vending machine


A vending machine is an automated machine that provides items such as
snacks A snack is a small portion of food generally Eating, eaten between meals. Snacks come in a variety of forms including packaged snack foods and other processed foods, as well as items made from fresh ingredients at home. Traditionally, snacks ...

beverage A drink (or beverage) is a intended for consumption. In addition to their basic function of satisfying , drinks play important roles in human . Common types of drinks include plain , , and s. Traditionally include , , and . that contain the ...

cigarettes A cigarette is a narrow cylinder containing burnable psychoactive material, typically tobacco, that is rolled into Rolling paper, thin paper for smoking. Most commercial cigarettes contain a reconstituted tobacco product known as ''sheet'', whi ...

lottery ticket A lottery is a form of gambling that involves the drawing of numbers at random for a prize. Some governments outlaw lotteries, while others endorse it to the extent of organizing a national or state lottery. It is common to find some degree of r ...
s to consumers after cash, a
credit card A credit card is a payment card issued to users (cardholders) to enable the cardholder to pay a merchant for goods and services based on the cardholder's promise to the card issuer to pay them for the amounts plus the other agreed charges. ...

credit card
, or other form of payment is inserted into the machine or otherwise made. The first modern vending machines were developed in England in the early 1880s and dispensed
postcard A postcard or post card is a piece of thick paper or thin Card stock, cardboard, typically rectangular, intended for writing and mailing without an envelope. Non-rectangular shapes may also be used but are rare. There are novelty exceptions, suc ...

s. Vending machines exist in many countries and, in more recent times, specialized vending machines that provide less common products compared to traditional vending machine items have been created.


The earliest known reference to a vending machine is in the work of
Hero of Alexandria Hero of Alexandria (; grc-gre, Ἥρων ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεύς, ''Heron ho Alexandreus'', also known as Heron of Alexandria ; c. 10 AD – c. 70 AD), was a Greek mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of ...

Hero of Alexandria
, an engineer and mathematician in first-century
Roman Egypt , conventional_long_name = Roman Egypt , common_name = Egypt , subdivision = Province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrativ ...

Roman Egypt
. His machine accepted a coin and then dispensed
holy water Holy water is water that has been blessed by a member of the clergy Clergy are formal leaders within established s. Their roles and functions vary in different religious traditions, but usually involve presiding over specific rituals and ...

holy water
. When the coin was deposited, it fell upon a pan attached to a lever. The lever opened a valve which let some water flow out. The pan continued to tilt with the weight of the coin until it fell off, at which point a counterweight snapped the lever up and turned off the valve. Coin-operated machines that dispensed tobacco were being operated as early as 1615 in the
tavern A tavern is a place of business where people gather to drink alcoholic beverage An alcoholic drink is a drink that contains ethanol, a type of alcohol produced by Ethanol fermentation, fermentation of grains, fruits, or other sources of s ...

s of England. The machines were portable and made of
brass Brass is an alloy An alloy is an admixture of metal A metal (from Ancient Greek, Greek μέταλλον ''métallon'', "mine, quarry, metal") is a material that, when freshly prepared, polished, or fractured, shows a lustrous appear ...

. An English bookseller, Richard Carlile, devised a newspaper dispensing machine for the dissemination of banned works in 1822. Simon Denham was awarded British Patent no. 706 for his stamp dispensing machine in 1867, the first fully automatic vending machine.

Modern vending machines

The first modern coin-operated vending machines were introduced in
London London is the and of and the . It stands on the in south-east England at the head of a down to the , and has been a major settlement for two millennia. The , its ancient core and financial centre, was founded by the as ' and retains b ...

