Hawkeye Novelty Co., Iowa, c. 1930's, 14 1/2". Early examples of this model were made of porcelainized cast iron. Later examples were based on the same design but were made of painted aluminum.

The design of this machine is similar to that of many 1930's pull-lever vendors. The distinguishing features of this model are its bell-ringer mechanism and the coin return, which is the slot beneath the coin slot and which returned bent coins or slugs. I've never tested this feature, but that's only because I keep forgetting.

The machine was originally designed give one free pull in every 10. After every 9th pull, the customer would hear a bell ring and the next pull would be free. Because of this the founder of Hawkeye was hauled off to jail and a warehouse full of machines was destroyed as gambling devices. According to the story told to me by a collector who'd met the founder, the FBI went in with sledgehammers and obliterated hundreds of machines while the founder sat in the clink. The owner told the collector, "All I wanted to do was sell gumballs and candy, and here I am in jail." Obviously, he didn't grasp the depths of his own brazen depravity. Many examples of the earlier cast iron Hawkeyes are found with some of the bell-ringer mechanism intact, but at least one key part is almost always missing and therefore very few work.

I've seen the porcelainized versions in several colors. Red (which is actually an orangish-red, as is the red of most Northwesterns) is by far the most common, but I've also seen blue, green, yellow, and white. I've seen so few of each of these other colors that I hesitate to rank them by scarcity . . . . so I won't. I've seen several colors of the painted version, and it seems that dark red is the most common. Between cast iron and aluminum, it seems to me that fewer than 20% are porcelainized cast iron.

The example above is 100% original and is a working bell-ringer, although I had the machine 5 years before I realized that. I knew it had many of the bell-ringer parts in it, but many Hawkeyes have them and don't work. One day I was running some pennies through it because the end of the throw was sticking, and I heard a "dingggggg." I stopped, wondering what the noise was, and then pulled the lever without putting a coin in. The vending wheel went all the way over, just like it does with a penny. I actually thought, "What's wrong with this machine?" before it sunk in. I turned to my wife, who happened to be in the room, and said with a quiver in my voice, "This is a bell-ringer!" She looked up from her reading and said, "Is that good?" I said yes, it is, and started explaining why, but she went back to her reading and ignored me.



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