The Colorful and Wacky World of Candy Machine Insert Cards!

Today I’m going to cover a fun topic, but one that I don’t spend too much time on as a collector – vending machine insert cards.  These are illustrated and typically-colorful cardboard inserts that are put in the fronts of gumball machines to entice kids to part with their change, in exchange for the goodies they offer.

Though I don’t personally put much focus on vending cards, I believe a person could devote an entire hobby to the pursuit of them alone.  These are wonderful and varied pieces that span decades and are awfully fun to examine.

Unlike so much of modern candy and gum packaging, vending cards are still rich with fun mascots and colorful creatures.  For today, I’ll be focusing on the handful of vintage vending cards I’ve picked up as a collector.

One of the things I love about vending machine cards, and vending machines in general, is that while they alter their marketing to reach new consumers, so much about them hasn’t changed in decades.  I feel like I still see machines in front of shops that look pretty much like the ones in this photo from 1969:

Vending Machines at the grocery store – circa 1969

Candy vending machines at the shopping mall – Circa 1969

It’s not easy to make out, but that top-center machine has a Fleer Dubble Bubble insert card in it.  Here’s a different shot of the same machine.

Fleer Dubble Bubble vending machine – 1969

So the while the product they dispense and the machines themselves haven’t changed  dramatically over the years, the vend cards have always been the easiest way to mix things up and give product a new bit of marketing shine.  With that said, let’s get to them.

I’m going to start with my all-time favorite and one which I actually don’t have in my collection.  This is a big item on my current want list.  It’s the vend card for Hot Tamales.  [The scan of this comes to me courtesy of the Just Born company archives.]  Here it is:

Just Born – Hot Tamales vend card – late 1970′s early 1980′s – Courtesy Just Born

Here’s the matching vend card for Mike and Ike:

Just Born – Mike and Ike vend card – Late 1970′s early 1980′s – Courtesy Just Born

From the 1960′s and up through the 1990′s, one of the biggest suppliers of vending gumballs was the Leaf company.   While the flavors and styles of gumballs that Leaf sold year after year were not incredibly varied, they utilized their vending cards to rename and rebrand their offerings to keep them new and fresh.

Candy Machine Vending Insert Card – Leaf Rain-Blo bubble gum – 1960′s 1970′s

Leaf – PAL bubble gum – 1-cent vend card – 1950′s 1960′s

Here’s my favorite Leaf vend card – this one is part of CollectingCandy.com’s banner:

Leaf – Swami Balls bubble gum – 1-cent vend card – 1950′s 1960′s

Leaf is probably best known on the vend front for their fruit-flavored gumballs.  Leaf came up with lots of different ways to market fruit-flavored gum, as you can see below:

Candy Machine Vending Insert Card – Fleer Royal Cherries bubble gum 1-cent – Fleer crown – 1960′s 1970′s

Candy Machine Vending Insert Card – Leaf Fruit Salad 1-cent bubble gum – 1960′s 1970′s

Candy Machine Vending Insert Card – Leaf Jumbo Grape bubble gum – 1981

Candy Machine Vending Insert Card – Leaf Sour Fruits 1-cent bubble gum – 1960′s 1970′s

Companies could easily change or update how they wanted to market their offerings in the vending trade.  So, as a collector, you can often find several different versions of vend cards for a single product.

Candy Machine Vending Insert Card – Leaf Sour Grapes Basket Girl – 1960′s 1970′s

Candy Machine Vending Insert Card – Leaf Sour Grapes – 1960′s 1970′s

Candy Machine Vending Insert Card – Leaf Sour Sweets – 1981

Candy Machine Vending Insert Card – Leaf Super Sours – 1970′s

Candy Machine Vending Insert Card – Leaf Super Colossal bubble gum – surfer – 1960′s 1970′s

Candy Machine Vending Insert Card – Leaf Super Colossal bubble gum – 1970′s

When something would strike the pop culture, like Star Wars and video games did in the late 70′s and early 80′s, manufacturers could quickly jump on the trend with a vend card.  Like this one:

Candy Machine Vending Insert Card – Leaf Space Wars bubble gum – 1970′s

Other aspects of pop culture were quickly reflected in vend card concepts:

Candy Machine Vending Insert Card – Leaf Rock Flops – 1970′s

Here are a couple that, even when they were new, must have seemed a bit old-fashioned:

Candy Machine Vending Insert Card – Leaf Tabbylets bubble gum – 1970′s

This next guy is packing heat.  You won’t find anything like this nowadays.