England England is a that is part of the . It shares land borders with to its west and to its north. The lies northwest of England and the to the southwest. England is separated from by the to the east and the to the south. The country cover ...

in the early 1880s, dispensing
postcard A postcard or post card is a piece of thick paper or thin Card stock, cardboard, typically rectangular, intended for writing and mailing without an envelope. Non-rectangular shapes may also be used but are rare. There are novelty exceptions, suc ...

s. The machine was invented by Percival Everitt in 1883 and soon became a widespread feature at railway stations and post offices, dispensing
envelopes An envelope is a common packaging item, usually made of thin, flat material. It is designed to contain a flat object, such as a letter (message), letter or Greeting card, card. Traditional envelopes are made from sheets of paper cut to one of ...

postcard A postcard or post card is a piece of thick paper or thin Card stock, cardboard, typically rectangular, intended for writing and mailing without an envelope. Non-rectangular shapes may also be used but are rare. There are novelty exceptions, suc ...

s, and
notepaper A notebook (also known as a notepad, writing pad, drawing pad, or legal pad) is a book or stack of paper pages that are often Ruled paper, ruled and used for purposes such as recording notes or memoranda, other writing, drawing or scrapbooking. ...
. The Sweetmeat Automatic Delivery Company was founded in 1887 in England as the first company to deal primarily with the installation and maintenance of vending machines. In 1893,
Stollwerck Stollwerck Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung, GmbH is a German chocolate manufacturer. It was founded in 1839 and expanded internationally in Europe and America, becoming the second largest producer of chocolate in the United States by 1900. ...

, a German chocolate manufacturer, was selling its chocolate in 15,000 vending machines. It set up separate companies in various territories to manufacture vending machines to sell not just chocolate, but cigarettes, matches, chewing gum and soap products. The first vending machine in the U.S. was built in 1888 by the
Thomas Adams Gum Company Cadbury, formerly Cadbury's and Cadbury Schweppes, is a British multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multipl ...
, selling gum on New York City train platforms. The idea of adding games to these machines as a further incentive to buy came in 1897 when the Pulver Manufacturing Company added small figures, which would move around whenever somebody bought some gum from their machines. This idea spawned a whole new type of mechanical device known as the "trade stimulators".


Internal communication in vending machines is typically based on the MDB standard, supported by National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) and European Vending & Coffee Service Association (EVA). After payment has been tendered, a product may become available by: * the machine releasing it, so that it falls in an open compartment at the bottom, or into a cup, either released first, or put in by the customer, or * the unlocking of a door, drawer, or turning of a knob. Some products need to be prepared to become available. For example, tickets are printed or magnetized on the spot, and coffee is freshly concocted. One of the most common forms of vending machine, the snack machine, often uses a metal coil which when ordered rotates to release the product. The main example of a vending machine giving access to all merchandise after paying for one item is a newspaper vending machine (also called vending box) found mainly in the U.S. and Canada. It contains a pile of identical newspapers. After a sale the door automatically returns to a locked position. A customer could open the box and take all of the newspapers or, for the benefit of other customers, leave all of the newspapers outside of the box, slowly return the door to an unlatched position, or block the door from fully closing, each of which are frequently discouraged, sometimes by a security clamp. The success of such machines is predicated on the assumption that the customer will be honest (hence the nickname "honor box"), and need only one copy.

Common vending machines

Change machine

A change machine is a vending machine that accepts large denominations of
currency A currency, "in circulation", from la, currens, -entis, literally meaning "running" or "traversing" in the most specific sense is money Image:National-Debt-Gillray.jpeg, In a 1786 James Gillray caricature, the plentiful money bags handed t ...

and returns an equal amount of currency in smaller bills or coins. Typically these machines are used to provide coins in exchange for paper currency, in which case they are also often known as bill changers.

