The US gumball and bulk vending industry is still going strong and toy vending machines can still be found across the country in supermarkets, toy stores, gas stations and restaurants. This following photo was taken at a Toys R Us before it closed, and featured a variety of cheap trend based toys and candy ranging from 25 to 75 cents. As you can see the quality of toys found in US toy machines do not compare to gacha gacha toys in Japan, where they are priced between 100-500 yen. A big part of this is the “dollar coin problem”. The US is one of the few countries in the world that does not have a dollar coin (or equivalent) in wide circulation. This puts a price point restraint on the cost of materials, charchter license and design of the toys, which prevents the industry from evolving into a higher premium industry. Match this with the fact that Americans are holding on to less and less coins only deepens the problem.
However, there is still room for a lot of innovation and growth in the US toy vending industry. For example, Arizona based SSM Vending have released a lot of great novelties for the US vending market in recent years, including teaming up with Marc Beaudette and Matt Doughty of Onell Design (of GLYOS fame) to distribute Bit Figs, a highly prized series of pixilated characters and other quality lines like Dinos & Fossils and PIX BRIX. As Americans increasingly move into a cashless society, it will be interesting to see how the US bulk vending machine industry develops. Will digital payment systems finally release vendors from these price point restrictions and allow them to sell premium toys? And will US toy and novelty companies return with even greater toy surprises?