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Hance Breath Pellet

Hance Mfg. Co., Westerville, OH, c. 1910's or 1920's, 8 1/2". I don't have a reference to the date on this machine, but the date range of 1910's or 1920's seems right and is consistent with Hance's heyday.

This is, I believe, the smallest and lightest vendor I own. It's made almost entirely of aluminum, except for the globe, feet, and several small pieces of internal hardware such as springs. It's tiny and light, and can't possibly justify its price based on heft factor alone. It weighs about as much as a newborn robin and would not make a good paperweight in a moderate wind gust. Luckily for me, that's not the purpose for which I bought it.

This machine has been reproduced well, so be careful if you find one for sale. Because of quality of the reproductions, I had decided that I'd never own an aluminum Hance Breath Pellet machine because the fakes were potentially too good and I didn't want to get stuck with a very expensive forgery. I obviously didn't stick to that resolve, and the reason for that is in the story below. The ultimate reason for that change of heart is that I know this one is original, and because I'm certain of that fact, the existence of high-quality fakes was moot.

To be accurate, the machine pictured above is 100% original except for the globe and decal. I bought the machine just as you see it, but it came with an original globe as well. Unfortunately, the original globe is a little smaller than the new globe, and the hold-down rods won't clamp the original globe down firmly enough to give me peace of mind. I'm worried that the old globe will break since it can move around, so rather than have that happen I decided to leave the old globe packed away until I can find shorter hold-down rods that fit it. Please let me know if you have any available.

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There's a story behind my acquisition of this machine, and here it is:

A good friend offered this to me, and I thanked him but declined because I didn't trust aluminum Hance Breath Pellet machines to be original. He said okay, he'd wanted to give me first shot, but if I wasn't interested then he'd put it onto ebay later. He then told me about several other machines he was going to sell, and I realized that these were his first steps toward selling his entire collection. I started to discuss buying certain machines from him, which became discussions about buying his entire collection. I knew that he'd been considering selling out for some time, but he'd finally come to peace with that plan and was now starting to move toward doing so. His strategy was a good one: Unlike most collectors, he was going to sell from the top down, with the realization that once he'd sold his best stuff he wouldn't be very interested in stopping halfway through the process. It's like leaping off of a cliff; it takes awhile to get the courage to jump, but once you do it you're committed. If you change your mind half-way down then it's too late to do anything about it. 'Course, with selling out you could live to regret it, whereas with cliff-jumping the regret is short-lived.

As our discussions progressed, I thought about the Hance again and decided that I should at least see a picture of it before I really passed. I called him and asked him to send some pictures, and he said he would. He also said that he'd planned to post it on ebay the next night, so it appears that I'd come to my senses just in time. He sent pictures a day or so later, and after looking at them I had no doubt that this was an original example. The inside, especially, was obviously not new. In addition, I found out that several mutual friends, all of them experienced collectors, had inspected this machine closely at the Chicagoland show before my friend bought it, and their unanimous verdict was that the machine was 100% original except for the globe. The pictures and the "expert inspection" convinced me that the machine was original, so I asked him to add it to the mix. We agreed on a price, and it came to me with all of his other machines when we consummated the deal.

As an aside, I'll say that I was sorry to see him sell, but I understood his reasons for doing so and can't say that I disagreed with them. For him it was probably the right thing to do, but I felt a loss even though I benefitted materially from his decision. The machines are nice, but what I've really come to value from the hobby is the friends I've made through it, and this guy is one of them. We remain good friends, but from a strictly selfish perspective I'm sorry to see him leave the hobby. More than a dozen of the machines you'll see on this site came from him, as well as a couple of dozen more that aren't shown on the site.

Luckily for him, he'd gotten involved in a hobby that at a minimum held its value, thereby allowing him to cash out when the time came. Folks whose hobby is (for example) exotic travel or acquiring the latest electronic gadgets don't have that advantage. I've seen several other collectors cash out in order to spend the money on something else, and I always make sure my wife knows about it when it happens. 'Course, she always suggests that it's time for me to do the same, but I tell her "not yet." However, it's nice for both of us to know it's an option if the desire or need ever develops.

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