The sound of money mixes with music at slot machine, advertising and juke box show

Jack Kelly

ST. CHARLES, Ill. – The semiannual Chicagoland Antique Advertising, Slot Machine and Juke Box Show has the reputation of bringing together national and international buyers and sellers, and the April 3-5 event lived up to its reputation at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, Ill. But the shrinking global economy revealed some sellers who were willing to “reduce prices a bit,” according to some dealers at the event.

Although the event ran for three days, the Friday opener began early, with buyers in the parking lot searching with flashlights, for hot items as early as 4 a.m., before the doors opened for the Mega Center at 7 in the morning.

“Money is tight but I still forked over $50 admission to bag some bargains,” said one early buyer as he walked into the Mega Center mingling with dealers setting up for the event on Friday. Others opted to spend $7 each for a regular admission ticket on Saturday and Sunday.

While some visitors drove just minutes to the show from Chicago suburbs, others like Fred Paganini and Jean-Christophe Crepeau flew in from Paris, France, on a nine-hour flight to purchase American made gambling devices.

“We purchased many slot machines from dealer Frank Zygmunt,” said Crepeau, adding, “it’s our third time at the Chicagoland Show.”

Zygmunt, of Westmont, Ill., crowded several booths with high end and moderately priced slot machines, juke boxes and other vintage gambling machines, most from early American manufacturers.

One exception at his booths was a Swiss-made 1898 2-foot by 3 1/2-foot oak console model coin operated horse race game complete with music box and priced at $55,000. Zygmunt said the ornate piece “was in storage in Europe for over 80 years” before being transported to the U.S. and offered for sale at the April event.

It cost just a penny to step onto a rare 6-foot-tall ornate, heavily decorated cast iron 1903 Caille coin operated Weight-Teller scale offered by Al and Peggy Araiza, Cushing, Okla., but a Bryantown, Md., couple handed over $9,000 to bring it home from the show. New owners Donna and Charlie Harrigan drove 14 hours to shop at the April event.

Movie collectors were drawn to the Araiza booth to check out a pair of oddball chrome countertop napkin holders, with advertising panels for movies shown at a hometown theater, priced at $75 each.

Offered in a different booth was a 1910-era National Cash Register 331 model, commonly found in early candy stores and barber shops. It had some restoration and could be taken home for $695.

Vintage juke box collectors oohed and aahed over a 1928 Plymouth wood cabinet model that could play 10 RPM records consecutively for 5 cents per play. “I know of only three others – and this one with serial number 9,” said dealer Doug Wilderman of Carol Stream, Ill. Made by the Plymouth Radio and Phonograph Company of Plymouth, Wis., it could make music at your home for $4,000.

It was a double-duty weekend for Dale Robinson, a member of the Robinson family which operates the monthly Kane County Antique & Flea Market, also in St. Charles. Robinson said he “snuck away from duties at the flea market” to shop and show at Pheasant Run. What he called “tough to find” advertising items at his booth included an early 1900s 3-foot by 12-foot tin John Deere Farm Implements sign priced $20,000 and a 1920s Indian Oil Company one gallon can for $5,000. Folks with a smaller budget looked over his 34-inch by 56-inch tin White Rock Soda pop sign priced at $450.

“It’s been an excellent show, one of the best,” said Walter Scott of Baraboo, Wis. Catching toy collectors’ attention was a complete 1910 Mr. Roosevelt in Africa game capturing events of President Thodore Roosevelt in board game form and priced at $2,000. Hunting advertising collectors scoped out a four-piece cardboard advertising sign set from Laflin and Rand Powder Company showing a young boy hunting in seasonal settings. The 8-inch by 13-inch cardboard circa 1902 sign set could be taken home for $2,500.

Bill Bryk of Cowetda, Okla., returned to the Chicagoland show after “taking time off since ’01 to raise my daughter, who is now 19.” He was showing off vintage advertising, including an early teens 3-inch by 14-inch embossed tin headache medicine sign for $1,150 and a 1957 lemon lime soda pop sign, with bottle and circa 1957, for $475.

“It’s been a good show, but it’s not like the old days,” said Jim Pursell, who has set up at the show with wife Jan “for at least 20 years.” Coin operated gumball and peanut machines they displayed included an “excellent original” 1930s Blue Bird gumball machine for $525 and a Magnavender peanut machine for $495. Sewing and advertising collectors gawked at a 3-foot-long pair of advertising Keen Kutter Scissors found in an old Indiana upholstery shop and offered at the show for $895.

Kids of all ages stopped to admire, and sometimes ride on, a series of life-size coin operated horse rides commonly seen at grocery and department stores. However, these horses were completely restored, including new American-made leather saddles, shown by Rick Dynek of Milwaukee. Two of the favorites were a “Sandy” 10-cent ride, priced at $2,995, and a “Ride the Champion” priced at $3,495. The dealer said he offers horses along with a menagerie of others animals including pigs, elephants, tigers and even reindeer among over 60 rides at his shop.

Many people came to shop at the Chicagoland show for “memories from the past.” Such was the case with Jim Stevens of Cedar Falls, Iowa, who purchased a mint vendor front gambling slot machine “just like the one Dad had in back of his old country store.” The 1930s Watling slot machine, completely restored, was going to be installed in “a special spot at home” according to Stevens to remember the days of his youth. The purchase price was $2,100.

“I remember putting a penny in that machine as a kid” said one browser, pointing to a 15-inch-tall Advance Model-D gumball machine. The classic red vendor was tagged $185 by Carol Estes, Antique Junction, LaPorte, Ind.

Still another shopper, Michael Murro of Longwood, Fla., was on the lookout for shoe shine and barber shop collectables reminding him of his youthful days of “shining shoes in Georgia.” Murro said he was “extremely happy” with the finds at the show, adding, “I’m always looking for more.”

For many, nostalgia days revolve around the old coin operated Coke machines popular at soda fountains and gas stations. Jim and Diana Rud Soda Springs Vintage Soda Machines, Sandwich, Ill., supplied a group of those fully restored old favorites at Chicagoland, including 1950s models of the Vendo 44, $5,000, Vendo 81 D, $5,900 and the Vendo 56, $5,800. Rud said he and his wife Diana “are the complete staff of the business,” which is just a bit over a year old. He estimated it took between 40 and 100 hours of labor to restore each vintage soda pop machine.

Some folks say one of the most oddball items at the show was shown by Chuck Wolf of Kenmore, Wash. The object of desire was an 18-inch-tall, 6-inch-deep salesman’s sample showing the vault safe door lock mechanism from the National Safe and Lock Company, Cleveland, Ohio. Encased in a leather felt-lined carry box, the 40-pound nickel, copper and polished aluminum piece was finely machined to show the craftsmanship of the company, and the case opened to show both front and rear views. Wolf said the most common phrase heard when the case was opened was “Ooh, wow!” He added estimated value was “around $10,000.”

For more information on the Chicagoland Antique Advertising, Slot Machine and Juke Box Show, call 847-244-9263 or 815-353-1593, or visit