gumball machine with graphic that reads 'do you have keys for old gumball machines?'

A: Most likely, yes, we do have keys for old gumball machines!

We have about a million key blanks in stock…however, you will need to bring the gumball machine into our Main Office in Des Plaines, and our lock techs would need to find the right key on one of the large rings holding the type of keys used in gumball machines. They would need to go through the keys, trying them, one by one, until the gumball machine opens. Then, we would duplicate that key for your use. This could take quite a while, and be rather expensive.

The most common vending machine keys are either tubular or flat. Tubular, or barrel, keys have a hollow, cylindrical shaft with grooves of varying length cut into the exterior surface at the end of the shaft. These grooves cause the pins in the lock to slide to the end of the groove to open the lock. Tubular locks are also commonly used on bicycle locks (such as the Kryptonite lock), Kensington computer locks, elevators, and coin-operated washing machines.

Flat brass gumball machine keys are smaller than house keys, and may have cuts on one or both sides, the latter being more secure. Vending machine manufacturers have many versions of lock and key sets and they assign key codes to distributors randomly across the country to prevent end users in the same area from having the same key.

Q. Is there a universal gumball machine key, though?

A. Dozens of vintage Chicago Lock “gumball machine” brass keys are available on websites like eBay, but no, there is not a universal key that opens all gumball machines (that would defeat the purpose of putting a lock on the machine in the first place!), so buyer beware: not all gumball machine keys are the same.

Q. What’s the history of gumball machines (and their keys)?

A. While researching the answer to this query, I was surprised to learn that Carousel brand gumball machines were invented right here in Des Plaines, IL, in the 1950’s, by Arthur Gold. At one time, his company, Carousel Industries, was the world’s largest manufacturer of gumball machines. In the 1980’s, Ford Gum & Machine Co. bought Carousel Industries, and continues to manufacture gumball machines, mostly overseas.

I contacted Mike Didier, a longtime Anderson Lock Service Manager, and former Des Plaines resident, who is now retired, to ask if we had ever sold cylinders and keys to Carousel. He replied, no, we didn’t, then noted that the Carousel gumball machines were primarily tabletop, not standalone, and although they were coin-operated, most didn’t require a keyed lock. In fact, he had owned an old red gumball machine, similar to the one pictured, that featured a screw-type lid that could be opened with a flat screwdriver.

Mike described Carousel gumball machines as being more “residential” than “commercial”–a familiar distinction at Anderson Lock, which has been “Chicago’s Trusted Locksmith Service and Commercial Door Supply Company” since 1960. Commercial locks are built to take heavy use and abuse in high traffic areas–like retail stores, industrial facilities, educational, healthcare and multi-level office buildings. Typically the materials used for commercial locks are of higher quality. Residential locks are meant for regular use of a household. Although Anderson Lock sells residential entrance locksets of very high quality and duplicates thousands of keys for residential locks each year, we are mainly a commercial lock company.

[You can learn more about gumball machine locks and keys on the website: www.gumball.com!]