Cigarette vending

In the past,
cigarette A cigarette is a narrow cylinder containing burnable material, typically tobacco village in Xanthi, Greece Tobacco is the common name of several plants in the genus Genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is t ...

s were commonly sold in the United States through these machines, but this is increasingly rare due to concerns about underage buyers. Sometimes a pass has to be inserted in the machine to prove one's age before a purchase can be made. In the United Kingdom, legislation banning them outright came into effect on 1 October 2011. In Germany, Austria, Italy,
Czech Republic The Czech Republic, also known by its short-form name Czechia and formerly known as Bohemia, is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Austria to the south, Germany to the west, Poland to the northeast, and Slovakia to ...
and Japan,
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cigarette machine
s are still common. Since 2007, however, age verification has been mandatory in Germany and Italy – buyers must be 18 or over. The various machines installed in pubs and cafés, other publicly accessible buildings and on the street accept one or more of the following as proof of age: the buyer's identity card, bank debit card (smart card) or European Union driver's license. In Japan, age verification has been mandatory since 1 July 2008 via the
Taspo File:Age Validation - Cigarette vending.png, Taspo age verification unit on a cigarette vending machine , formerly known as , is a smart card using radio-frequency identification, RFID ...
card, issued only to persons aged 20 or over. The Taspo card uses RFID, stores monetary value, and is contactless.

Birth control and condom vending machines

A birth control machine is a vending machine for the sale of
birth control Birth control, also known as contraception, anticonception, and fertility control, is a method or device used to prevent pregnancy Pregnancy, also known as gestation, is the time during which one or more offspring develops inside a woman ...
, such as
condom A condom is a sheath-shaped Barrier contraception, barrier device used during sexual intercourse to reduce the probability of pregnancy or a Sexually transmitted disease, sexually transmitted infection (STI). There are both male and female cond ...

s or
emergency contraception Emergency contraception (EC) are birth control measures that may be used after sexual intercourse Sexual intercourse (or coitus or copulation) is sexual activity typically involving the insertion and thrusting of the penis A penis (p ...
. Condom machines are often placed in public toilets, subway stations, airports or schools as a
public health Public health has been defined as "the science and art of preventing disease", prolonging life and improving quality of life Quality of life (QOL) is defined by the World Health Organization The World Health Organization (WHO) is a lis ...

public health
measure to promote
safe sex Safe sex is sexual activity using methods or devices (such as condoms) to reduce the risk of transmitting or acquiring sexually transmitted infection Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), also referred to as sexually transmitted dise ...
. Many pharmacies also keep one outside, for after-hours access. Rare examples exist that dispense
female condom A female condom (also known as a femidom or internal condom) is a barrier device that is used during sexual intercourse as a barrier contraceptive to reduce the probability of pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Meant as an alterna ...

female condom
s or the morning after pill.

Food and snack vending machines

Various types of food and
snack A snack is a small portion of food Food is any substance consumed to provide Nutrient, nutritional support for an organism. Food is usually of plant, animal or Fungus, fungal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as carbohydrate ...

vending machines exist in the world. Food vending machines that provide shelf-stable foods such as chips, cookies, cakes and other such snacks are common. Some food vending machines are refrigerated or frozen, such as for chilled soft drinks and ice cream treats, and some machines provide hot food. Some unique food vending machines exist that are specialized and less common, such as the
French fry vending machine
French fry vending machine
and hot pizza vending machines, such as Let's Pizza. The Beverly Hills Caviar Automated Boutique dispenses frozen caviar and other high end foods.

Bulk candy and gumball vending

profit margin Profit margin, net margin, net profit margin or net profit ratio is a measure of profitability An economic profit is the difference between the revenue a commerce , commercial entity has received from its outputs and the opportunity costs of its ...
s in the bulk candy business can be quite high – gumballs, for instance, can be purchased in bulk for around 2 cents per piece and sold for 25 cents in
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s in the U.S., and other countries. Gumballs and candy have a relatively long shelf life, enabling vending machine operators to manage many machines without too much time or cost involved. In addition, the machines are typically inexpensive compared to soft drink or snack machines, which often require power and sometimes refrigeration to work. Many operators donate a percentage of the profits to charity so that locations will allow them to place the machines for free.
Bulk vending Bulk vending is the sale of unsorted confection Confectionery is the art Art is a diverse range of (products of) human activities involving creative imagination to express technical proficiency, beauty, emotional power, or conceptual ...
may be a more practical choice than soft drink/snack vending for an individual who also works a full-time job, since the restaurants, retail stores, and other locations suitable for bulk vending may be more likely to be open during the evening and on weekends than venues such as offices that host soft drink and snack machines. The
Bulk vending Bulk vending is the sale of unsorted confection Confectionery is the art Art is a diverse range of (products of) human activities involving creative imagination to express technical proficiency, beauty, emotional power, or conceptual ...
machines of today provide many different vending choices with the use of adjustable gumball and candy wheels. Adjustable gumball wheels allow an operator to not only offer the traditional 1-inch gumball, but they can also vend larger gumballs, and non-edible items such as toy capsules and bouncy balls. Adjustable candy wheels allow an operator to offer a variety of pressed candies, jelly candy, and even nuts.

