For many Coca-Cola collectors, adding one of the many models of antique Coke machines to their collection is a dream that often comes true.
Early Coke Machines
From its modest beginnings as a soda fountain drink in 1886, to the first bottles of coke that a Vicksburg, Mississippi candy store owner, Joseph A. Biedenharn, bottled and sold in 1894 using common glass Hutchinson bottles, the popularity of the sweet carbonated beverage grew rapidly. Five years later, three young lawyers, bought the bottling rights to the famous drink. By 1909 the Coca-Cola Company had grown to include almost 400 bottling plants throughout the country. In those early years the bottles of Coca-Cola were generally kept cold in local grocery stores by being kept in coolers filled with ice and payment was on the honor system.
- The early part of the 1900s was also the time of increasing technology and mechanical innovation. From 1910 to 1937, when the Vendo Company was begun, inventors developed several different types of mechanical Coke machines.
- In 1910, a bottler from Georgia, George Cobb, introduced a cooler that was coin operated, called the Vend-all cooler. Designed specifically for Coca-Cola bottles, the machine worked but it was not very practical for retailers since it only held twelve bottle of the soft drink.
- During the next ten years, a number of different companies were manufacturing various types of Coca-Cola coolers for retail stores. One of the most well-known Coke coolers, introduced in the mid-1920s by the Icy-O Company looked something like a tub washing machine. When a customer wanted a bottle of soda from the Icy-O, they turned a top crank and took out their drink. However, retailers still relied on the honor system when it came to receiving payment for the bottle of soda.
- In 1928, the Glascock Brothers, a sheet metal manufacturing company, was hired by the Coca-Cola Company to design and manufacture a cooler for their bottled soda. The Coca-Cola Company wanted to be able to sell the coolers directly to the retailers themselves.
- Two years later, in 1930, electric coolers were introduced. The following years, Glascock Brothers introduced a vending machine for bottled Coca-Cola that was coin operated. Although there were many benefits to the coin operated vending machines, many retailers hesitated about putting them into their businesses because patrons could still use slugs, which are worthless pieces of metal, to pay for their drinks.
- Westinghouse introduced a coin operated Coca-Cola cooler in the 1930s. For a nickel, customers received a cold bottle of Coke.
The Vendo Company
Founded in 1937, the Vendo Company of Kansas City, Missouri, is generally the most sought after Coke machine by collectors. In its first years, the company only manufactured the coin operated tops for other cooler manufacturing companies of the time. However, it was not long before the Vendo Company began producing the entire coin operated bottled soda vending machine.
One of its most popular, and most collected, models manufactured between the years 1949-1957 is the V-39 with its famous rounded top. Vendo Coke machines made after 1955 are red with white tops. The models made before 1955, are solid red and have the words "Ice Cold" on the bottom.
Another highly sought after model of Vendo Coke machines is the Style Star. These vintage Coke vending machines has graphics supplied by the Coca-Cola Company.
Additional Antique and Vintage Coke Machine Manufacturers
There were approximately eighty companies that manufactured antique and vintage soda machines and coolers, with more than 600 different models. Several other companies that are well known for manufacturing bottled soda vending machines include:
- Deep Freeze
- General Electric
- Quaker City Metal Products
Resources for Vintage and Antique Coke Machines
- Soda Machines is a valuable resource for anyone interested in antique or vintage Coke machines. The website provides a listing of 79 soda vending machine manufacturers with pictures of more than 600 models along with a host of other information.
- Cola Machines provides information on restoration, a Vendo serial number guide and much more.
- Classic Soda Machines 3rd Edition A Field Reference and Price Guide by Jeff Walters is available from Amazon.
A Coke Machine to Your Home Game Room
Whether you collect Coca-Cola products or simply want a unique and fun addition to your family's game or recreation room, vintage and antique Coke machines look great and many are fully functional.