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Introduction to Trade Stimulators & Counter Games

It would be an easy segue to say that trade stimulators and counter games were the same games under different names. But they really weren’t. While both categories of these games are chance machines that award the player minimal prizes in one form or another for high scores or skillful accomplishments without making actual payouts of cash or products, they differ in when and where they were placed, and what they offered the accomplished or purely lucky player. To really appreciate the various trade stimulators and counter games that you may encounter, you need to know something about why they were made and how they were used.
But this isn’t the ‘In 1492 Columbus sailed be ocean blue†kind of history you used to get in school. It’s living history of the experiences of American marketing and what it look to make a buck in a highly competitive world as evidenced by surviving artifacts. Trade stimulators and counter games are games, and while they appeared to be placed where they were in order to give the players an enjoyable run for their money, it was the money that really counted to the bartender. restaurant proprietor grocer, cigar seller, pharmacist and other retailers of goods and services that operated them. In the high powered and high priced and relatively high income producing world we live in, it is somewhat difficult to envision a world where coins counted, and livings were made by scratching for every penny.

These small coin machines. generally placed on a bar or countertop, were designed to get the pennies (and up to nickels, dimes, and quarters) that would have stayed In people’s pockets unless they attracted the attention and desire of the customer to enjoy the play and maybe get something for nothing (ignoring the fact that a coin bad to be played). They were also operated to give a storekeeper the advantage over a competitive store that didn’t have them, and did so by providing discounts on merchandise. They may not look that way, but the bottom line is that’s what they did.

In this attempt to help stores pay the rent, hundreds (probably thousands!) of clever ideas and formats were tried in over a century of usage in order to grab those coins. It’s their ingeniousness and the creative ways these machines work, displaying their advertising and providing a show for the player, that makes them the most desirable and rewarding collectible vintage coinops to their many devoted collectors. Greater collector interest means greater game finding and sharing, and those of us who are already devotees of these remarkable machines would like that.

Lightly edited for grammar by tiltjlp

Updated Dec 23, 2004 Written by Dick Bueschel