Dinosaur Dracula!

Vintage Vending: Super Mega Edition #2!

This time on Vintage Vending, I’m quintupling up. I usually feature just one set of old vending machine prizes in each edition, but this time, you’re getting five.

(And okay, I’ll admit that that’s largely because none of the sets featured here deserved individual tributes.)

If you’re new to this series, it’s where I evaluate yesteryear’s best and worst vending machine prizes — and by “vending machines,” I mean the ones stationed near the exits of supermarkets and department stores. You know, those little areas that let you trade quarters for everything from gumballs to neon-colored sticky hands.

All of the sets featured below are from the mid to late ‘80s — precisely when I was paying very close attention to vending machines. As such, many of these prizes are awfully familiar. See if you can say the same!


Mix of Madness!

As a kid, many of my favorite vending machines lacked anything resembling a central theme, instead favoring an air of “mystery” to lure us in. With its impossibly eclectic prizes, this set is a perfect example.

As was usually the case with mixed assortments, its makers were sure to include one “chaser” item — something clearly more valuable than every other potential prize — on the teaser card. This time, it was one of those battery-operated keychains that blasted various sound effects — most typically guns, more guns, and something approximating “space alien guns.”

Your chances of receiving that particular item were almost nil. If we can assume that no government officials ran fairness tests on suburban vending machines, it’s more likely that such big ticket items were never even in those machines.

If you knew your heart couldn’t handle a shitty prize, this wasn’t the machine for you. The risk averse should never gamble on a vending machine that clearly advertises a two-inch butterfly-shaped hairpin. (more…)

Vintage Vending #23: Squash Faces!

In this edition of Vintage Vending, we’re gonna take a look at Squash Faces. I realize that none of you have heard of them before, nor have you even seen the words “squash” and “faces” paired together. I live to change lives, in the smallest and stupidest ways possible.


I don’t know when they’re from, but 1986 is a good guess.

That was the age of Madballs, and more quietly the age of everyone trying to rip Madballs off. The rubber monster balls were imitated by lots of companies — including ones who had to size their shit to fit inside vending machine capsules. Remember Wacky Goulies?

Strange, then, that where evoking Madballs would seem to be the entire point of ripping them off, the “Squash Faces” set tried so hard to mask its ties. In fact, some may doubt that these were even intended to ape Madballs. Trust me, they were.

Still — and likely by accident — Squash Faces veered so far away from the accepted Madballs ideals that they felt very much like their own brand. Their own weird brand, where nothing made sense, and where devil women broke bread with green puppies. (more…)

Vintage Vending #22: Stretch Armstrong?!

It’s been forever since the last edition of Vintage Vending, the series in which I blather on endlessly about old vending machine toys. If you’re newish to Dino Drac, you can read the past twenty-one entries over here!


Today we’re focusing on “The Stretcher” set, made in 1995, and absolutely indicative of 1995. Ignoring the smaller trinkets for now, the obvious chasers were those two larger stretchable figures.

If their genesis is on the tip of your tongue, I’ll help you out: “The Stretcher” was an obvious ripoff of Stretch Armstrong. Originally sold in the late ‘70s, the toy line enjoyed a brief revival in the early ‘90s, complete with this over-the-top television commercial: (more…)

Vintage Vending #21: Wrecking Power!

On today’s edition of Vintage Vending, you will bow before the mighty power of a glow-in-the-dark sticky fist. Truth.


The “Wrecking Power” collection arrived in the early ‘90s, and while it isn’t as showy as many of the sets previously featured on Dino Drac, I think I’m in love with it.

Remember those “sticky hand” toys, where a length of gooey “rope” was attached to an equally gooey hand? You’d whip the things against hard surfaces and they’d stick there, like magic? Well, these were like those, but on steroids. They were bigger and deadlier versions of sticky hands.

While large and on the “upscale” side as far as vending machine prizes went, I can’t say that they were worth a dollar, especially in 1990. There was no enormous difference between blowing a quarter and blowing a dollar, but the fact remained that kids had to want one of these more than four prizes from the cheaper machines.

I would’ve gotten more mileage from one giant sticky hand than four flat gumballs, but nobody thinks about the future when they’re standing by the vending machines. It’s all about immediate gratification, and I would not have robbed myself of the chance to turn that metal handle three more times.

It’s a shame, too. These are great toys! They’re sticky, they’re based on deadly weapons and they glow in the dark. The trifecta! (more…)

Vintage Vending #20: Sea World!

It’s been over two months since my last post, because stuff happens, and we must sometimes accept that life is a big ball of shit aimed directly at our heads.

But I didn’t want to let Memorial Day — my 16th favorite holiday — slide by without some Dino Drac action. So here’s something patriotic. Old rubber fish!



In this edition of Vintage Vending, we’re exploring Sea World, an ancient collection of fish toys with a vague “marine park” theme. I couldn’t tell you exactly when these were made, but judging by the orange background with the yellow stripes, I’m pretty sure they came from Poland’s Szamotuly County.

Innocuous at first glance, a deeper study reveals a dark world filled with mutants and torture. It amazes me that we could come so close to the edge of humanity for only a quarter. (more…)

Vintage Vending #19: TMNT Balloons!

It’s been over four months since the last edition of Vintage Vending. Let’s fix that. HERE ARE BALLOONS.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles balloons, even!

This is from 1989, when literally everything branded with a Ninja Turtles logo was a must-buy. Though the teaser card lacks a sample, we can assume that these were green balloons featuring that same piece of art.

The people behind this knew where their bread was buttered, evidenced by how little thought they put into the remaining prizes. If you ignore the balloons, this is easily the worst assortment yet seen on Vintage Vending. (more…)

Vintage Vending #18: Rotting Vermin!

Okay, this has gotta be the weirdest edition of Vintage Vending yet. LOOK AT THIS THING!


No formal title for the collection was provided, I guess because “Bugs & Fish Guts” would’ve been more polarizing than fetching.

Everything about it is off. I’ll describe the individual prizes in a minute, but each is stapled – literally stapled – to the card, and in entirely erratic positions. The card itself is impossibly flimsy, and for reasons I can’t even guess at, smothered with purposeless holes.

It’s another treasure from the Folz company, who also produced the Halloween Horrors collection. While this would’ve worked as “Halloween Horrors II,” the card forwent any title in favor of the word “FOLZ,” presented in multiple neon colors in a font more suited to football team logos.

The set’s enigmatic qualities only add to its appeal. In my view, throwing a bunch of rotting fish over a hot pink background reads less as “lazy” and more as “art.” Whoever assembled this was clearly trying to make a statement. I bet he wore a painter’s cap and teensy tiny glasses. I believe that with all of my heart. (more…)