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Vintage Coca-Cola Machine: An American Icon

by Daniel Wright

Old Coca-Cola machines are prized by lots of Coca-Cola enthusiasts, and quite a few want a Vintage Coca-Cola machine that really works and vends a Coke bottle when they drop their nickel or dime inside. Lucky for them, a good number of these machines have survived and are readily available by specialists who refurbish them as well as provide parts for an enthusiast to do their own restoration if they wish.

Often, some of the most antique Coca-Cola machines are not much more than a metal box with the recognizable Coca-Cola script logo emblazoned across it. Essentially these were ice boxes designed specifically to be stocked with bottles of Coke and ice. Glascock was one manufacturer of such early vending units.

After these early vintage Coca-Cola machines that weren't much more than a glorified ice-box, came a refrigerated unit that didn't need ice. While it did have some advantages over its predecessor, such as a cleaner operation without the ice, it did have to be near an eletric outlet and could require costly fixes.

Coin operated vending machines came next in common use and popularity, although some were seen as early as the end of the 19th Century. The history of coin operated machines actually goes back to the 1st Century when a coin resulted in vending holy water. One type of coin operated machine had a glass door through which bottles were seen and, after a coin was provided, a customer could pull out one bottle. If you weren't careful, you might not pull properly and would lose your coin.

The next type of machine dispensed the bottles one by one and was less likely to jam or malfunction. A popular maker of the early vintage Coca-Cola machine was Vendorlator in California. In the mid 20th Century they had a large market share. The Vendorlator 33 had a strange top opening and was quite small holding only 33 bottles. Other models were bigger than refrigerators. Vendorlator made machines for Pepsi as well, but rival Vendo made only Coca-Cola machines.

Most early coin machines were nickel machines, and you needed an actual nickel coin. As they became more sophisticated, some could make change, at first only from a dime, and eventually for other coins and, in modern times, even for dollar bills. For most, changing the price was pretty much impossible.

Glass bottle vending came to an end by the 1960's when canned soda pop became available. This new container provided several advantages including less breakage, quicker cooling, and no need for bottle cap openers/receptacles. Glass bottle machines had all but disappeared by the end of the 20th century, except as collectibles and curiosities. Newer vending machines now dipense plastic bottles, but there was just something magical about getting an actual glass bottle of Coca-Cola out of machine. For those craving to relive this experience (or perhaps delight in it for the first time), all it takes is a little browsing until you find the perfect old Coke machine for your kitchen or game room. And as you and your guests gulp down a cold bottle from your antique Coke machine, you're sure to realize the other benefit to owning one of these treasures of Americana...they make great conversation pieces!

Check out our fabulous selection of vintage Coca-Cola machines at target="_blank"> You won't believe your eyes!

Published November 1st, 2007

Filed in Hobby

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