Magic Vendor (a.k.a Al Hoff)

Townsend Mfg. Co., Baltimore, MD, c. 1939, 15". This is the successor to the Calvert Vendor. It's a somewhat industrial-looking machine with an interesting design. The body is a nearly empty sheet metal box. The top half of the box holds the product and has 4 windows so you can see what you're buying. The bottom of the box has some parts integral to the vending process, such as the vending wheel and product chute, but no mechanism.

The mechanism on this machine is in the lid, and that's the neatest part of its design. You put a penny into the raised coin entry perched up high on top, and the penny falls into the mechanism just below it. You pull the crank and a rod running through the center of the product compartment turns the vending wheel. In theory the mechanism-on-top design was better because product couldn't fall into the mechanism and gum it up, but the design might have had other problems that balanced or outweighed that advantage. It sure is a cool from a collector's perspective, though.

The window to the left of the crank shows the last penny played. This isn't a gambler, so I can't figure out why it has that feature, but it's there despite my ignorance.

The sheet metal base and cast iron lid with the mechanism make this top-heavy. That doesn't matter as it sits on the shelf, but carrying it is awkward at first because unconsciously I expect the weight to be at the bottom. If you're not careful it's possible to flip this before you realize what's happening.

These machines aren't rare, but they're not common, either. When found, they often have decent original paint and are in decent overall condition. This example is 100% original and is among the nicest I've seen, but it's not the nicest. That one got away because it was overpriced and I was feeling cheap. Either it was a little nicer than the one pictured above, or else it wasn't and I'm idealizing it. It's a moot point either way; it was gone by the time I came to my senses and called to see if was still available. Lesson learned---again.



©Small Vintage Vending 2003