Hamilton Enterprises, Inc., Kansas City, MO, c. 1938, 14". This came out a year before the "Hamilton 3-way vendor," so it gets the good name. The younger sibling is just a 3-way vendor (la-dee-da), but this is Mickey Mouse and his Friends! Which would you rather be?
Although I like the brighter color of the 3-way vendor, I like the rich, unique look of the patterned porcelain on this one. Hamilton could have made this smooth and nobody would have thought they were cutting corners, but they went all out and the difference is apparent at first glance. Of the 2 Hamiltons, this one is scarcer and is more coveted by collectors.
As great as the body is, the decal completes this machine. It completely encircles the inside of the globe and is one of the most cherished decals in vending. In fact, the decal accounts for over half the value of this machine.
The decal has been reproduced, but even the developer of the reproduction says it's not hard to tell the difference between an original decal and the reproduction. I don't recall ever seeing a reproduction in person, but I've heard from several people that it looks good although it's not a match for the original. If you want to buy a reproduction of this decal, email me and I'll put you in touch with its originator.
The example above is 100% original except for the feet and some internal hardware. The globe and decal are original, and the decal is among the nicest I've seen.
This machine has a story behind it, and here it is:
Unlike most of my machines, this one didn't come to me all at once. I first bought the body from a friend, who'd found a stash of 3 or 4 Hamiltons in some unlikely place like Wyoming or Idaho. He sold me a body without a globe, and I packed it away for future use. I figured that someday I'd come across a beater with a passable globe, and could buy that machine, swap the globe onto my nice black body, and then sell the beater body for pennies on the dollar.
As I was explaining this strategy to my wife she said, "Maybe you'll find a globe at the Chicago show." It was a cute statement, but one that showed her nearly terminal naivete when it comes to the ways of collecting. She was just so clueless.
"Sharon," I said (because that's her name), "you don't understand how this works, do you, sweetie? See, glass breaks and cast iron doesn't, so there are a lot more bodies than globes. That's especially true with a machine like this one, where everybody wants this globe. If there were ever spare globes around, then they've all been snapped up by collectors by now and are sitting on their machines. So the chance of me finding a globe in Chicago ranges from zero to none."
She gazed up at me with transparent admiration, keenly impressed with my analysis of the situation and my sophisticated understanding of the hobby. I packed the body away and laid in for the long wait for the beater with a globe.
Now fast forward to the very next Chicagoland show. You know what's coming, don't you? A dealer in the old auxillary ballroom had an eclectic mix of old stuff, most of it not real interesting to me. No coin-op at all. The one thing he had that caught my eye was an old Dixie cup dispenser, which I noticed on Friday but didn't pursue. I didn't want to spend time on that while the good stuff was still coming out. But at 9:50 am on Saturday morning, which is only 10 minutes before the crowd starts streaming in, I remembered this dispenser and went over to the booth to look at it more closely. I noticed it, but out of the corner of my eye I half-noticed a Hamilton globe with a decal sitting next to it. I was disoriented with shock for a second or two. This kind of thing doesn't happen---at least not to me. To my friends, maybe, but not to me, and this was so unexpected that it took me a moment to get my bearings.
I (obviously) forgot about the Dixie cup dispenser and picked the globe up to look more closely. The decal was nearly perfect, and the price was so . . . affordable. In fact, the price was so . . . affordable . . . that I thought the decal might be a reproduction. This was before the Hamilton decal was being reproduced, but my first thought was that it couldn't be original. It was too . . . affordable . . . and it was way too nice. Looking closely, though, there was no doubting its authenticity.
I paid the owner. He asked me if I wanted a bag, and I said "yes, please." As quickly as I could, I put the globe into the bag before anyone else could see what I was holding. He asked if I wanted another bag, since the plastic shopping bag he'd given me was thin and it'd be a shame if it broke. I looked down at the bag and could make out the Mickey Mouse decal behind it, so I said "yes, please" again. I put the second bag around it, noted that it was opaque, and only then did I start breathing normally and start to feel my pulse rate diminish.
I asked him where he'd found this, telling him that it's unusual to find this globe not on a machine. He said he'd tucked it into a closet years ago and had forgotten about it, but that he'd recently stumbled across it and decided to bring it to the show. While we were talking a friend of mine stopped by the booth, noticed the bag I was holding, and said, "Whaddja buy?" I said "I'll show you later," and did.
When I got home I reminded my wife about the conversation we'd had several months earlier, showed her the globe, and then gleefully apologized for my condescension several months earlier. She accepted my apology, and to her credit reminds me of this incident only several times a year now.
I learned something from this, which is to never say never. This all happened pre-ebay, but ebay has since reinforced this lesson time and time again. There's a lot of stuff out there that we don't know about. It's sitting in closets, basements, old warehouses and stores, attics, on "quiet" collectors' shelves, and you just don't know when someone will trip across it or decide to sell it.
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