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Hance Rex Convertible 1-2-3

Hance Mfg. Co., Westerville, OH, c. 1910's, 15". This date is an estimate. Hance made several "Rex" models that were similar in size, look, and mechanism. This is the "Rex Convertible," the name of which was based on its ability to be converted from a gumball vendor to a bulk vendor. All the route guy needed to do was change the vending wheel. The other models in the Rex line were bulk vendors or gumball vendors, but not either.

This model was part of Hance's "White Base" line, presumably because its base is white. Quite the innovative marketing strategy, don't you think? The base is porcelainized cast iron, the mechanism housing is nickel-plated cast iron, and the baseplate, center section, and lid are aluminum. This example has a 1-2-3 mechanism, which is the only Rex 1-2-3 that I or several knowledgable friends know to exist.

This model came with 2 styles of globe. One was a straight cylinder, and the other is pictured above. Of the 2, the contoured globe pictured above is more desirable and harder to find.

This is a very desirable machine. I used to think it was pretty rare, but I've seen enough to now think it's merely hard to find but very expensive when you do find it. The serial number of this one is 3702, so it appears that Hance made more than a few.

The example pictured above is 100% original but is missing the gate. I'm still looking or an original gate, so if you have one please let me know. You could take serious advantage of me on the price.

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There's a story behind this one. It's not really my story because I simply bought it through ebay, but rather it's a story of how the guy I bought it from came to own it. It should give us all hope. Here it is:

The guy I bought this from is a dealer of antique lamps who lives in northern Ohio. One weekend in the spring of 2003 he'd planned to go to an auction that had advertised some lamps in which he had interest. The day before the auction he talked to a friend who also dealt in vintage lamps and found out that the friend was also planning to go. Since the auction was about 3 hours from this guy's house, and since his friend lived pretty close to the auction, he decided to forego the auction and complete some items on his domestic "to do" list. One of those involved some landscaping around the house.

As luck would have it, there was another auction near his house on Saturday that suited this task. It was at a local nursery, and they were going to sell some trees. So off he went to buy trees. As he previewed the auction, he saw some trees and some inexpensive gardening accessories, but not much else . . . until he saw the machine pictured above, sitting near the end of a countertop without a soul around it. He went to the machine and looked it over, and although he didn't know squat about coin-op, he knew antiques in general and had a strong feeling that this was an unusual piece. He decided to buy it if the price wasn't outrageous. He didn't know what an "outrageous" price would be for this, but he figured he'd follow his instincts.

He sat down with some friends and watched the bidding, and when the Hance came up he bought it. His friends were astonished at his foolishness and couldn't believe that their buddy would pay $125 for an old gumball machine! They razzed him the rest of the auction and for several days afterward, but the guy who bought it thought he'd probably not made a mistake. Up it went on ebay, and I bought it for a bit more than he'd paid for it.

I called the seller after the auction (which is when I got the story above), and we figured we lived 4 to 5 hours apart. We agreed to meet about half-way between us in Springfield, OH, which has 3 big antique malls and would therefore give us something to do other than just meet and then turn around and go home. We met at the appointed time and walked to his SUV. He opened the back, pulled out a box, opened the box and pulled out the machine. He set it on top of the box and then stepped back so I could see it. My first thought was "I can't believe I paid four grand for a project machine!" It was perfect except for the missing gate, but the gate was still missing and that made it incomplete. Oh, well, too late now. I paid him, thanked him, and we went our separate ways.

I brought the machine home and set it on my workbench. I ran a couple of pennies through it, and the mechanism seemed to work erratically. It gave different numbers of turns for a penny. Thinking that a spring or lever or some other internal "brake" was sticking open when it should close at the end of a turn, I removed the coin cover below the mechanism, turned the machine upside down, and hosed the mechanism innards down with WD-40. I then turned it rightside up and started running pennies through it in order to work the oil in. The first penny gave one turn, so I figured "ah ha!" The second penny gave 2 turns, and I thought "oops." The third penny gave 3 turns, so I figured I needed to keep running pennies through since the oil hadn't worked its way in yet. As I did that I noticed a pattern develop, and that pattern was 1-2-3-1-2-3-1-2-3. "Cripes," I thought (only the word I thought wasn't "cripes"), "this is a 1-2-3 mech!" I ran more pennies through, and sure enough, the pattern didn't deviate. This made up for the missing gate.

Although I'd never heard of a 1-2-3 mechanism on this machine, I emailed a couple of friends who know more about Hances than I did (or still do), told them about this, and asked them if this was "unusual." I received rude and sarcastic replies from them, but the underlying message of the replies was that they'd never heard of one before. I took that to mean "yes," it's unusual.

So that's the story. I'm still waiting for an original gate, so if you have one available please let me know.

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