D. Robbins Co., New York, c. 1932, 16 1/2". I once owned an Empire but sold it. I sometimes wonder if that was a smart thing to do, but it was polished and the glare got to me after awhile. It'd probably have a nice satiny sheen by now had I kept it, but I didn't think that far ahead. I've since looked for a really nice, reasonably-priced crusty-gray example preferably with an original decal, but haven't found one. Someone else must get to them before me.
The Empire is a neat machine. It's very Master-like, and although I never met the developer and never read anything about him or his inspirations, it would be safe to say that the Empire was (at a minimum) inspired by the Master. The dimensions are almost identical, but enough differences exist to prevent me from labeling this a Master knock-off. Both are cabinet machines, but the mechanism designs are quite different. The Master mechanism is attached to the body and stays in the body when the front plate or coin door is removed, while the Empire mechanism is attached to the removable front plate and therefore is removed from the machine when the embossed front plate is removed. That's quite a philosophical difference, which alone tells me that some independent thought went into the Empire's design.
As an art deco machine it's hard to beat (although the Jergens Lotion dispenser, Pack-It Shop, and EHL 4-in-1 probably do). The prominent embossment in front makes this a nice cross-collectible, attracting art deco lovers who know nothing about coin-op. The embossed front is cast aluminum. Some cabinets are also aluminum, and others are nickel- or chrome-plated steel. I assume that the steel versions are earlier, and while I don't know that to be true I'd bet good money on it.
The example above is 100% original except the decal, which is a paper copy of the correct Empire decal. I never owned this specific machine but I possessed it for 2 weeks after I bought it at an auction for a friend. It's a nice-looking example.
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