Things have come a long way since the world’s first vending machine – a 2000-year-old device that dispensed holy water when a coin was slipped into a slot. Some now-vintage models dispense art or books – other new machines can cook food, recognize your face, respond to touch, and allow you to trade in your old gadgets and gizmos for new devices or even cold hard cash.
Art-O-Mat: Art in Cigarette Pack-Sized Packages
The Art-o-Mat is a pioneer in the realm of vending-machine reuse – a series of retired cigarette dispensers have been converted to vend art. With over 90 recycled machines around the United States, they have sold work from 100s of global artists.
The key to submitting your own micro-masterpiece? Making whatever you do – be it sculpture, craft, photography or painting – fit into a cig-sized box. People not near a machine can also order a carton of ten works to be shipped anywhere in the world.
Biblio-Mat: Skip the Sidewalk Discount Shelf
Switching gears, but not styles or machines: here is a lovely vintage machine that vends printed-word art (best known as books). From its creator, Craig Small: “The Biblio-Mat is a random book dispenser built … for The Monkey’s Paw, an idiosyncratic antiquarian bookshop in Toronto.”
As to its operation: “When a customer puts coins into it, the Biblio-Mat dramatically whirrs and vibrates as the machine is set in motion. The ring of an old telephone bell enhances the thrill when the customer’s mystery book is delivered with a satisfying clunk into the receptacle below.”
Swap-O-Matic: Exchange Instead of Buying or Selling
Some vending machines are not about the money at all, like the Swap-O-Matic – a set of one-stop non-shops for trading what you have for something else you want. Added items are turned into credits, which, in turn, can be converted into other objects – reduce, reuse, recycle, swap!