Victor Vending Corp., Chicago, IL, c. 1938, 16 1/2". Silent Salesmen Too says that the Victor Chief and its cousin the Victor Stop and Shop, both patented in 1939, were the "second and third entries after the Universal." However, the same book states the patent date on this version of the Topper to be 1938, so the order of introduction is a bit vague because it all depends on what Bill meant by "after." I sense shades of Bill Clinton here, although in contrast to him I'm sure that any misuse of a word by Mr. Enes was unintentional.
By any interpretation, this is one of Victor's earliest machines and was the start of the Topper line, which was one of the most prolific lines of vendors ever. The line is a bit like the Ford Mustang, though; models were redesigned (especially after 1950) but kept the Topper name, so they're considered part of the same line even though their designs changed over the years.
The 1950 Topper was the first (and only, I thought) machine I wanted to buy and the second one I bought, so the Topper line has a place in my heart since it nudged me into this hobby. I like the 1938 version even more, though. It's tall and sleek, with a taller body, a narrower base, and a cylindrical globe that's no wider than the body. I've seen two styles of lid on this model: The sharply 3-tiered art deco lid shown above, and a more gently-sloped version that's more like that on a 1950 Topper or a Victor Sidewinder. I believe the sharply 3-tiered version to be earlier, but I don't know that for sure.
The 1938 Topper has a cast iron baseplate, a sheet metal body, an aluminum piece that forms the top of the body and the shelf for the globe, and a steel lid. These parts are usually painted, although the baseplate, lid, and mechanism plate can be chromed and the red body can be porcelainized. The vending wheel was available in a bulk version or a gumball version. I suspect the gumball version is less common because it usually is, but I don't know that with certainty about this model.
According to Silent Salesmen Too the porcelain body cost an extra 50¢, and I guess most vendors thought that a foolish waste of money since so few seem to be porcelainized. I'd gladly pay 100 times that for the upgrade now. I've seen only 2 porcelainized bodies, and both looked great.
The example pictured above is 100% original.
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