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culture

Toronto’s Coolest Vending Machines

The best of the best in automatically dispensed goods.

Some places—hi, Japan!—have awesome, eclectic vending machines. Toronto’s are largely of the chips-and-chocolate variety, but there are a few hidden, coin-devouring gems in the city.

The most famous of these is undoubtedly the Biblio-mat, which made headlines shortly after it was introduced at Monkey’s Paw, a secondhand book store, late last year. The custom-built machine distributes a variety of used books, for a toonie a piece. The catch, of course, is that you don’t know what book you’re going to get. But that’s also part of the charm.

Here are a few other distinctive vending machines located in and around Toronto.


(In)dispensible poetry

Photo by Sarah-Marie McMahon

Photo by Sarah-Marie McMahon

Courtesy of: Toronto Poetry Vendors.

Dispenses: Poetry. As the TPV website explains: “Issues consist of 10 single, hand-folded broadsides by 10 Toronto-based poets,” and are published twice a year. Each turn of the crank gets you one of those broadsides. You can collect them all.

Equipment: Four retrofitted gum machines, three permanently installed and one roaming.

Locations: The first machine, Spearmint (each machine has a name) is at the Tarragon Theatre at 30 Bridgman Avenue. Polar Ice is at TYPE Books at 883 Queen Street West, and Cinnamon is at Ezra’s Pound at 283 Dupont Street. UPDATE: March 15, 2013, 5:00 PM Cinnamon is now located at Saving Gigi at 859 Bloor Street West. Snacks, the roving machine, travels to literary festivals and other events. Go get your verse on.


Found Art

Courtesy of: Art-o-mat.

Dispenses: Small-format art pieces.

Equipment: Retrofitted cigarette vending machines.

Locations: There are more than 100 active machines across North America. Toronto’s is operated by artist Andrew Wang, who exhibits it occasionally.


Sweet Tooth

Dispenses: Cotton candy.

Equipment: A weird, purpose-built rig that automatically picks up a bare stick and covers it with pink, insulation-like candy.

Location: Pacific Mall (4300 Steeles Avenue East) is the source of many delightful things, and sugar-based treats are among them. Inside the building is a cotton-candy vending machine, which dispenses freshly made, fluffy goodness for just $2. More of these, please!


Moneyball

Dispenses: Maybe a vending machine that dispenses baseball cards wasn’t such an unusual idea in the 1990s, but these days it’s a rarity. If you want a nostalgic fix the next time you go to a Jays game at Rogers Centre, pick up a pack of retro cards for a couple of bucks. There are several machines scattered throughout the stadium that sell vintage packs, complete with rock-hard sticks of gum.

Equipment: A standard snack-type vending machine, but with packs of cards inside.

Location: We don’t need to tell you where Rogers Centre is.


Electronics on the Go

Courtesy of: Best Buy

Dispenses: If you’re waiting for a long-haul flight and find yourself lacking entertainment options—or worse, you realize you left your iPhone’s USB cable on your nightstand—you can hit up one of these electronics vending machines at Pearson, which sell items like chargers, headphones, and even tablets.

Equipment: A bulky, purpose-built machine—presumably with very good security features.

Location: Near some gates at Pearson International Airport.


Robarts

Courtesy of: The University of Toronto.

Dispenses: Snack machines are definitely helpful when you’re studying, but sometimes your needs are more prosaic. Luckily (or maybe unluckily, if you’re looking for an excuse to stop working), Robarts Library has vending machines on its first and third floors that sell supplies like pens, highlighters, and notebooks. The two machines are also helpfully stocked with other essential supplies for student life, including Advil, headphones, and condoms.

Equipment: A standard snack-type vending machine, but with school supplies inside.

Location: Robarts Library (130 St. George Street).


LoveCRAFT T.O.

Courtesy of: LoveCRAFT T.O.

Dispenses: Okay, so this machine isn’t up and running yet, but we’re looking forward to it. LoveCRAFT T.O., the Toronto Awesome Foundation’s $1000 grant winner for November, is a travelling vending machine that will sell handmade arts and crafts around the city. We can only assume that Art-o-mat provided some inspiration.

Equipment: A retrofitted cigarette machine.

Location: LoveCRAFT aims to launch at the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen Street West) this summer.

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