The first modern coin-operated vending machines were born in London in the early 1880s, dispensing postcards. Thanks to their inventor Percival Everitt, vending machines became a quintessential feature of post offices and railway stations. But some believe that vending machines date back to ancient Greece, when the engineer Hero Of Alexandria made an invention that took coins and dispensed holy water.
The rest is history and today the world is full of vending machines, each one ingenious and crazier than the last. From very on-demand face covering gumball dispensers and a colorful cake vending machine for your late-night sweet tooth cravings to a salmon ATM that dispenses… you guessed it, a piece of salmon, to a biblio-mat that hands out a totally random book for $2, it seems like everything on this planet deserves its very own vending machine.
So get your coins ready, ‘cause Bored Panda compiled this collection of the coolest and most unusual vending machines ready to dispense… you name it!
I Found A Vending Machine In Japan That Puts Your Face On Figurines. I Always Wanted To Be A Ninja
Lisa Yaszek, a professor of science fiction studies in the school of literature, media, and communication at Georgia Tech, told Bored Panda about the history and cultural significance of vending machines that we have grown so accustomed to, we rarely give them a second thought.
“Vending machines often feel like symbols of modernity—after all, they embody the efficiency, convenience, affordability, and novelty that consumers crave and merchants want to provide,” Lisa said and added that they are actually as old as civilization itself, “popping up in some form or another whenever large groups of people gather in urban spaces.”
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My College Has A Vending Machine For Violin Strings And Woodwind Reeds
“People often credit Hero of Alexandria with inventing the first vending machine (for holy water!) in first-century Roman Egypt, and by the 1600s, English tavern patrons could expect to find portable, coin-operated tobacco dispensers at their local watering hole.”
But automated vending machines like the ones we use today really took off in the 1800s with the rise of industrial cities that were crowded with young people eager to spend some of the money they were earning in factories and department stores, Lisa explained. “While inventors tinkered with everything from machines that sold banned books to machines that offered stamps, the modern vending craze really took off when Englishman Percival Everitt introduced a machine for selling postcards in 1883—and when the Sweetmeat Automatic Delivery Company was founded just 4 years later to install and maintain such machines!”
And they weren’t popular just in England. Lisa said that vending machines were a global phenomenon: “the first American and Japanese vending machines (for gum and tobacco, respectively) were introduced in 1888, the first French machines (for beer, wine, and liquor) appeared in 1890, and the first German vending machine (for chocolate) debuted in 1893.”
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Turns out, “Business people loved vending machines because they could sell bulk goods efficiently, without having to train and depend on another human, and consumers enjoyed the ability to purchase everyday necessities and small, trendy luxuries at their convenience and often at a reasonable price point.”
According to Lisa, twentieth-century vending machines sold all the same things as their nineteenth-century predecessors while adding new offerings that included newspapers, “mailing supplies, photographs, and even condoms and other forms of birth control! I think the strangest vending machines were those that sold life insurance in airports from the 1950s to the 1970s—it really takes the glamour out of flying to worry about your possible death while doing so! But maybe that felt glamorous in its own strange way….”
The Hotel I Am Staying At Has A Vending Machine Strictly For Champagne
Found This Yarn / Crochet Hook Vending Machine At The Mall Today. Because You Never Know When You Might Need An Emergency Ball Of Yarn
These specialized vending machines that dispense all these particular and sometimes odd items emerged sometime about the turn of the millennium. They started selling “very specific products to niche markets (dog toys for pet owners, marijuana for recreational drug enthusiasts, bait supplies for fishing aficionados, original art and stories for culture buffs).”
The way they interacted with consumers was also way more specialized: “digital vending machines can track purchases across machines and offer consumers targeted goods based on past purchases, and they gamify consumption by tapping into buyers’ social networks.”
There Is A Cigarette Vending Machine In Las Vegas That Now Sells Art Instead Of Cigarettes. For $5, You Can Have One Of Several Original Pocket-Sized Pieces Of Art
“And of course, vending machines can be a tool for public health and creativity as well! Vending machines in schools, public bathrooms, and outside pharmacies empower customers to acquire food and medicine when they need it, even if shops are not open, and they enable people to anonymously purchase items that they might be too embarrassed to buy from another human being.”
Lisa also explained that they “allow groups of people who have often been the targets of uncomfortable and unfair economic practices to exert greater authority as consumers. For example, as a woman, I hate being talked down to by men at car dealerships (I know this happens to men too—it’s really a people problem). But recently Carvana opened the first full-service car vending machine here in Atlanta, Georgia, where I live and I am already dreaming about how much fun it will be to go pick out a car without salesmen hovering over my shoulder!”
The professor concluded that it really does feel like the future that vending machines have always promised us.