Best Gumball Machines

Updated November 2020
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Buying guide for best gumball machines

When was the last time you used a coin-operated machine? It probably involved a payphone, Pac-Man, or a gumball machine. Though everyone has cell phones and video games these days, the novelty of a gumball machine is hard to beat.

Gumball machines remain timeless pieces of nostalgia. These iconic American motifs were permanent fixtures in arcades, restaurants, and grocery stores — and every once in a while, you can still find one. Tabletop and freestanding gumball machines have become trendy, affordable, and functional decorative items. They operate just like regular ones with coins, and they still offer the excitement that comes with cranking the key to retrieve a gumball.

Kids ages six and up can enjoy personal gumball machines, as well. While they might not require coins for operation, it’s still fun to crank the key for a surprise.

Revisit childhood memories and make new ones with a gumball machine. Our buying guide will help you compare the different models and select one that caters to your gum, snack, or nostalgia needs.

If you feel weird about collecting money from your guests, you can leave a tray of coins near your gumball machine so the colorful treats are free for everyone.

Key considerations

Parts of a gumball machine

Globe

This is the clear, round top of the machine that holds gumballs. In replica and premium models, globes are made of glass. Inexpensive models, on the other hand, have globes made of plastic. The globes are usually rounded in their shape, though they may be square in some retail models.

Base

Perhaps the most recognizable part of a gumball machine is its base, which is usually red and silver. These are made of cast metal in replicas and plastic in other models. Bases are usually weighted to prevent the globe from toppling over under the weight of gumballs.

Dispensing mechanism

Located on the base is the key crank and coin feed, which operate the gumball dispensing mechanism. In plastic models that don’t require coins for operation, there’s still a key crank that has to be turned to retrieve a gumball.

Well

The well of a gumball machines is what catches the gumball. It’s usually a slight cavity or depression at the end of an interior funnel that is connected to the globe. This is what prevents gumballs from flying out of the machine.

Types of gumball machines

Replica gumball machines: Replica gumball machines most closely resemble traditional models seen in stores and hold around 400 to 600 standard gumballs. They’re made of cast metal and glass and weigh around 5 pounds. These are usually tabletop machines and are approximately 12 to 16 inches tall. If nostalgia is your aim, a replica model is likely your best option.

Mini gumball machines: These tiny treasures, which are mostly made of plastic, are approximately 6 to 10 inches tall. While they’re generally limited in their functionality, they are usually easily refillable. Mini gumball machines are quickly becoming popular party favors — and not just for children’s birthday parties. They’ve made their way into bridal showers, sweet sixteen events, and even corporate gifting. While many favors end up in the garbage after an event, gumball machines have a bit more staying power, especially since they’re refillable — and let’s face it — a lot of fun.

Full-size gumball machines: These models are freestanding and look like a replica gumball machine with a tall, skinny leg. They’re often the same size or slightly bigger than tabletop models. Some full-size gumball machines come with two to four connected globes for several candy options. You can put a full-size machine next to a water cooler in your office to mix things up and spark conversation.

 

Features

Colors

Traditional gumball machines, like the ones seen in retail locations and food establishments, have red and sometimes yellow bases. Personal gumball machines made of plastic can feature any color or design, especially since they’re often geared toward children.

Choosing contents for your machine

The most common contents for replica gumball machines are standard-size gumballs, which are approximately 0.62 inches in diameter. Of course, smaller gumball machines will require size-appropriate gumballs, though finding these specialty sizes could be challenging. If you’re looking to experiment with options other than gumballs, you can use candy or nuts.

Tabletop or freestanding

If you can’t decide between a replica or a full-sized gumball machine, consider where you plan to put your machine.

Tabletop models can work well on a bar or countertop, and their small size makes them easier to transport.

Freestanding models have more of a classic look, though you will need to be sure that you have floor space available. It’s also possible to tip a freestanding machine over.

