
Early decals were paper and were shaped like an inverted wide-based "V." These are not rare, but they're scarce and are usually gobbled up quickly when offered for sale. Water-transfer decals were introduced in 1925 and were eventually available in a variety of shapes. I think the styles shaped like a shield were later, but I'm not sure.
Barrel locks were correct starting in 1933, the year they were first available. Before that, Columbus used a variety of padlocks. Eagle locks are considered by many collectors to be the correct lock, but I don't agree. I've seen original Columbus machines fresh from basements, attics, or old storerooms that look like they hadn't been touched in 60 years and had different styles of locks. A Columbus catalog from the late 1930s or 1940s offered "Columbus Vise-Grip" barrel locks for $1.35 (or a dozen for $13.25!) or small Master locks---the same "wafer-style" lock you can buy today---for $0.60 each.
Columbus Model A's were also available with slug rejectors, of which the "Pac-Man" style is most common, and were available with stands. A heavily tiered style of base stand was available with a head for one or 2 machines.
I love Columbus Model A's, but I had an epiphany not long ago and realized that they're relatively common machines. They're earlier than, say, Victors or most Northwesterns, but they made a zillion Model A's and if only 1% survived then there are plenty to go around. When buying a Model A, look for good original condition and features that indicate earlier vintage. The earlier the vintage, the wider you'll have to open your wallet but you'll have a more desirable example of a classic vendor.
So how can you identify earlier examples? The earliest ones had a dish, a baseplate that attached to the base with a flat iron tab extending from the baseplate, a large smooth globe, a paper decal, and a small-nippled lid. Later examples had no dish, a baseplate that attached to the base with a small round pin extending from the baseplate, a globe with an embossed star, a water-transfer decal of various shapes, and a large-nippled lid.
The examples shown above are 100% original except for the black one, which has an ancient repaint over red.
Many thanks to Roy Leatherberry for his critical review of this page.
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