Columbus Model R (a.k.a. Dart)

Columbus Vending Company, Columbus, OH, c. 1933, 14". Marketed as the Model R, this is commonly called the 'Dart.' It's a porcelainized, cast iron gumball-slash-gambling machine that's not rare but is uncommon and is sought by collectors.

Insert a penny, pull the lever and (on the lever's forward stroke) the wheel above spins and then stops. Meanwhile, a gumball is dispensed into the compartment behind the witness window. The wheel has different colored darts, and the customer-slash-player 'wins' if the color of the gumball matches that of the dart on the wheel. I don't know what he or she won, but I'm sure it was something extraordinarily fine, like free tickets to a timeshare presentation or a big book of bowling coupons.

I bought the machine pictured above on ebay in the spring of 2003. Darts had never interested me much, especially at their price, but something about this one attracted me. I don't know what, unless it's the fact that it's 100% complete, original, had the (in my opinion) more attractive #4 globe with an original decal, and to my knowledge never went through a collector's hands. In fact, I'm sure it hadn't; the Long Island, NY estate picker I bought this from paid less than $300 for it, and it wouldn't have been that cheap had it ever been owned by a collector. Needless to say---remember, this was ebay---I had to pay a teensy bit more than $300. However, my appreciation for the model jumped when I got the machine and saw how clever the design was and how well-constructed the entire machine was, and I'm damn glad I got this.

This machine is 100% original, and has a lid with a threaded hole in it. The hole has a screw that looks to be original to the machine, and is the only Columbus lid I've seen with this feature. This feature is also visible on the example pictured in Silent Salesmen Too (which is not the machine that I have). I'd guess that this existed so that a marquee could be installed. I know that Dart marquees were produced, but they're quite rare and I've never seen one installed on a machine.

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



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