Watling ”Totem“ Slot Machine, ca. 1910

Value (2008) | $25,000 Auction$30,000 Auction

It belonged to my great-aunt, and when we were kids visiting, we'd admire it. And she eventually gave it to my brothers and I. And with a little bartering on my part and their part, I ended up with it.

What have you discovered about it?

Well, I was at a store where they restored slot machines, and I looked it up and they had a Totem. No picture, just a... _ Totem. And it gave a value of perfect condition around $10,000.

Well, it is a very, very rare machine. When I saw this on the table, I was really quite taken aback. It is an early slot machine and it is the Totem. And it was made by one of the great makers of slot machines, the Watling Manufacturing Company. They made some of the best and most unusual slot machines. These date from around 1910 and then forward. After the slot machine business disappeared, they ended up making nothing but penny scales. And I remember over 40 years ago I bought an old penny scale and I called up the Watling Company to get a footplate and I spoke to the old man Watling himself. It's a great old company, and this is a rare survivor with its original glass. See, this is reverse-on-glass decals. If this were damaged, it would really radically affect the value. It also has the original payout paper. All of these are little details that really help in the value. There is one problem with the machine, and that is that it does have a replacement rear door, but that is a small problem when considering the rarity. It has all the working mechanisms. It's a really complex piece. And another thing that makes this a very rare machine... you know most are three reelers. This has a double arrow action. We put the nickel in here, and they can see that there's a real nickel and not a slug. That was part of the security measures.


And then you pull this knob down... and if you match up the fruit, you get some nickels back. Not bad, eh?

You have good luck.

So, now, your research suggested that if it were in perfect condition it would be worth about $10,000. Well, this is really not perfect condition, but for a machine of this rarity, it is in extraordinary condition. I've done a little research and I think a conservative auction value in today's market is in the $25,000 to $30,000 range.

Whoa. That's considerably more than I anticipated.

I think you're going to have a little more trouble with your brother.

Appraisal Details

Noel Barrett Antiques & Auctions Ltd.
Carversville, PA
Appraised value (2008)
$25,000 Auction$30,000 Auction
Palm Springs, CA (June 07, 2008)
20th Century
Glass, Metal

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