Stumbling upon an Exhibits baseball card vending machine in Cooperstown

In my card collecting career, I've opened thousands of packs of cards. I still get a thrill getting to rip open something new and that enjoyment is coming back to me after the shortage of retail products during the pandemic. 

But some of the cards I've owned I've always wondered how exactly they got into the card collecting market. Some cards of course were famously inserted into packs of cigarettes. Some cards were put into food products and cereal boxes. Some you had to collect wrappers to mail away for the chance to getting cards sent back. 

But the oversized Exhibit Salutation cards have always mystified me because I've read that they were distributed through their own vending machine. I had a hard time definitively finding answers for some of my follow-up questions (how much were they, how big was the machine?) but then one day a few years ago I got to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York and it was all answered.

After spending several hours in the Hall, I went literally across the street to the series of memorabilia and card shops that are there. That spot probably holds the record for most card shops in a two-block area in the world. A person can build up an appetite sorting through junk wax and so my wife and I went to Hey, Getcha Hot Dog! diner just a few doors down. 

Little did I know that walking inside, I would solve one of my great baseball card mysteries. There, right on the counter, was an Exhibits trading card machine like it had been sitting there waiting for me to walk inside since the days when the cards were originally sold.

Just two pennies would get you a postcard-size card feature a photo of one of the top baseball players of the time. A deal at twice the price. 

The cards on display in this machine were Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Warrens Spahn and Hank Aaron in the standard Salutation style of card, along with Walter Johnson and Cy Young in the Baseball's Great Hall of Fame style of card. 

The cards would come out on the bottom and to me, it would have the feel of the fortune telling machine from the movie Big.

As you can see from the photo this is a "Compact" Mechanical Vacuumatic Card Vender that has a U.S. Patent No. 2,840,270 and was applied for in June 1958. 

A little searching at the Patent Office and here's what the inside looks like. I particularly enjoy the stack of cards drawn in on the bottom left.

If I ever make it back to Cooperstown, I'll check to see if it is still there and maybe make an offer and take it home, if the price is right. 


Fuji said…
Nice history lesson. Always figured those were sold at booths at baseball games or something. Had no idea they came out of machines.
BP said…
I just saw a wooden version of an Exhibits vending machine sold in an online auction. It was beautiful.
Jafronius said…
Very cool! I hope to one day get to visit Cooperstown.
night owl said…
"Vacuumatic" is such a wonderful '50s word. I'm hoping to visit Cooperstown in a few months. I'll try to see if it's still there.