Imagine if you were going to the store today and at the checkout register there was a trade stimulator setting on the counter. You just went there for milk and eggs, but for 50 cents you can play a machine and possibly win two packs of gum for the price of one. Well, you didn’t even come for gum but it is so tempting you take 50 cents out of your pocket and give it a spin to try and win.
With only a small percentage of winners, it is doubtful you may actually win two packs but you lose and still get the single pack at the retail price of 50 cents, which is now in the machine. The store owner who only pays off to a few customers is now selling box after box of gum and coaxing most everyone out of money they would have never spent at his store.
Coin operated trade stimulators and counter games got their start in the saloons of the 1880s. Things changed with the coming of the Prohibition and the disappearance of saloons in 1920. Checkout counters in stores, restaurants, and cigar shops became the primary locations, where these counter games helped stimulate trade.
The Great Depression, followed by the Repeal of Prohibition in 1933, propelled the industry to new heights and prominent makers such as Groetchen Tool, Buckley, Bally, Pierce Tool, and many others were kept busy until the 1960s.
Trade Stimulators were similar to slot machines in that they have three spinning reels. However, they have no payout and were thus legal in places where slots were not.
The vast range of old Trade Stimulators makes it impossible to describe all of them. Some of the different ways they can be found to play are as race games, roulette, color wheel, pointer, card machine, dial, dice, coin drop, target, cigarette, and the list goes on and on.