Caution
While gumball machines are a fun accessory around the home, they’re not intended for use by small children. These machines have small places where little fingers can get caught, and gumballs are choking hazards.
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Essential accessories

Once you’ve picked out a machine, you’ll need some yummy goodies to fill it with. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Since most gumball machines don’t come with gumballs, you’ll need to buy them separately. We like this value bag from American Gumball Company, who has manufactured gumballs for years. The bag comes with approximately 450 balls per bag, and they come in 6 bright colors.

If you’re interested in changing your gumball machine offerings, choose a different type of candy. We like this mega bag from Fast Fresh Nuts, which includes another beloved candy, Mike & Ikes. Since they’re smaller than gumballs, your machine will dispense a small handful each time.

For those who want a healthy option for their gumball machine, mixed nuts are an ideal alternative. We like this mix from Nut Harvest, which features fresh-roasted peanuts, chocolate, raisins, almonds, and cashews. With a wide-mouth container, it’s easy to pour the mix into the gumball globe.

Gumball machine prices

Gumball machines cost between $8 and $300, depending on their materials, quality, and size.

Budget-priced gumball machines cost between $8 and $15. For the most part, they’re made of plastic, and very few of them take standard-size gumballs. More than anything, they’re favors or gag gifts, as their quality isn’t the best.

Mid-range gumball machines cost between $20 and $80. Some of these will feature metal bases and plastic components, whereas others are made of glass as metal like traditional models.

Top-of-the-line gumball machines can cost as much as $100 to $300, as these are often well-made freestanding models. They feature between one and three globes and are typically used in retail environments.

 

Tips

  • Use your gumball machine as a coin bank. If you’re not keen on chewing a lot of gum, you can still use a gumball machine as fun coin bank.
  • Refill the machine over a sink or basin. While it’s easy to pour in gumballs or candy into the machine, if there’s a spill, cleanup can be time-consuming. If you fill the machine in an isolated area, you limit the spill radius and won’t need to crawl on the floor or vacuum rogue pieces of candy.
  • Give one as a housewarming gift. Gumball machines are unique pieces for any home. Recipients can add them to a basement, playroom, or kitchen.
  • Choose contents wisely. While chocolate candies are wonderful in gumball machines, if the room or office it’s in isn’t climate-controlled, you’ll end up with a globe filled with melted chocolate.

Other products we considered

If you’d like to use gumballs to teach your kids about engineering and physics, consider picking up the Thames & Kosmos Gumball Machine Maker Lab. This set, geared toward kids of ages 6 through 12, comes with 52 pieces and a full-color guide for 12 experiments. The gumball machine works with standard gumballs that make their way through the track, pulley lift, pendulum, and funnel. Not only has it been voted a top STEM activity set, but it’s also the kind of kit that parents can enjoy as much as their kids.

To host a throwback gumball-inspired party, choose the Toy Group Premium Pack of 6 Mini 5-inch Plastic Gumball Machines. These cute personal-size favors have fully operational crank mechanisms to produce mini gumballs — no coins required. Once you work your way through the mini gumballs, you can use smaller candies, like Nerds or M&M’s.

Gumball machines, especially tabletop and mini versions, are budget-priced and make great white elephant gifts.

FAQ

Q. What type of home decor or furnishings will my gumball machine match?
A.
Gumball machines are genuine conversation pieces, but they can also be understated accent pieces in rooms featuring vintage, country-chic, and retro themes. If you don’t have a set theme but instead have coordinated colors, the bright red base blends in with warm jewel tones or vibrant primary colors.
 

Q. My gumball machine stopped working. Now what?
A.
If you’re handy, you can take the machine apart to diagnose the issue. As far as clogs go, they’re often the product of broken gumballs stuck in the tube. To prevent malfunctions like these, it’s a good idea to clean out your gumball machine periodically, especially since there’s the potential of sugar build-up that may affect internal components. If the issue is more complex, you can contact the machine’s manufacturer for further details regarding repair or replacement.
 

Q. Is there a way to disable the coin mechanism on my gumball machine?
A.
It depends on the machine, this is possible with most models. It requires some tools and internal adjustments to bypass the coin feed. Other machines don’t have this option, but you can instead change the denomination to accept coins of lower values.

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