vending machine, coin-operated, automatic device for selling goods. Many vending machines are capable of making change, and some of the more sophisticated ones accept paper money or credit cards. The first vending machine was invented by Richard Carlisle, English publisher and bookshop owner, for selling books. Until 1926 vending machines were restricted chiefly to selling penny gum and candy. In that year the invention of a cigarette-vending machine by William Rowe, an American, started a trend toward selling higher-priced merchandise. Soft drink and nickel-candy machines followed in the 1920s and 30s. Today vending machines sell a wide variety of items, e.g., milk, sandwiches, soap, and newspapers. Operators maintain and service machines and pay rent, usually a commission on sales, to the owners of the location sites. Some luncheonettes consist entirely of unattended vending machines.
See study by R. D. Burkett (1967).