coin-op machines

Cool, coin-op machines on view at San Francisco Int’l Airport

“Futura” -1950s; Gypsy Fortune Teller – 1932. Courtesy SFO Museum

The newest exhibition offered by the SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport is about coin-operated machines, which smartly combine mechanical novelty and automated convenience. 

Lukat “The Lucky Cat” (1952) dispensed gum and a prize ticket.

“At the drop of a coin, they vended goods, provided entertainment, and offered potential jackpot payouts and free merchandise,” the exhibit notes tell us, while incorporating “decorative graphics and innovative mechanisms that captured the attention of people worldwide.”

‘Whiffs of Fragrance” 1916- dispenses a bit of perfume. Courtesy SFO Museum

Take a look as some of the cool coin-operated machines from the Joe Welch American Antique Museum in San Bruno, California on view for free (no coins necessary) in the pre-security International Terminal Main Hall Departures Lobby at San Francisco International Airport.

“The Automatic Age: Coin Operated Machines is on view from December 16, 2017 through August 5, 2018

Side trip Tuesday: antique arcade amusements

1_Intro_assorted machines_courtesy Morris Museum

In the early 20th century, all it took was a nickel, or maybe a dime, to bring to life the vending machines, gambling devices and other coin-operated mechanical amusements in “For Amusement Only,” an exhibition on view through October 10 at the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey.

My slide-show about the exhibit first appeared on, but here’s a preview of some fun arcade items from the show:

The Seaside Musicians played several melodies and had wooden cams to provide animation that allowed the musicians’ heads to turn from side to side and their arms to play the musical instruments. A coin would buy about a minute-long performance.

7_Seaside Musicians Automaton

Some machines offered a few minutes of music or entertainment in exchange for a coin, others delivered products such as postage stamps, tobacco, cigarettes and sweets.

The Automatic Chicken clucked and dispensed (from its rear end) either an actual hardboiled egg or an egg-shaped tin with candy or treats.

4_Automatic chicken - late 1890s(Have caption)

Fortune telling machines based on early models such as this one, called “Grandmother Predictions” (circa 1932), can still be found in some modern-day arcades

8_Fortune Teller-

See the full For Amusement Only slide-show here.

(All photos courtesy of the Morris Museum, Morristown, New Jersey)