Vending Machines: Coined Consumerism


Mark Batty Publishing have had a recent run of really intriguing titles hitting the book-store shelves and one of these is Vending Machines: Coined Consumerism. Being delivered in a sealed package with a clear PVC printed dust-jacket, it looks like something that could well have just dropped from a rack from a book vending machine; which I assume is the design idea behind it. It works and you get an immediate feel for what lays ahead. The short essay at the beginning of the book introduces us to the vending machines interesting history from ancient hints dating back to the first century to it’s modern beginning (simple honour boxes without any kind of product security) and onto the kind of devices we’re used to seeing today… and also to the most unlikely machines that you may not even know exist yet.


Christopher D Salyers has carefully put together a great collection of vending machines from all over the world. However, with one vending machine for every twenty-three people in Japan, many of the images included in the book are from this location. This is perfect for me because I’m pretty obsessed with Japan in general so it’s just another excuses to delve into another part of their culture and soak it up. It appears that there are stores that are actually full up of just vending machine; “It’s like being inside the machine itself”. The one that’s on show in the book is a store dedicated to cosplay and kinky items and it looks like this is something that vending machines are used to passing on to customers. The image above is from a machine that sells used knickers!


More recently, advertisers have been getting more creative with ways of making their money, including an instance, in Japan, where you can exchange your time instead of your money by watching an advert while your beverage is being prepared. It’s an interesting shift back towards the honour box kind of vending I guess. The machine can’t tell if you’re watching but I guess the advertisers are willing to take the chance that you’ll somehow subliminally take it all inand buy their products in the future. I seem to remember seeing something on the TV about an umbrella machine that had been let into the London Underground. The big selling point for the people who owned it wasn’t the fact that they could sell cheap umbrellas to unfortunate travellers though; it was that they had somehow managed to sneak attached screens into the subway that would play adverts. A similar use I suppose. I digress…

It’s a great mix of functional everyday kind of vending machines (food, drink, cigarettes, washing powder etc.) as well as a healthy bias towards the unusual and quirky… thankfully. There are so many unlikely uses for these machines. It’s amazing to see some of them here. Pizza making machines… in Italy! Fortune telling machines. Gold bullion machines (really). Hypodermic needle machines. Even art installation machines, including this heroin and cocaine dispenser that was installed for a short while in Brighton.


There are also a couple of interesting interviews but it’s the photos and captions that are the selling point of this book. Vending machines: Coined Consumerism weighs in at 128 pages and is 19cm by 23cm and is available from all the usual places including Amazon UK.

Oh, Mr Salyers, if you ever read this review you may be interesting in seeing the Is It Art machine on Southwold Pier that exchanges 20 pence to vend some artistic critique on any object that you place in the hatch at the front. I think you’ll like it.

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