Drop Coins Slowly

Photographs of repurposed USPS stamp machines used to sell gambling tickets in Indiana bars. 
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Artist statement

These photos portray an assortment of old postage stamp vending machines I have found in Indiana’s neighborhood bars. The machines have been adapted to dispense small paper gambling tickets called pull-tabs, which can be redeemed at the bar. Like lottery tickets, pull-tabs can be purchased for as little as a quarter and promise pay offs of up to thousands of dollars.

I first became interested in them while photographing small towns in the early 2000s. At that time, pull-tab sales were not legal in the state of Indiana, except in licensed fraternal clubs. If I asked to photograph a bar that included a repurposed stamp machine, bartenders would move them out of sight for the picture. As a former letter carrier, their history fascinated me and I always wondered how they ended up in bars, selling unauthorized gambling tickets.

Pull-tab sales were legalized in 2008, in a move to help small taverns stay afloat during the recession. Licenses were purchased and stamp machines resurfaced from the backroom or basement. Many of them were manufactured a half-century ago and showed significant signs of wear. Sometimes they jammed easily or had only one ticket slot working. Modern, electronic pull-tab machines are also available, but people seem to prefer to take a chance on the malfunctioning, timeworn stamp machines.

I began this project in 2014 and ended up photographing over 50 machines. A selection of my images is included here.