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These machines showed what life (and entertainment) were like before video games

Morris Museum

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Got a nickel?

In the early 20th century, that's all it took to bring to life the vending machines, gambling devices and other coin-operated mechanical amusements in "For Amusement Only," an exhibition on view through October 10 at the Morris Museum in New Jersey. The institution and its displays offer a voyage through time, back to an era where fun seekers could pay a mere pittance to be entertained by now antiquated machines—and learn that coin operated (coin-op) devices have a long and rich history.

"Heron of Alexandria (200 BC) relayed a story of an automatic machine that dispensed holy water when a 5-drachma coin was inserted," said the Morris Museum's Jeremie Ryder, the Guinness Collection conservator, "And there are records of an amazing 2-player, automatic puppet game that pitted one player against the other in 18-century Germany."

While some machines offered a few minutes of music or entertainment in exchange for a coin, others delivered products such as postage stamps, tobacco, cigarettes, sweets and even hard-boiled eggs. CNBC takes a look at some of the more unusual displays at the institution.

— By Harriet Baskas, special to CNBC. Follow Road Warrior on Twitter at @CNBCtravel.
Posted 03 July 2016

Source: Morris Museum