Bluebird Products Co., Kansas City, MO, c. 1918?, 15 1/2" without marquee, 20" with marquee. This model is referenced in 2 places in Silent Salesmen Too. Once is on page 121, where it merits 2 pictures---both of them wrong. They show a machine with the octagonal base and a deep midsection, which on Bluebirds usually denotes a 1-2-3 mechanism. The description says that the pictures are inaccurate, but at first glance one's gonna go with the picture and think the machine pictured on this page is wrong---but it's not. The other reference is in the advertising section, on page 300, and there the machine is pictured correctly. My 1918 date assignation is an estimate based on the date attributed to the Bluebird Gum in Silent Salesmen Too; that machine has an identical base, so I'm guessing their birthdates aren't too far apart.
Mr. Enes attributes this machine to H. G. Payne, a punch board company, but there's no doubt this was made by Bluebird. As with most Bluebirds, this is an aluminum machine and can acquire a gorgeous patina over the years. Unlike most Bluebirds, this one takes a nickel. It apparently was designed to compete directly with the Ad-Lee E-Z. Like the E-Z, the Nick vended a gumball with a small hole drilled through it, into which was stuffed a small rolled piece of paper with a number or word on it. Poke the paper out and match the number or word to the marquee---which is actually an award card---and see what you won.
When I bought this in 2005 I knew they were tough to find, but they're apparently scarcer than I thought. They're actually---dare I say it?---rare. A knowledgeable collector told me he knows of 4 including this one. I wouldn't bet my house that there aren't more around, but the guy who told me this knows about this kind of thing, so I'd bet there aren't too many more around.
This example is 100% original except for (I think) the marquee. The guy I bought this from thought the marquee was original, but I have my doubts. I've never seen another to compare, but hopefully I'll get that chance someday. The vending wheel has a small repair to it, which I mention here only so I won't forget as the years pass.
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