(Click on image to enlarge it)
Pulver Company, Inc., Rochester, NY, c. early 1920's, 21". Like some other machine lines, such as Norris Masters, short-case Pulvers run the gamut of commonality and desirability based on several factors. They range from relatively common to very uncommon. The 3 major determinants of value are the case, including color and condition; the type of mechanism; and the character on the mechanism.
Of these, red is by far the most common, followed (in my opinion) by blue, which is a bit more common than light green, which is a bit more common than orange. If dark green exists, then it's the hardest of the colors to find. A white version is pictured in Silent Salesmen Too, but most collectors believe that the porcelain on that case is not original, making that a fantasy piece.
Early Too Choos cases had a bare cast iron insert where the gum came out; all other porcelain cases had the same iron casting but it was finished in white porcelain. The white pieces are far more common than the bare metal pieces, although the latter are not rare.
Later cases---from I believe date from the early 1950s---were crinkle-painted yellow or red. My impression of the yellow version used to be that it was pretty scarce, but since about 2004 or 2005 they've appeared somewhat routinely on ebay and at shows, and really aren't that hard to get anymore. The red painted case is much scarcer than the yellow; I've sought a nice one for years, and as of December 2015 I've been unable to find one reasonably priced. The metal insert where the gum came out was painted black on cases painted yellow or red.
According to Silent Salesmen Too, the painted cases were the last in the line of Pulver short-case machines.
Mechanisms for the porcelain cases were originally painted red, and the mechanisms for the painted cases were painted green.
I don't know the year that Pulver began making the short cases, but a friend of mine has a 1921-1922 calendar that advertises "Pulver's 20th Century Model Vending Machine" and depicts on the front page a short case with the Yellow Kid in clothes. Until I learned this I'd always associated short case Pulvers with the 1930's and envisioned them being used by scruffy depression-era kids. I've now expanded that mental image to include flappers, and I like that image better.
The Pulvers shown above are 100% original. I no longer own all of them.
The Beech-Nut Pulver shown last in line above has an interesting story behind it. I bought it at the November 2012 Chicagoland show with one of the few substantial Saturday-morning purchases I've made over the years. I was walking the aisles 15 minutes before the doors opened for the general-admission crowd, and spotted it tucked away to my left. Wow, I thought, what a neat vendor repaint!, but when I went over and looked more closely I wasn't so sure. I mean, I was sure it was neat, but wasn't so sure it was a vendor repaint. The paint on conventional yellow Pulvers has a certain look; it's crinkle paint, but over the years any roughness it might have had has smoothed, and the surface usually has a subtle alligatoring with a slight-to-moderate sheen. The graphics are done with a specific and consistent color, which to my imperfect color vision looks brown or purplish. The paint on the Beech-Nut Pulver had exactly the same look as factory-original Pulver paint---the same colors, the same patina, and the same surface texture---but the graphics differed from any I'd seen before. If it's a half-century-old vendor repaint then it's a very cool machine with the kind of high-quality "personal touch" I like in machines that have been modified by vendors when the machine was in service. If it were originally painted that way by Pulver then it represents a version that I didn't know existed until I saw this machine. Either way, how can I lose? All of this is going through my mind when the dealer approached, offered a more-than-fair price, and after confirming that it worked as it should, I bought it.
Now here's the part that I think makes this story worthwhile: As I carried it to the car, no fewer than 5(!) guys stopped me and asked about it. I told them I'd just bought it, and 3 said they'd seen it earlier but couldn't figure it out---didn't know if it was original---so they passed. A couple of them said they'd seen it Friday, and one said he thought he'd seen it at the previous show. I don't believe it was at the previous show, but enough guys told me they'd seen it the day before that I have to believe it. If so, I'm more than shocked that it was still available Saturday. As the guys stopped me and asked about it, we got to talking and I told them I thought that at best it was an original Pulver paint job, and at worst it was a great old vendor repaint, and even at worst it's a great and unusual machine. With all 5 guys I could see their faces fall as they realized they'd had the chance to own it, and instead had passed on it.
You've heard of buyer's remorse? What I saw was nonbuyer's remorse.
In my (final-for-now) opinion the most likely scenario is that Pulver painted these at the request of Beech-Nut or a specific vendor with enough pull to get it done. My main reason for thinking that is that I don't believe that a vendor repaint could look so much like a conventional factory-original Pulver---it had to be done at Pulver, either as the original version or as a special-order factory repaint. You can see them side-by-side here and form your own opinion.
So why didn't I see it Friday? I don't know, but I've speculated it's because I was walking the opposite direction that I walked the day before. Had I been walking south instead of north, the Pulver would have been hidden behind the adjacent booth's shelves until I passed them, at which point I'd have had to walk a few more steps and then turn and look behind me to the right to see it. As it was, walking north instead of south it was right in front of me to my left. I usually make a point of walking aisles in both directions for just this reason, but if it was in the same spot Friday that it was Saturday, I must not have done that because I'm sure I would not have missed it.
A couple of years after I bought it I was at the home of an Alabama collector who specializes in Pulvers and I described this machine to him. Yeah, he said, they exist. He used to have one and sold it, a move he regretted. He didn't know the source of the paint job---whether it was the Pulver factory or a vendor---but he agreed that they're cool and extremely scarce. If it's factory-original, then I'm 100% comfortable calling it "rare."
If anyone reading this has information about this version, I'd appreciate hearing from you.
©Small Vintage Vending 2015