If you love vintage advertising, coin-operated machines, and jukeboxes, the place to have been March 31-April 2 was Pheasant Run Resort, 35 miles west of Chicago.
Thousands of visitors to the Chicagoland Antique Advertising, Slot Machine and Jukebox Show swarmed into the resort’s Mega Center to view and play — and sometimes purchase — antique slot machines; soda pop, gum and peanut vendors; jukeboxes; and vintage advertising offered by hundreds of dealers from all around the world.
Early buyers paid a $50 entry fee to shop the show on March 31, while more casual shoppers arrived April 1-2 for a more modest $7 admission.
The dates of the show coincided with spring break for students, and one visitor was overheard saying, “I put the wife and kids on an airplane to Florida and told them I’d meet them there after the show.” His buddy said, “I know what you mean; this is Mecca, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“We brought eight classic vintage slot machines to sell, and by Saturday afternoon, we had an empty booth,” said dealer Larry DeBaugh, who set up at the show with son Fred, traveling from Kingsville, Md.
Known to collectors as “Mr. Watling,” DeBaugh specializes in the Watling Slot Machine line which was manufactured in Chicago. Two of the gambling devices, a 1938 25-cent Cherry Front and 10-cent Bird of Paradise, sold for $8,500 each. Both were fully restored.
The 30-year collector and dealer said he has 5 to 6 tons of original parts in storage, adding that he has “always been fascinated with Watling slot machines.”
Baseball collectors swooned at the rarity and the price of a restored floor-model 1937 Rockola coin-operated World Series baseball game featuring three-dimensional cast figures in a glass-covered playing field. It was offered by John Papa of National Juke Box Exchange in Mayfield, N.Y. The 47-inch-tall, completely restored game sold early in the show for $43,000. At the same spot, a refurbished 1940 Wurlitzer jukebox could play 78 rpm records at your place for $20,000.
Another item catching baseball collectors’ eyes was a 1940s-vintage tube-type radio shaped like a 9-inch-round baseball. Advertising on the “ball” said it was a “Selected Official League Ball.” Dealer Pete Richter of Milwaukee priced the piece at $1,600. “Beer and baseball belong together,” quipped one shopper, pointing to a 26-inch-long reverse-painted, spinner-face glass advertising clock for “Our Beer,” also offered by Richter for $1,750.
Another Milwaukee dealer and collector, Paul Hinden, showed several rare vending machines and a tale of a fabulous find. Hinden says a seldom-seen early fancy cast-iron Freeport peanut vending machine was offered for several days at a small-town Wisconsin estate sale at a price of $65 when a “picker” phoned him with the description. The 17-inch-tall machine was brought to the Chicagoland show by Hinden and was valued at $11,000. Hinden also showed off a cast-iron Columbus L vending machine, 17 inches tall, for $12,000. At the same spot, an all-original, 28-inch-tall Hance porcelain electric peanut vendor could be had for $3,595.
Jukeboxes and peanut machines lit up the booth of Keith Miller of Akron, Ohio. Many people stopped to admire his restored 1951 Seeburg C jukebox as it was playing 1950s 45-rpm favorites. It was priced at $5,000. In the same area, a 1948 bright chrome Challenger three-compartment peanut vendor on a cast-iron stand, with light-up top, was offered for $700.
“It’s very rare; very few were made,” said dealer John Johnston, pointing to an all-original 1946 Filben juke box offered for $7,900. Johnson recently sold part of his personal collection of 1,200 pieces at auction for a total of $1.7 million, but says he is “still buying and selling every day.” The collector and dealer splits his time between homes in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Hawley, Pa.
Not all items at the show were pricey and perfect. Bargain hunters willing to take on a restoration project checked out four different 1947 Seeburg juke boxes brought to the show by Brad Piedt of Benton Harbor, Mich. All were said to be “barn fresh” and priced between $465 and $675 each.
An unusual combination of coin-operated machines and store mannequins filled the booth of Jerry and Phyllis Bohart of Dunlap, Ill. “He handles the machines; the mannequins are mine,” said Phyllis, who offered several examples of the store pieces, some decorated with custom artwork. Coin-op collectors checked out a Northwestern 33 gumball machine for $225 and two Daval penny-operated trade stimulators priced at $325 each.
Both circus and advertising collectors hovered around the booth of Robert Kindness from Bloomington, Ill. The object of desire was a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey 16-inch-diameter porcelain advertising sign once worn on the forehead of an elephant. The unusual advertising sign was complete with leather straps containing 45 one-inch chrome buttons embossed with the famous circus name, and a price tag of $4,950.
“Step up for a haircut and shave,” quipped one shopper, pointing to an 1874 walnut barber chair offered by brothers Leonard and Paul Goedken of Luana, Iowa. The vintage chair was complete with swan head handles and original mohair covering. It could be displayed at home or barber shop for $1,250.
Restored vintage soda pop machines were seen in many booths at the show, but a completely original Coca-Cola 1957 Vendo 44 caught many an eye at the booth of Marty and Sharon Noe of Park Ridge, Ill. The 58-inch-tall slim-style vendor could cool the famous soda at your home for $3,200.
“I’m going to give everyone the bird,” quipped Carl Lepiane, of Los Gatos, Calif. The dealer was pointing to a 24-inch-tall, full-figure stork holding an advertising sign in its beak. The 1930s store display, for Castle Hall cigars, carried a price tag of $500.
Although most of the chatter at the show was in English, it was not unusual to overhear conversations in different languages, as the event draws an international following. Willem Emo and Jan De Hann traveled to Chicago from Holland, while a mother, father, and daughter team flew in from Italy. Twenty-five-year-old Quadrelli Tiziana acted as a translator for her parents while negotiating for deals at the event. The overseas buyers filled ship containers parked nearby with vintage coin-operated machines, advertising signs, traffic lights and other items with American flair.
Reports on sales from dealers during the show contained the usual mix of “sales were soft” to “the best show I’ve ever had.”
The next semiannual Chicagoland show will be held Nov. 10-12 at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, Ill. For more information, visit www.chicagolandshow.com, or call (847) 244-9263.