Full-line vending

A full-line vending company may set up several types of vending machines that sell a wide range of products. Products may include candy, cookies, chips, fresh fruit, milk, cold food, coffee and other hot drinks, bottles and cans of soda and other drinks, and even frozen products like ice cream. These products can be sold from machines that include hot coffee, snack, cold food, and bottle machines. In the United States, almost all machines accept bills with more and more machines accepting $5 bills, along payment from traditional
debit Debits and credits in double entry bookkeeping are entries made in account ledger A ledger is a book or collection of accounts in which account transactions are recorded. Each account has an opening or carry-forward balance, would record tr ...
credit card A credit card is a payment card issued to users (cardholders) to enable the cardholder to pay a merchant for goods and services based on the cardholder's promise to the card issuer to pay them for the amounts plus the other agreed charges. ...

credit card
s, or a
mobile payment Mobile payment (also referred to as mobile money, mobile money transfer, and mobile wallet) generally refer to payment services operated under financial regulation and performed from or via a mobile device. Instead of paying with cash, cheque, or ...
system. This is an advantage to the vendor because it virtually eliminates the need for a change machine, bill changer. Larger corporations with cafeterias will often request full line vending to supplement their food service.

Newspaper vending machine

A newspaper vending machine or newspaper rack is a vending machine designed to distribute newspapers. Newspaper vending machines are used worldwide, and they can be one of the main distribution methods for newspaper publishers. According to the News Media Alliance, Newspaper Association of America, in recent times in the United States, circulation via newspaper vending machines has dropped significantly: in 1996, around 46% of single-sale newspapers were sold in newspaper boxes, and in 2014, only 20% of newspapers were sold in the boxes.

Photo booth

A photo booth is a vending machine or modern kiosk that contains an automated, usually currency detector, coin-operated, camera and film processor. Today, the vast majority of photo booths are digital. Traditionally, photo booths contain a seat or bench designed to seat the one or two patrons being photographed. The seat is typically surrounded by a curtain of some sort to allow for some privacy and help avoid outside interference during the photo session. Once the payment is made, the photo booth will take a series of photographs and the customer is then provided with prints. Older photo booth vending machines used film and involved the process of developing the film using liquid chemicals.

Stamp vending machine

A stamp vending machine is a mechanical, electrical or electro-mechanical device which can be used to automatically vend postage stamps to users in exchange for a pre-determined amount of money, normally in coin.

Ticket machines

A ticket machine is a vending machine that produces Ticket (admission), tickets. For instance, ticket machines dispense train tickets at railway stations, Fare, transit tickets at metro stations and tram tickets at some tram stops and in some trams. The typical transaction consists of a user using the display interface to select the type and quantity of tickets and then choosing a payment method of either cash, Credit card, credit/debit card or Smart card, smartcard. The ticket or tickets are then printed and dispensed to the user.

Specialized vending machines

From 2000 to 2010, the specialization of vending machines became more common. Vending extended increasingly into non-traditional areas like electronics, or even artwork or short stories. Machines of this new category are generally called Automated retail kiosks. When using an automated retail machine, consumers select products, sometimes using a touchscreen interface, pay for purchases using a credit or debit card and then the product is dispensed, sometimes via an internal robotic arm in the machine. The trend of specialization and proliferation of vending machines is perhaps most apparent in Japan where vending machines sell products from toilet paper to hot meals and pornography, and there is 1 vending machine per 23 people.

