Q: I just read your column about vintage slot machines. I own a similar countertop machine that’s still in its original box. The silver-colored metal nameplate on the front of the blue machine says it’s an “Atom Ball Gum Vendor.” Embossed on the top are the words, “Win a carton, 10 packs of cigarettes, line up 3 of a kind.” If you insert a dime, the three small windows on the top show spinning images of cigarette brands. If the three line up with the same brand, a customer won a box of cigarettes. If they didn’t line up, all you got was a gumball. My dad placed machines like this in bars and nightclubs in Iowa. The machines were bolted to countertops, and every so often I would go with him to refill the gumballs and remove the dimes. When the gambling machines were outlawed, he had to get rid of them so he dumped them in the river. But I hid this one in the attic. What is it worth?
A: Your “trade stimulator” was made in 1949 by Groetchen Tool & Manufacturing Co. of Chicago. It’s exactly like the company’s Imp machine, introduced in 1940. But the dawn of the atomic age after World War II meant that a lot of things were renamed “Atom” or “Atomic.” Trade stimulators, which made money for shop owners, were banned in many states even before the federal ban in 1951. But vintage machines can be legally bought and sold in many states now. Just be sure to check your own state’s laws before you sell. Your Atom machine is valued at about $165. But with the original box, it could sell for much more.