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Zeno Gum

Zeno Mfg. Co., Chicago, IL, c. 1908, 17". The date of 1908 on this model is the patent date for the mechanism, which is similar or identical to that used in wood Zenos. The porcelain versions above probably weren't made until the late 1920's or 1930's.

It's made of porcelain over thick steel. It's a single-column vendor with a clockwork mechanism that's tripped by a penny; put the coin in and hear a whirrrrrr, and a piece of gum is pushed out the front. The mechanism is attached to the porcelain case, unlike the short case Pulver that has a separate mechanism that rests on the back plate and is merely covered by the case. The attachment makes it hard to mix and match cases and mechanisms, which is quite easy to do with Pulvers. That's a shame, too, because I've seen stellar cases with no innards, and I've seen smooth-running mechanisms inside some very rough cases.

The appeal to this machine is obviously the case and graphics. Perfect cases are nearly impossible to find. Most are rough to passable, with varying degrees of touch-up. Two specific problems seem to be common. One is that the area surrounding the latch and lock on the left side of the machine (as you look at it) is often chipped and bent, as though someone tried to break into the machine by prying the lock and latch away from the back plate. The other is that the porcelain over the "Y" and "E" in "BUY ZENO" is often chipped. I've been told by Those in the Know that rivets are located under the porcelain in those spots, and because of that the porcelain is weaker there than on the rest of the case. Many mechanisms have been repaired, so check out the innards before you buy one. The repair I usually see is that the chute that guides the coin from the slot at the top to the "trip lever" at the bottom is often missing or is newer than the rest of the mechanism. If repaired well then it won't affect the machine's function, but you'll want to know if the machine's all original before you pay an all-original price.

The vast majority of cases are bright yellow, shown above left. Less common by a good distance is tan, shown above right. These photos were taken at different times in different locations and lighting so the colors may not be 100% accurate, but on my screen---and probably on yours, too---it's pretty apparent that the yellow pops while the tan is more subdued. Note, too, that the front panel graphics and window heights differ a little between the colors. I've also seen a white version, which is quite rare. Zeno made a chocolate vendor with the case in brown, but as far as I know only one of those exist.

The machines pictured above are 100% original except that the black frame around the "gum chute" and the back plate on the yellow machine have been repainted.

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