Automobile vending machine

In November 2013, online auto retailer Carvana opened the first car vending machine in the U.S., located in Atlanta. In late 2016, Autobahn Motors, a car dealership in Singapore, opened a 15-story-tall luxury car vending machine containing 60 cars, dispensing Ferrari and Lamborghini vehicles.

Bait vending machine

A bait machine is a vending machine that dispenses live fishing bait, such as worms and crickets, for fishing.

Book vending machine

Book vending machines dispense books, which may be full-sized. Some libraries use book vending machines. GoLibrary is a book lending vending machine used by libraries in Sweden and the U.S. state of California.

French fry vending machine

A is a vending machine that dispenses hot French fries, also known as chips. The first known french fry vending machine was developed circa 1982 by the defunct Precision Fry Foods Pty Ltd. in Australia. A few companies have developed and manufactured French fry vending machines and prototypes. Furthermore, a prototype machine was also developed at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Pizza vending machine

Let's Pizza is the name of a vending machine that makes fresh pizza from scratch. It was developed in 2009 by Italian company Sitos srl. The machine combines water, flour, tomato sauce, and fresh ingredients to make a pizza in approximately three minutes. It includes windows so customers can watch the pizza as it is made. The pizza is cooked in an infrared oven. The device was invented by Claudio Torghele, an entrepreneur in Rovereto, Italy. The vending machine began in Italy and is now spreading into the United Kingdom and becoming popular there.

Life insurance

From the 1950s until the 1970s, vending machines were used at American airports to sell life insurance policies covering death, in case the buyer's flight crashed. However, this practice gradually disappeared due to the tendency of American courts to strictly construe such policies against their sellers, such as the Fidelity and Casualty Company of New York (which later became part of CNA Financial).Steven v. Fidelity & Casualty Co.
(1962) 58 C2d 862

Marijuana vending machine

The marijuana vending machine originally found a niche market as a vending machine for selling or dispensing cannabis. Recently, thanks to changes in legislations across Europe and the UK, the United States and Canada and other countries around the world, marijuana vending machines (also known as cannabis vending machines) today are widely diffused, and sell a wide range of cannabis, hemp and CBD-related products that starts with the THC-based cannabis flowers in countries where the legislation allows Legality of cannabis, cannabis consumption, or CBD-only, legal cannabis all across the global market, and includes marijuana, hemp and Cannabidiol, CBD based products that includes, among others, hemp and CBD oils, tinctures and infusions, hemp-based food products, cannabis edibles, CBD cosmetics, hemp beers, sodas and teas, smoke paraphernalia and more. The first experiments in distributing marijuana through vending machines started in the early 2010s, when they were already in use in the United States and Canada. The primary challenge faced in selling restricted or controlled merchandise like cannabis is to verify the identity of the user in front of the vending machine making the purchase, which is overcome by the application of biometrics and smart vending software technology, the same technology used to verify the buyer's age in the automatic sales of tobacco.


The Mold-A-Rama is a brand name for a type of vending machine that makes blow molding, blow-molded plastic figurines. Mold-A-Rama machines debuted in late 1962 and grew in prominence at the 1964 New York World's Fair. The machines can still be found operating in dozens of museums and zoos.

Fresh-squeezed orange juice

This type of machine contains fresh oranges and a mechanism to cut and squeeze them on order to produce fresh juice.

Prize vending machine

This type of machine sells a container that may contain a prize. Some such machines advertise the possible prizes that may be won. Examples include smart phones, holiday packages, and toys.

Social-networked vending machine

With the rise of the Social media, social networks, vending machine has been integrated to social media in order to proliferate the interaction of the vending machine with the users from the physical machine to the social networks. The common application of social-networked vending machine is that the user can connect his/her social account to a specific social media designated by the vending machine, the user will be getting some rewards in return, normally in the form of free gift dispensed from the vending machine.

