Souvenirs are wonderful little reminders of all those trips we made across the country. Along with photos, they remain when the memories begin to fade, and they can be passed on to future generations to teach kids about the way things used to be.
One such souvenir comes in the form of an inexpensive waxy toy that pops right out of a machine in front of your very eyes. Behold-The Mold-A-Rama!
Mold-A-Rama is the brand name for a type of injection mold vending machine, invented in 1962. The machines gained momentum as an attraction at the 1964 World’s Fair where the Sinclair corporation promoted their Dinoland exhibit with 7 different Dinosaur figurines made right on site.
And for just 25 cents, what parent could resist?Thanks to the internet, you can watch this bizarre virtual rendering of the Sinclair machine that exists for some reason I am unable to comprehend.
Your quarter didn’t just buy you a toy, it bought you an experience! Sure you got to take home a dinosaur from the exhibit, but more importantly, you took home a memory. The moment you put the money in the space-age machine it kicks on like a loud washing machine. Shaking and rattling, the tubes inside the glass bubble begin jerk and wiggle, mysteriously injecting the melted plastic into the mold. When the mold halves separate a mechanical spatula arm pushes your toy toward the dispensary, and into your eager hands. In about a minute, you have a freshly made, warm plastic toy of your very own. The first thing you do is smell it. The second thing you do is juggle it between your hands until it cools down! As souvenirs go, it really doesn’t get much cooler than that.
The machines have a history of operating in zoos, science museums, and parks, including a rich history with Disney Parks as part of the Disneyland Toy Factory in the mid 1960s. The funny thing is, the appeal of these machines is still the same today. Mold-A-Rama and Mold-A-Matic machines exists in pockets of America (primarily in Florida and Chicago). Most figures now will run you around $2.00. (Still the best souvenir value for your money if you ask me!) Something about putting your money in the cash slot, hoping the machine actually works, and waiting patiently for your toy to drop from the chute still generates a thrill!
Mold-A-Rama machines even have some admirers in the music and art world. Jack White is a fan and owns his own machine which operates at the Third Man Records Novelty Lounge in Nashville alongside his other vintage coin-op machines including Scopitone machine, photo booth, and a Voice-O-Graph record booth. The bright yellow machine dispenses a custom 1964 Montgomery Ward guitar shaped figure, identical to the one Jack plays in the White Stripes. In 2012, Tim Biskup collaborated with boutique toy retailer Rotofugi on their “Roto-A-Matic” machine in Chicago releasing limited run colors of his Helper Dragon character. If you happen to have a spare $15,000 you can also buy your own setup!
For the rest of us, we’ll have to travel to make our molds. The heaviest concentrations of machines can be found operating under the Mold-A-Matic name in Florida, while some zoos in the Midwest still boast about their machines and regularly change their molds. Here are some of the machine’s we’ve found in our travels:
You can find a full list of operational machines online at Mold-A-Mania. Check it out and support your local vending machine! We want to make sure these are around for years to come. Do you collect Mold-A-Rama? Here at Kiddieland, we are always looking to trade figures, and have many doubles. Show us your collections, in the comments!
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