Maker unknown, c. early 1910's or 1920's (est.), 14 3/4". This is a 5-column match vendor about which I know almost nothing. I'm estimating the date, but I express the estimate with the utmost confidence---it's hard to go wrong in that 20-year span for this machine.
The machine is made almost entirely of wood except for the curved nickel- or chrome-plated---but probably nickel-plated---metal piece on the lower front, and sells boxes of old time safety matches for a penny each. By the way, if you ever travel back in time and can pick up some stuff to bring back to the future, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better investment than a big load of full boxes of safety matches that you buy for a penny each retail. If you can get a wholesale price, then all the better. Anyway, the metal piece and prominent decal on the front is what makes this machine, which would be quite plain otherwise. This is the only match vendor I can think of with 5 columns; I've seen lots of 4-column vendors and also know of a 3-column vendor, but 5? That's a new one to me. The case is not oak, it looks like walnut to me, which is also different from most wood vendors of the era. It's really quite a nice piece.
The example above is 100% original and in great condition. It's one of only 2 that I know of, although I'd bet others exist. I saw the first during room-to-room selling at a COCA convention a few years back, and it was nicer than mine---in fact, it was stellar!---but it was also tagged way higher. When I say "way higher," I mean ludicrously higher, as in the Stupid Money Stratosphere! A friend and I saw it about the same time and looked at each other with eyebrows raised, a look that said, "Great piece, but he's insane." We whispered these same things to each other to confirm our read, and then I left to look at other rooms. I wandered back about 20 minutes later and the machine was on the bed, and my friend---the same one I was just talking about---was kneeling on the floor in front of the bed with his checkbook propped on the cover, writing one out to the (former) owner. I looked surprised and he looked up and shrugged his shoulders and said, "I had to have it."
At this point I might normally stop and speculate something about this guy's sanity, but I won't, because I've done it myself as you can read about here (and this is just my best of several examples). It is insane---there's no debate there---but sometimes you really do just gotta have it.
©Small Vintage Vending 2003