So, how old are the gumballs in a gumball machine, anyway?


Ah, the gumball machine. That tempting, rainbow-hued orb of treats that lurks outside every supermarket, dry cleaner and amusement park in America. Just a quarter gets you a sweet treat to bubble and stretch as you please, but how long has that gumball been sitting there?

In 1888, inventor Thomas Adams debuted coin-operated vending machines in New York City, which dispensed packaged gum, mints and stationery. Fewer than 20 years later, in 1907, Adams Sons and Company upstaged the original gum machine with a machine that dispensed balls of gum, or, what we call them, gumballs. 

While gumballs have a shelf life of about 12 months, without intensive DNA research, it's almost impossible to know exactly how old the gumballs in that creaky gumball machine outside your laundromat really are. For all you know, the colorful mouth marbles could be 100 years old. Probably not, but still. It's possible.


To get an accurate age range of the gumballs in your local gumball machine, a representative from suggested asking the store that stocks the machine when they last restocked (and hopefully, cleaned out the globe) to estimate how old the gumballs in it are. That would be a fun game though! 

No matter how old the gumballs are in the machine, the good news is that the International Chewing Gum Association has deemed gumballs of any age "safe to chew," though antique gumballs may lose some of their taste and texture. Um, happy chewing!