Popularity in Japan

Vending machines are a common sight in Japan. There are more than 5.5 million throughout the nation. It is the highest ratio for any country with one machine for every twenty-three people. Regarding the development of advanced technology, Japanese vending machines provide more services by selling different kinds of products. Food, smartphones, SIM cards, and even underpants can be found in these machines. Apart from the most popular drink vending machines, Japanese vending machines also offer certain products depending on the demand and need for different locations. For example, products like sanitary napkins and tampons can be found in vending machines in female restrooms, while machines selling
condom A condom is a sheath-shaped Barrier contraception, barrier device used during sexual intercourse to reduce the probability of pregnancy or a Sexually transmitted disease, sexually transmitted infection (STI). There are both male and female cond ...

s are usually located in male restrooms. There are a number of reasons which can explain why local vending machines can win their high popularity throughout the country. Convenience, low cost of running, security stability seems to be the main reasons for Japan to invest in vending machines. A patent for an "automatic goods vending machine" was filed in 1888 in Japan; early surviving vending machines from around the 1900s include one that dispenses stamps and postcards, and one that dispenses sake. Confectionery vending machine became widespread in the 1920s, and juice vending machines became popular in the late 1950s and 1960s. By 2000, the number of vending machines in Japan have grown to 5.6 million. However, from around the early 2000's, the number of vending machines in Japan decreased slightly to 5.03 million, and the sales amount has also been decreasing gradually, in part due to the rise of digital technology, and competition in the market.

Smart vending machines

Similar to the development of traditional mobile phones into smartphones, vending machines have also progressively, though at a much slower pace, evolved into smart vending machines. Newer technologies at a lower cost of adoption, such as the large digital Touchscreen, touch display, internet connectivity, cameras and various types of sensors, more cost-effective embedded computing power, digital signage, various advanced payment systems, and a wide range of identification technology (Near field communication, NFC, Radio-frequency identification, RFID, etc.) have contributed to this development. These smart vending machines enable a more interactive user experience, and reduce operating costs while improving the efficiency of the vending operations through remote manageability and intelligent back-end analytics, analytic. Integrated sensors and cameras also represent a source of such data as customer demographics, purchase trends, and other locality-specific information. It also enables better customer-engagement for the brands through interactive multimedia and social media connectivity. Smart vending machines were 79 by JWT Intelligence on its list of 100 Things to Watch in 2014. According to market research by Frost & Sullivan, global shipments of smart vending machines are forecasted to reach around 2 million units by 2018, and further to 3.6 million units by 2020 with penetration rate of 20.3 percent.

See also

* Automat – a fast food restaurant where simple foods and drink are served by vending machines * Arcade game * Automated charging machine * Automated retail * Automated teller machine * ChargeBox * Coffee vending machine * Eu'Vend – a vending industry trade show * Fortune teller machine * Freedom Toaster * Gashapon * Gold to Go * Gumball machine * Interactive kiosk * Jukebox * Kiddie ride * Love tester machine * Parking meter * Reverse vending machine * Self-service * Slot machine * Slug (coin) * Stamp vending machines in the United Kingdom * Telephone booth * Ticket machine * Tower viewer * Retail#Types of retail outlets, Types of retail outlets * ''Vending Times'' – a trade magazine focusing on the U.S. vending industry * Water cooler


Further reading

* Krug, Bryon. (2003). ''Vending Business-in-a-Box''. BooksOnStuff.

External links

In Praise of Vending Machines
- slideshow by ''Life magazine''
vending machines
{{DEFAULTSORT:Vending Machine Vending machines, Retail formats Commercial machines Hellenistic engineering Ancient inventions Egyptian inventions Greek inventions Ancient Egyptian technology Ancient Greek technology 1888 introductions Confectionery Soft drinks Newspaper distribution Articles containing video clips Dispensers