Vintage Coca-Cola machines are valued by many Coke memorabilia collectors, and many even want an old Coca-Cola machine that will actually vend the drinks. Fortunately, many of these machines have survived and there are many dealers who sell them, restore them and provide parts for repairs and do-it-yourself restorations.
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 electric 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.
Bottle vending machines were supplanted when canned soft drinks became available in the 1960's. Cans were less likely to break than bottles, chilled faster and needed no bottle openers or cap receptacles.
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