Columbus Model K

(Click on image to enlarge it)

Columbus Vending Company, Columbus, OH, c. 1917, 15". This model is so similar to the Model A-3 that it took me years to figure out the difference. To be more accurate, the differences are obvious, but from the descriptions in Silent Salesmen Too I couldn't figure out which was the Model A-3 and which was the Model K. Part of that confusion derived from what I believe is a mistake in the book, which I'll describe in more detail below.

The Model K is a cast iron gumball vendor. It has a horizontal coin entry, a vending wheel with many holes, and a handle that moves freely until a penny is inserted to bridge the handle to the vending wheel. The globe sits on a ring that protrudes into the product compartment only in the front, which was needed to ensure that gumballs don't just fall freely through the hole above the gate. That kind of design flaw can really eat into profits. Other than that, the gumballs sit on (and in) the vending wheel. The design philosophy of this mechanism was the same as that of the Ford: Very simple and probably very 'slug-able.'

The Model K is uncommon but is not rare. I've not seen very many with original paint, but I would guess that most were red. I think the Model K was made for a number of years because I've seen examples that range from early---with a plain unadorned base, small round smooth globe, and small-nippled lid---to later---with the 'PATENTED' base, round star-embossed globe, and large-nippled lid. I've also seen nickel versions, which suggests later vintage. Padlocks or barrel locks are correct depending on the vintage of the specific machine they adorn.

Now, the mistake: Under "Model K" in Silent Salesmen Too you'll see 2 examples; a porcelainized version with a straight coin entry and a painted version with a slanted coin entry. As I started coming across machines that I knew to be either A-3's or K's, I couldn't figure out which was which. Part of my confusion was that I was comparing the machines I had to the Model A-3 and the painted Model K pictured in the book, but I now think that the painted Model K in the book is actually a Model K. I vaguely remember a collector telling me once that Bill knew about the mistake and had told this collector about it, but I can't remember the details of that conversation (including, unfortunately, the collector who told me).

Given all that, I think there are 2 easy ways to distinguish a Model K from a Model A-3:

A Model A-3, on the other hand, has a slanted coin entry, a vending wheel with only one hole, and a handle that won't move all the way to the left without a penny.

The white and red Model K's pictured above are the earliest version, with plain bases, small-nippled lids, and small no-star globes. The white machine is 100% original. The red machine is all original except for a new decal and an ancient repaint, undoubtedly by a vendor during my father's toddler years or earlier. The yellow machine is a later version; it has the 'PATENTED' base, a star-embossed globe, and a large-nippled lid---plus, it's a nickel mechanism. It also has an old repaint, also undoubtedly by a vendor. The repaint on this one probably occurred during my father's teen years, though, rather than his early childhood.

Many thanks to Roy Leatherberry for his critical review of this page.



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