Q: My father recently passed away. He was an enthusiastic Coca-Cola collector. This vending machine was part of his collection. Of all his pieces, this is my favorite. I know it was made by the Vendo Company in Kansas City by the black-and-silver metal tag on the machine. Can you tell me anything else about it?
A: We can see why this Coca-Cola vending machine is your favorite from your dad’s collection. It’s a beauty. In the early part of the 20th century, prior to the use of coin-operated vending machines, soda bottles were distributed from coolers packed with ice, and payment was on the honor system. As strange as it may seem now, it worked. But times change. Capitalizing on the lack of effective payment collection, brothers Elmer and John Pierson of Kansas City developed a coin-operated locking lid to be placed on common ice chests. This, in effect, created the first vending machine. From 1937 to 1956, the brothers’ Vendo Company of Kansas City, Missouri, built and maintained Coca-Cola machines throughout the Midwest. As you noted, Vendo made your machine. The company merged with Vendorlater, a former Pepsi-Cola bottling company, and moved to California.
On May 8, 1886, the world’s first Coca-Cola was served at Jacobs’ Pharmacy in Atlanta. It was the creation of Dr. John Pemberton as a tonic for common ailments. The Coca-Cola Company was founded in 1892 and discovered early on the importance of brand recognition. Emblazoned at the top of all Coca-Cola vending machines is the soft drink company’s name. Today, Coca-Cola remains the best example of this modern marketing tactic. The mass production of Coca-Cola items makes it a popular genre for collectors. From 1952-1966, Vendo used a black-and-silver metal ID tag mounted outside the cabinet, on the door hinge side. So, we know your machine is from that era. Vending machines are a favorite with collectors. Depending on condition, your vending machine may be worth between $1,000 and $3,000.