It is perhaps little known that David Rockola began his career selling cigars before moving onto trade stimulators, countertop machines used to encourage shoppers to indulge in a game of chance. They became popular in American saloons during the 1880s, their use spreading to cigar, confectionery, and general stores.
Produced in a wide range of designs, they are operated by inserting a coin and pulling a lever. The player standing to win prizes of cigars, cigarettes, candy and other goods if a winning combination comes up. Trade stimulators are very popular today and are always in demand by collectors and investors.
The Rock-Ola 'Sweepstakes' trade stimulator machines were made between 1932 and 1935, during the Prohibition era.
Cleverly disguised as a novelty gum machine, the game would sit on the countertop in a store. Drop a cent in the slot and you could play against the store owner or with your friends by selecting a horse to win.
The game's cleverest feature is the 'moving ball of magic'. While the horses spin in a circle the ball rolls around, changing the odds as the race progresses. A winner pays 2-for-1 up to 30-for-1, depending where the ball stops when the winner stops. Two exciting play features are going on at once.
David Rockola called it 'double-barrelled action' and it was the perfect way to skirt around the strict gambling laws of the day. More importantly, is a lot of fun to play!
Known infamously to most in Chicago as the 'Crown Prince of Slot Machines', David Rockola's machines always had just that little something that set them apart from the norm. During the 1930's the Rock-Ola Mfg Corp produced some of their best non jukebox machines in the form of cleverly engineered mechanical games and pinballs.
Many of these Rock-Ola 'Sweepstakes' machines were destroyed (with an axe!) by the authorities during Prohibition and as a result they are extremely collectable in today's market in original condition.