Vintage Vending #25: Gooey Grabbers!

It’s time for another edition of Vintage Vending, celebrating more of the crummy/perfect nonsense that we used to trade our quarters for. GET EXCITED. TRY TO.

Since this one is going up during the Halloween Countdown, everything featured below is SPOOKY. I’ll also double down and feature two old vending machine prize sets this time around. Pay me.


First is the Gooey Grabber collection, likely from 1985 or 1986. Though I’ve featured similarly “slimy” toys on Vintage Vending before, the difference this time is in the presentation. It’s so evil!

The teaser card design reminds me of so many 1980s spook houses, but the real treat is that “mascot” hiding on the left. He’s clearly a Garbage Pail Kids ripoff!


…specifically, the character apes Adam Bomb, one of the most famous Garbage Pail Kids characters of ’em all. “Improving” on Adam’s usual look, this guy’s head explodes not with pyrotechnics, but rather with assorted sticky hands. Toss in the pointed ears, and he infringes upon no copyrights.

Believe it or not, including a ripoff Garbage Pail Kid actually wasn’t the design element version of a non sequitur. In 1985, there were official GPK toys called Tacky Snappers, which were essentially souped-up sticky hands. Even in its day, it was a pretty obscure line to mimic. I adore the fact that an entire vending machine prize set was sprung from the loins of goddamned Tacky Snappers.


Three different types of prizes were featured on the teaser card, including:

1) Sticky hands. Little ones. The on-card boast of a seven foot reach was so far beyond an exaggeration that even “outright lie” doesn’t cover it.

2) Sticky darts. A fairly high-end prize for a 25 cent vending machine, the fact that these darts wouldn’t have fit inside standard capsules suggests that none were in the machine.

3) Sticky… loops? I’m not sure what those other things are supposed to be, unless “training cock rings” is really something a company would’ve included in a prize assortment. And hey, maybe.

With Gooey Grabbers, the prizes mean less than the presentation, so I’m sure you’ll understand why I didn’t want to ruin such great art just to get at a bunch of dried-up sticky hands. I want this whole thing framed, or at least sloppily tacked up.


Next we have this gorgeous mess, made by Folz. I don’t know for sure, but it’s within the realm of possibility that these rubber creatures are from as long ago as the ‘60s. (Similar toys were extremely popular back then, and there’s also the fact that kids only had to pay a paltry dime to get these things.)

The arrangement is strangely breathtaking, with all manner of vermin in no set scale stapled into place like the trophies of some really sick hunter. This is a world where centipedes outsize gorillas, and where flies can defeat birds of prey. It’s Skull Island meets diethyl ether.


The obvious chaser is the large, humanoid skeleton, which bests so many other rubber skeletons by having residual flesh surrounding the skull. (A closer inspection of the skeletal frame indicates that the term “humanoid” may have been too generous. What the hell is this thing?)

I’m also loving the bipedal green rat, because he’s clearly shaking invisible maracas.

Honestly, there isn’t a single creature on this card that doesn’t floor me. The birds come with half-eaten snakes dangling from their mouths, and even something a simple as a rubber ant means so much more when it’s bigger than the ape beside it.

Monsters and “horror stuff” still turn up in today’s vending machines, but it’s rarely with the same gusto as the sets featured above. Viewed from the right angle, both were beautiful nightmare fuel. Think I’m exaggerating? Scroll back up to the pointy-eared Garbage Pail Kid with the neon arms growing out of his head. And then scroll down to the 200 foot centipede.

See? Nightmare fuel.

I love it.

Want more spooky-themed editions of Vintage Vending? Check out the Halloween Horrors set, as well as Frankenstein’s Spare Parts!