Friday, April 19, 2013

America's Oldest Coin-Ops

Today's post is definitely off topic, but I think it's interesting anyway. I thought I'd do a brief post on a couple of really old American coin-op machines.

First, up is this one:

This is believed to be the oldest coin-op device made in America. It's a tobacco-vending machine called Penny Papers made by the Green & Broad of New York in 1839. For a penny (which were large at the time) in dispensed a small packet of tobacco. Vending machines were actually the first coin-op devices. A number of books have mentioned a coin-operated holy water dispenser invented by Heron (or Hero) of Alexandria in 215 B.C. That seems to have been more of an anomaly that the start of a trend. It's actually not known if Heron invented it or not or when or if it was produced. Heron (who actually lived in the first century AD) just described it. I think that the next coin-op device after that may not have come around until the early 17th century when "honor boxes" started to appear (snuff dispesners where you put in a coin and were on your honor to only take a pinch and close it when you were done).
The photo above is from the August, 1991 issue of RePlay.

Here's the second machine:

That's The Locomotive by William T. Smith, produced in Providence in October, 1885. It is considered the first coin-operated amusement device produced in America. For two cents, you got to watch the little train go through its motions. It didn't go anywhere (obviously). You just watched the wheels go round, the whistle blow etc. Called "exhibition machines", these were somewhat common at the time. In 1889, Edward Ahmet of Chicago created a couple of others - Power Station (a miniature power station) and Steamboat (which had a miniature boat floating around a lighthouse).

I acutally love these things. One of my favorite variants was a type that was common in England that involved little minature morality plays on subjects like the evils of alcohol. Drop in your farthing (or whatever they used) and you were treated to a motroized scene where a drunk fell asleep only to be awakened by tormenting demons.

To give you a little video game content, here are some more unKLOV'd  games:

1) From Play Meter, February, 1979

2) From Play Meter, November, 1979

3) From RePlay, November, 1982

I'm not sure what kind of company "Shadco" was. Given all the games from other companies they list, I'd have thoght they were a distributor but the ad makes it look like they manufacture games under license (could they have had licenses for all those titles, some of which were licensed to other companies).
Mr. Doodle, Naughty, Bang Bang, and Shogan I've never heard of.

4) Here's a better photo of Wesco's 1979 game Basketball

5) From Vending Times' coverage of the 1982 AMOA show

Battle Back actually is on TAFA but the flyer has no photo of the game so I thought it was nice to get some confirmation that it actually existed. BTW, RePlay had a photo of Shine's Witch Way at the same convention - another one where the flyer exists but I haven't seen a cabinet photo (though the flyer has screenshots).

6) Finally, one from the 1984 AMOA - Venture Line's Camelot.

1 comment:

  1. Keith, this is an incredible site! I'm going to check it out more thoroughly in the next few days, but I just wanted to let you know that you've made a new fan.

    I write a blog called 2 Warps to Neptune, which covers almost everything relating to growing up in the '70s and '80s, and I'm especially interested in arcades and arcade culture during the Golden Age.

    I'll be back!