Vendo Coin Changer and the 5 Cent Coke
Coca-Cola is everywhere you look nowadays, available in plastic bottles and cans in a variety of sizes. A lot of people might not realize that at one time you either bought Coke in a 7-ounce embossed green glass bottle or in a cup at a restaurant or soda fountain. And when you bought a Coke from a vending machine it always cost five cents. Which raises the question—what if you didn’t happen to have the correct change for the vending machine?
The answer was the Vendo Coin Changer that was manufactured from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s by the Vendo Company of Kansas City, Missouri. Its purpose was to change quarters and dimes for nickels. The coin changers were positioned beside Vendo Coca-Cola soda vending machines, and like all soda vending machines up until 1959, it only took nickels.
The coin changer would have been either mounted on the wall beside the soda machine, on a stand beside the machine, or even mounted onto the side of the machine. These were manually operated. A plexiglass panel on the face of the coin changer allowed for an ad to be placed and replaced as needed. Usually they were Coca-Cola ads, but other brands could also be displayed. The coin changer was able to hold twenty dollars in change, and it measured 15.5 in. high x 11.5 in. wide x 5 in. deep.
Up until roughly 1960, most Coke vending machines weren’t outfitted to make change. The few that could were not able to reliably make change until electrical change makers were incorporated beginning in 1959. So it was better for the customer to insert the correct change in the first place. The price for a Coca-Cola was consistently five cents until 1946 when they began to raise the price gradually at soda fountains and over the counter. Coca-Cola in vending machines was raised to seven cents which caused all kinds of issues, but that’s a different blog. It is believed the last five cent Coke was purchased about 1959.