A nice surprise showed up in our email Thursday morning. A reader in the southeast had found one of our stories on 1970s baseball cards in which a reference was made to nickel sports card vending machines that you used to see in places like K-Mart.
He dropped us a note.
He sent along these photos--and even showed off a "letter of provenance".
Hop in the time machine and take a trip back to 1976 for the story.
"You may be interested in knowing my machine came out of a K-mart store, and I even have the letter to authorize its destruction from 1976," he wrote. "My father worked for K-mart over 25 years, and when the company discontinued that program, he could not throw it away- as I was a card collector, and it would serve as a "cool" place to store my cards. He always told me to keep that letter- to prove it wasn't stolen, of course."
Chris did indeed store his cards in the machine and he has some from various years inside it now. Yes, it still works.
"There are not really any parts to break--- that weight on top of the cards is heavy enough to kind of push the cards down, so when the coin mechanism is pushed the cards come right out. It is kind of neat to do it 40 or 50 times in a row, like I used to do when I was a kid--- sometimes only 4 cards came out--- sometimes 6- kind of depends on the "newness" of the cards!"
He's no longer a collector, but has treated the machine like an heirloom.
" It was always a part of my room growing up--- It went to college with me, (as a nightstand)- and was in my game room until 10 years ago, when my first child was born, and the wife found it a new home in my attic."
While they do pop up in sports memorabilia auction catalogs from time to time, some of which are significantly older, I wonder how many have survived? Did you see any after the mid-1970s? A check of eBay produced only this one.
1949 Exhibit Supply vending Machine Display Sheet Joe DiMaggio RARE Checklist
Time Remaining: 8h 11m
Buy It Now for only: $949.00
1980 Superstar Baseball Vending Machine Original Exhibit Card Set of 32 Mays etc
Time Remaining: 3d 3h 9m
Buy It Now for only: $49.00
Original Set 64 1952 Exhibit Baseball Machine Vending Cards Mantle Yankees
Time Remaining: 3d 5h 46m
Buy It Now for only: $950.00
1950 r423 CLIFF MAPES 64 GUMBALL Vending MACHINE Baseball CARD Charm PHOTO
Time Remaining: 4d 43m
Buy It Now for only: $12.95
1990 Spiderman Vending Machine Prism Sticker Mint
Time Remaining: 6d 17h 19m
Buy It Now for only: $1.99
C1950s Victor Baby Grand Baseball card vending machine
Time Remaining: 8d 17h 14m
Buy It Now for only: $360.00
1990 TOPPS VENDING MACHINE MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL CARDS 500 CARDS PER BOX
Time Remaining: 11d 35m
Buy It Now for only: $10.00
1960s BaseBall Card Vending Machine 5 Cent Great Display Piece
Time Remaining: 14d 2h 14m
Buy It Now for only: $389.99
Home Run Baseball Bubble Gum 60s Vending Machine Card
Time Remaining: 16d 4h 29m
Buy It Now for only: $29.99