What Is It? Game 120

This week's collaboration with the What is it? Blog brings us this strange contraption above - can you guess what it is for?

As usual, there are two prizes this week: the first person who comes up with the correct guess and the person who has the funniest yet ultimately wrong guess will win T-shirts from the Neatorama Shop. You must submit your entries before the answer is revealed at the What is it? Blog.

Contest rules are simple: place your guess in the comment section below. One guess per comment, please. You can enter as many as you'd like. Post no URL or web link - doing so will forfeit your entry.

For more clues, check out the What is it? Blog. Good luck!

Update 12/21/09 - the answer is: This wheel was intended to be placed on the counter of a store, according to the patent it could be used in different ways:

Suppose, for instance, that a customer wishes to invest a nickel in trade with the merchant who has a wheel of the kind described. The customer drops his nickel in the slot and it passes into one of the pockets of the wheel, revolving the wheel in the manner described, until the nickel is deposited and the wheel stops with the hand indicating say, No. 1. Then the customer gets any article valued at a nickel which he desires and which the merchant has to sell. If the hand should indicate No. 2, the customer would be entitled to two articles... and so on.

If the wheel is to be used for a discount wheel, instead of the marks 1, 2 and 3, the rim is marked with numbers indicating different percentages, usually from one to twenty-five percent, and after he has purchased a bill of goods, the merchant hands him a coin which the customer drops into the wheel as above described, and when the wheel stops, the hand indicates a certain percentage, which represents the discount the merchant must deduct from his bill of goods already purchased.

Patent number 538,916


Nobody got the correct answer, so congratulations to John The Third for the funniest guess, "Base Decider," which made all of us here ROFL :)

Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

I think Cubby96 is right. Here in Argentina, there was a cookie (some kind of thin hard waffer that's rolled while still hot to make ice cream cones) called "barquillo" that was sold in the beach by traveling salesman. Those guys carried a cylinder with the "barquillos" and the top was a roulette with numbers from 1 to 3, about the same distribution as the one in the picture. You paid the prize of one "barquillo" for a chance to roll the roulette and you got as many "barquillos" as the winning number. This one looks the same. You spin the roulette and try to insert your coin into the highest number slot and you get as many whatevers as the number you hit. Below the roulette there's another slot that you open to get the coins.
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It's a trade stimulator. I'm betting that there's a coin slot that would spin the wheel, or else an operator would spin it if you give them your money. One would get a number of cigars based on what number the wheel stopped on. A nickel could win you one 'nickel' cigar (probably worth 3 cents), or you could win two or three, more than your money's worth. This one's probably from the 1890s or very early 1900's.

They were used in places where gambling wasn't legal. These games would offer an opportunity to win prizes instead of (or in addition to) money. Sometimes the prizes would be exchangable for cash, like 'Free replays' on pinball machines in the 60's that could be traded for money with an operator. Other times there would be a product like a gumball vended, so the operator could claim it as an honest vending machine. Inside, the gumball was hollowed out with a little slip of paper. You would compare the number on the paper with a chart, if it matched a certain number you'd win a prize.
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This type of device was an ingenious pay-your-way 'pull my finger' apparatus. Often found in men's toilets, they were an 'acceptable' way for men to release the pent up methane in their system without disgracing their women-folk.
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