Make the Most of Your Spiral

The spiral gum ball machine is a mainstay of bulk vending. With an enormous capacity and a timeless appeal, the spiral remains bulk operator’s go-to machine of choice for kid friendly environments. Here’s how to make the most of the spiral on your route.

First, spirals are all about the same. With only a few exceptions, they are all built to about the same specifications, and operate the exact same way. The difference between a Selectivend Roadrunner and an original Wizard spiral are minuscule, and inconsequential. In that regard, there isn’t a “bad” spiral unit on the market today, so shop with confidence, and don’t be afraid to haggle. There are lots of these for sale used on Craigslist and eBay.

Spirals are best played to their strengths- they are taller machines, eye catching, and they command a real presence. Being seen is the first step to any sale- spiral machines, as a rule, are difficult to miss in most settings. This makes them optimum machines to place at high traffic locations, or locations with a lot of activity- they tower over other obstacles (including other traditional bulk vending equipment) and receive more attention from the customers, and in turn more vends.

Another strength of the spiral is the service cycle. The average spiral machine holds somewhere in the neighborhood of 3000 gum balls, give or take. That’s a lot of gum. If you have  high-traffic spot, you can fill it up and walk away- then collect your money 90 days later, and still not need to refill it. These titans are built to hold their own with their ridiculously high capacity. Even at the average operator fill of 1700 (2 cases of 850 count 1” gum balls) the odds of you needing to refill it before the next change in the seasons is unlikely. Gum balls are pretty hardy, and have a considerable shelf life- but if an operator is concerned about this, other 1” round products, such as bouncy balls and round toy capsules can be substituted, which have an indefinite shelf life.

Finally, spirals are traditionally built like tanks. Spiral machines are made of heavy duty fiberglass and tougher-than average polycarbonate globes. Most models feature very robust coin compartment doors, and hardy Beaver brand coin mechanisms. In summation, only the most dedicated vandals or thieves will be able to damage a spiral machine. While some have been successful, most spirals are still supported with parts from either their specific manufacturers, or from a rival manufacturer whose parts may be compatible depending on what you need. Since the design of spiral machines hasn’t changed much since they were first designed, you can rest assured there will always be locations, parts, support, and demand for these machines.

Specialty Spirals are few and far between. There are a few oddball spirals out there, ranging from the oddly painted, to the oddly designed, to the downright bizzare. Specialty machines of any variety are usually harder to place. While they are capable of making more money, it’s their unusual nature that will attract more customers in some settings, and not in others. For instance, the “skull” machine in link #1 probably wouldn’t fit in too well at a family restaurant. The clown-spiral thing would be harder to place, as very few locations are going to want to look at that thing. The “Zipper” machines, ambitious as they were, requires massive amounts of maintenance and care just to keep them working properly. All that extra work offsets whatever benefit you may have reaped from the “spiral” aspect of it. Every machine has a “perfect place” in the vending market, and if you can find it, you will soar. The trick of course is to find that spot, which takes a lot of effort. Is the potential payoff worth the extra effort? Only you, the vendor, can answer that.

To find the best spiral location, you need bored kids. That’s it. If kids have nothing better to do than sit and wait, the spot should do well. Regular high-traffic stops will be alright, but if you have kids hanging around for long periods with nothing to do, you will profit. One place that works really well is any Coin Operated Laundromat- what are bored kids supposed to do while their parents do their laundry? The answer is to use your machines.

Spirals did not become the industries’ most iconic machine by chance- these reliable titans of Bulk Vending are sturdy profit centers for their operators without fail. If you play to the machines strengths, you too can profit from these machines.

If you want help with your spiral, or want some more tips and tricks from professional vendors, we can be found at the Bulk Vending Forum.


  1. Regarding Number 9 of the list of machines (peppermint patty machines) for those vendors still looking for a solution to the Peppermint Patty repackaging problem perhaps they would like to review our website which features the original peppermint Patty “Conversion Kit”

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