2018.09.07 15:42 | Sean Carter
Out of the many arcade machines for sale, the claw machine is perhaps one of the most timeless pieces. Consumers love to test their luck and precision on the machines and try to win stuffed animals and even electronics for just quarters. While claw machines are extremely popular today, they were not always accepted.
It is speculated that the earliest claw machines have been around since the 1890’s when they were mechanical dioramas meant to draw in people who were interested in Panama Canal construction. The claw machine did not become an arcade machine for sale, however, until 1926 when the “Erie Digger”, named for the equipment used to build the Erie Canal, became the first mass produced claw machine. The game lasted for 2 or 3 minutes, and was extremely popular at carnivals because it did not require electricity to run. During the great depression, it was a popular game since it required little money and children could win a trinket. Throughout the 1930’s, the “Erie Diggers” became much larger, and were set up in places like bus stations, hotels, and drugstores, entertaining the masses as they were going about their daily business.
Then came the “Miami Digger”. This reinvented version of the “Erie Digger” was motorized, which allowed the game to run more quickly, and thus got people to play more times. Also, the floor, which was normally made of candy, became made of Nickels, and the toy prizes were substituted with coins. Bartlett hired operators and sent “Miami Diggers” around the country. Parents seemed to be even more drawn to the machines than their children and adult machines with prizes such as cigarettes and watches reflected this. The machines became extremely popular. However, in 1951, the Johnson Act ruled that the “Miami Digger” was no different from a slot machine, and thus it became illegal to transport the machines. Carnival owners protested, and the government compromised, saying that prizes could not be worth more than $1, and the coin slot must be removed from the machines.
In the 1970’s, the U.S. government, overturned the Johnson Act, as the definition of gambling devices was unclear and the Johnson Act had resulted in very few seizures. The coin slots were put back onto the machines, and the prizes became more valuable. The claw machine as we know it today became popular. Machines began to pop up more frequently in stores and other public venues throughout the 1990’s. Today, the claw arcade machines for sale are often sold as collectors’ items, for enthusiasts who want to own a piece of history.