Vending machines aren't really a part of amusement arcades but they
have their own curious history.
The ancient Greeks invented the first coin operated vending machine – an
urn that dispensed holy water when a coin was inserted, described by Hero
of Alexander in his book ‘Pneumatic’. Machines for vending snuff,
postcards and even a change machine appeared in the late 18th
century, but vending did not become popular until a rash of patents in the
1880s for coin acceptor mechanisms that could distinguish genuine coins
from fakes. Since then, an enormous variety of vending machines have been
There was a craze for co-operated bars and cafes in
France and Germany in the early 1900s.
There was another craze in the US in the 1950s.
In the UK I vividly remember visiting an automated motorway service
station restaurant near Newcastle in the late 1960s. The hot meals were
stored cold and came out of the vending machine with a plastic 'key'. You
were supposed to put the meal and the key into a microwave cooker.
The the service station was very busy, the keys were very brittle, the
plates came out extremely hot - the result was pandemonium - crying
children, the floor awash with spilt meals, the cookers jammed by broken
bits of key and frantic staff producing ordinary food from round the
Its hard to think of anything that someone hasn't tried to sell in a
Its easy to make mechanisms to vend long thin things - but I do worry what
the machine in the middle might be vending
I think Japan probably has more vending machines than
any other country today.
For a collection of pics see:
Including one that vends live lobsters
And these are obviously popular enough in some places to have three in a