Sel-Mor Model E

Great States Mfg. Co., Kansas City, MO, c. 1938, 15". Great States Mfg. Co. is notorious for its massive, boat anchor-like machines, and this one is no exception. The body and lid are made of thick cast iron, and the intact machine could be used as a weapon if acquired by those with evil intent.

The Sel-Mor is one of the 3 models made by Great States shown in Silent Salesmen Too. How many of you knew that this was the Model E? Not me, until I looked it up to write this description. This was always the "Sel-Mor with the round base and cylindrical globe." Another is the "Sel-Mor with the square base and the globe like a Silver King." That's the Model D. Then there's the Berkshire, which usually needs no other descriptor because people tend to know that one---especially if they lust(ed) after one like I did for years before I got one.

I was always attracted to the Model E, mostly because it has one of the most impressive heft factors you'll find in vending. It's hefty enough to be herniating, and the weight catches you by surprise if you're not expecting it. I never sought one of these, especially after I bought a Berkshire, and a really nice one never fell into my lap until the red painted example did. I was at the spring Chicagoland show in 2006 and came across it in the parking lot, and liked its overall look and originality. The paint and decal are both original and in outstanding condition, which you hardly ever see with this model. The price was reasonable and I suspected that the show's pickings might be slim, and I didn't want to go home empty-handed so I bought it.

The bare metal strip below the wheel lever is where the paint presumably wore off during use. It's a strange wear pattern (which is why I mention it), but the presumption is plausible since one's index finger runs across that strip when moving the vending wheel. I'm surprised this pattern isn't on more machines, and as far as I can tell it's legitimate wear.

Later I was offered the nickel-plated example above center, and bought it. It's an unusual example because, for one thing, I don't recall ever seeing another nickel-plated Sel-Mor, and for another, it has a Berkshire lid. Neither the former owner nor I think this is a married piece; plated examples are very uncommon, and the chance of someone having found a Model E body and Berkshire lid that matched so well is just about nil. I think it's just an unusual---and very cool---example of the Model E.

Finally, the one pictured on the right is another unusual example. It has brown crinkle paint on the body and is chrome- or nickel-plated elsewhere. Brown is an unusual paint color for a gumball machine or bulk vendor, and unusual features typically intrigue me and other collectors. I liked the 2-tone look, so I bought it to keep the other Sel-Mors company. If you look at the lid you can barely make out that the top surface is also brown crinkle-painted.

There's a small story behind the plated (middle) example, and here it is: I first ran across it inside the ballroom on a Friday morning at a Chicagoland show, looked at it and was very interested, but I couldn't find the dealer. So I wandered around for about 2 minutes and decided to check again, and when I did I found my friend bending over it giving it the Close Inspection. I saddled up next to him and we talked a little---a little about the machine, a little about other stuff---and I finally asked him what he was gonna do. He didn't know yet, and I was getting a little concerned about standing in front of this unusual and well-priced machine while other collectors with wads of money in their pockets were passing by glancing at it. So I finally told him I was going to buy it if he didn't, so of course he bought it. I was hoping he wouldn't, but there you go. I told him I'd like first shot if he ever sold it, and one day several years later he called me and now it's mine. It cost me about twice the tagged price at the show, but I think the price I paid him was fair market at the time I bought it. It would have been nice to get the original bargain, but (again) there you go.

All of the above examples are 100% original. Look closely and you can see subtle differences in some of the body details. I'd point them out to you, but that'd take all the fun away from you. The 2 painted machines have a bulk vending wheel, while the plated example has a gumball wheel.

I no longer own the red painted machine pictured above.



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