Candy Machine Vending Insert Card – Leaf Goldfinks bubble gum – 1960′s

Here’s a great one that attempts to cover two divergent things that young boys dig; dinosaurs and astronauts:

Candy Machine Vending Insert Card – Leaf Centuries bubble gum – 1981

Of course, the vend trade wasn’t all about bubble gum.  Leaf offered other options:

Candy Machine Vending Insert Card – Leaf Munchies candy coated chocolate flavored candy – 1970′s

Leaf’s “Munchies” sounded a bit similar to another Leaf offering, Sixlets.  I wonder how they were different?

Candy Machine Vending Insert Card – Leaf Sixlets – 1980

Here’s a candy classic that Leaf provided a chilled-out mascot for:

Candy Machine Vending Insert Card – Leaf Boston Baked Beans – 1970′s

Moving on from Leaf, here’s another candy-isle treat that you could occasionally find in vending:

Candy Machine Vending Insert Card – SweetTarts 5-cents – 1960′s 1970′s

I just noticed that the Sweettarts vend lists them as “candy coated”.  I suppose that made them easier to manage through the machine, but is a candy-coated Sweettart just a Spree?   I’m not sure.

There are so many of different vending cards that have been produced over the decades, it really does blow your mind when you start hunting for them.

Of course, vending machines offer more than just candy and gum – they also offer other kinds of enticements.

As I said at the top of today’s post, you could have a legitimate hobby just collecting and documenting vending card inserts.  Especially if you decided to include the non-candy and gum offerings.  I only have one such piece in my personal collection, so I wanted to include it here.

As with so many vend cards, this one is a great reflection of the culture of the time:

Candy Machine Vending Insert Card – Stick-’O’ cloth sticker patches 10-cent – 1960′s 1970′s

Though I started today’s post by stating that I don’t focus on these too much, the act of sitting down to write about the topic today makes me feel like I want to devote a little more time to them.

But we’ll see – there’s only so many hours for candy in the day.   And my time for today has ended.   With that, I’m going to wrap up my coverage of vending machine insert cards, and wish you all a happy Labor Day!

See you next time!

About Jason Liebig

A New York City based writer, editor and sometimes actor. After spending much of the 1990′s in the comic book business helping tell the stories of Marvel Comics’ X-Men as series editor, he has since split his time between developing his own entertainment properties while still consulting and working on others. Having been described as “the Indiana Jones of lost and forgotten candy”, Jason is one of the country’s premier candy collectors and historians with his discoveries appearing in countless blogs, magazines, newspaper articles, and books. Always happy to share his knowledge and unique perspectives on this colorful part of our popular culture, Jason has consulted with New York’s Museum of Food and Drink and has also been a featured guest on Food Network’s Heavyweights, France’s M6 Capital, and New York’s TheActionRoom.com. My Google Profile+
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4 Responses to The Colorful and Wacky World of Candy Machine Insert Cards!

  1. Wow that’s an aspect of collecting I never considered before. Pretty cool stuff!

  2. Great post, love these old machine cards… a few years back, I posted some examples from my own collection at my other blog here, take look:

    http://andeverythingelsetoo.blogspot.com/2010/08/gumball-machine-cards-of-60s-70s.html

    and also some other assorted (non candy) machine cards here:
    http://andeverythingelsetoo.blogspot.com/2012/05/10-cent-trick.html

  3. Dig Sandy says:

    I always remember Ford Gum machines. Their gum was square and candy-coated like Chiclets, but had the word “Ford” printed on each. As a kid, I thought that meant they were made by the car company, lol..

    Jason, I enjoy your posts and site SO MUCH! I am looking forward to seeing a post sometime in the future about one of my favorite candies, Spree. I haven’t laid eyes on the classic pouches that they used to come in during the 70s hat featured photographs of young people in love, frolicking, etc. Those were so different and seemed geared more to adults, now that I think about it. Do you have any of those old Spree packets?

  4. Pingback: Vintage Leaf Vending Promo Photos! | CollectingCandy.com

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