The history of vending machines is one filled with rapid technological advancement, constantly evolving consumer behaviour, and frankly some of the coolest public branding exercises that the world has seen.
In this article, we take a look back at into the history of the vending machine business, to find the coolest examples of vending machines through the times. Prepare yourself for a serious nostalgia trip!
5. Rowe Imperial Cigarette Vending Machine
It’s worth starting by saying that cigarette vending machines have had their day, with popularism falling off in the 1990’s because of the health impact of smoking and access that they potentially gave to underage smokers. In the early 20th century though, the cigarette and wider tobacco industry was big business, and they utilised vending to give easier and more convenient access of their products to consumers.
Looking at it today, the mirrored face panel, sculpted dispense pulls and small windows for each product display, make the Rowe Imperial a stunning example of art deco design. You can imagine how much of a draw these machines had during the 1940s.
Image courtesy of https://www.collectorsweekly.com/stories/305043-1930s-rowe-imperial-cigarette-machine
4. Buzz Crystal Cola Vending Machine
Ok, this one isn’t a real vending machine, but its presence in an iconic episode of The Simpsons makes it one of the coolest vending machines in history.
In Series 5, Episode 6, Homer Simpson manages to get both his arms stuck in vending machines whilst trying to grab a drink and snack from inside the machine, and has to be rescued by firefighters. The machine he is trying to get a drink from is for the fictional beverage, Buzz Crystal Cola, which it is rumoured was a pop at Pepsi for their failed transparent Cola drink, by the Simpsons writing team.
It’s classic Simpsons and makes it onto the list at number 4.
Image courtesy of https://simpsons.fandom.com/wiki/Crystal_Buzz_Cola
3. Nestle Chocolate Bar Vending Machine
The next stop in our journey takes us back to the 1930s, with the Nestle chocolate bar vending machine. These machines were commonplace on railway station platforms through the 1930s and 1940s, offering busy travellers with a quick, convenient source of sugary goodness.
Though the bright red colouring is now synonymous with another leading vending company, Coca Cola, Nestle’s red dispensers were the cat’s pyjamas in this period. We love a vintage vending machine and these sleek, iron machines give us a view into a world that is far from the big black or grey boxes of today’s vending solutions.
2. Sweetmeats Cast Iron Vending Machine
First things first. An immaculate example of this vending machine sold a few years back for £7500. A machine that typically sold items for a few pennies is now fetching serious money, and when you look at what this machine did, you can understand why it was so appealing to have in a vintage vending machine collection.
This machine was ahead of its time – whereas most vending machines were large and usually only stored one or two different product types, this machine could sell several, and in different varieties. You could buy cigarettes, matches to light said cigarettes, and peppermints or chocolates to snack on during your journey.
How they managed to manufacture this machine back in the Victorian era is a mystery. It’s a true engineering marvel and a seriously cool piece of vending machine history.
Image courtesy of https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/439312138626407846/
1. Vendo 81 Coca Cola Vending Machine
Coca Cola has a long and fascinating history in the vending space and many of the bright red machines the company has utilised for public vending over the years have been iconic, but there’s one particular machine that truly nailed the design and kerb appeal. The Vendo 81 Coca Cola machine.
This machine is one of the most aesthetically pleasing vending machines you’ll ever see – released in the late 1950s and present for many years subsequently, this machine was a beautiful mix of cream and Coke red, and benefitted from absolute simplicity in its operation. No complicated interfaces or contactless payment systems, this was coin based vending at its absolute coolest.
Operation was as easy as popping a 10 cent piece in the coin mech, twisting the handle to initiate the vending mechanism, grabbing your chilled coke and opening it using the bottle opener on the face of the machine. Simple, easy and fantastically designed.
Image courtesy of https://www.gamesroomcompany.com/cdn/shop/products/coke_vendo-81.jpg?v=1604943550
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