A Lucky Find! One of the FIRST Oak Acorn Gumball Vending Machines!

April 08, 2024  •  Leave a Comment


Earlier this year I found an ad on Facebook Marketplace for an old Acorn gumball machine that was about an hour from my home. Visually the machine appeared to be from the 1950’s or early 1960s (more on that later) and appeared to be in good physical shape other than really worn and poor paint. Once I got it home I quickly realized this was more than just an early machine, it was one of the FIRST Acorn vending machines that released by Oak!

EarlyAcorn3EarlyAcorn3 While it is almost impossible to date an Acorn gumball machine exactly, there are a few physical cues that can get you in the general era due to design changes over the years they they were made. The most obvious change is the earlier tear drop shaped chute flap to a larger square flap. That also corresponded with a larger chute to allow toy capsules travel through the machine, which didn’t exist when the machine was first designed.

Another clue is the thicker glass globe with the Acorn logo embossed on one side. The first embossed globes had a very detailed logo that said “OAK MFG INC Los Angeles” within the Acorn logo. As time went by the glass got thinner as did the details on the Acorn logo, and the logo was eventually dropped all together. The same thing happened with the lids as a detailed embossed company name and “patent pending”, as well as some other custom sayings for high purchasing customers, eventually disappeared to cheaper blank tops. 

Generally, there are a few things that can help you figure out the age of your machine, but you have to keep in mind that all of the parts are very interchangeable, so often these machines are just a hodge-podge. But in the case of this machine that I had purchased, it was obvious the original paint was still on the machine, all of these above boxes pointing to an earlier machine were checked, and then when I got it home there was the most obvious clue when I took apart the machine – the coin mechanism!

This machine has the first style coin mech that Oak put on the Acorn vending machine. The Acorn was first revealed in 1949 at the NAMA show (National Automatic Merchandising Association), and by 1950 Oak had already redesigned and changed the mechanism from the style I had and started putting a newer version that was used (with a few variations and tweaks) through out its decades long run! This coin mech, like the ones right after, used a brass coin wheel, but the main differences are an entirely different design for the backplate, dogs, and springs on the inside!

Below is the first style coin mech that Acorns were made with.


So my original intent with this machine was to do a restoration on it to flip. However, after almost 30 years with me messing with these things I do believe it is the oldest Oak Acorn vending machine that I’ve ever had – so for now it’s just sitting in my office for me to look at!    

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