Tattoos, drugs and six other weird and wonderful things you can find in Toronto vending machines

Coin-operated shopping in Toronto has gone way beyond Mars bars and Lay’s. We scoped out eight of the city’s weirdest vending machines. Here’s what you’ll find inside them:

Your next favourite book

The Monkey’s Paw bookshop on Bloor is a self-proclaimed home for the old and unusual. In keeping with that theme, the Bibliomat is a first-of-its-kind book dispenser that spits out randomly selected (and often bizarre) vintage books for $3 each.

A piping hot pizza

Upgrade from the limp, lamp-heated slice in just three minutes at one of Pizza Forno’s Easy Bake Ovens on steroids. $11 buys a freshly baked, cheesy pie that shoots out of a pizza-sized mail slot. The menu offers your standard pepperoni and cheese option, as well as some more adventurous creations, like chicken-pesto and honey chèvre with blanco cream.

A permanent tattoo

Feeding a coin into a gum ball machine is always a gamble (what if you get grape? No one likes grape), but true risk-takers can do irreversible damage at the Okey Doke Tattoo Shop on Dundas West. For $100, ink enthusiasts can purchase a token that buys them a randomly-dispensed design from a coin machine—basically the Russian roulette version of tattooing. There are no exchanges or refunds, so indecisive folks should stick to candy.

(Legal) drugs

SpotRX, a small, self-service machine dispenses prescription medications and over-the-counter goods, Jetsons-style. Doctors can send prescriptions straight to the kiosk—located at three locations across the city—and if you’re someone who prefers to ask questions IRL instead of Googling them, there’s a call button that summons a pharmacist on screen.

Fun knick-knacks

At Parkdale’s Capital Espresso, the aptly named “Loonie Trap” dispenses vintage-inspired buttons, stickers and trading cards, all designed by Toronto’s No Fun Press and its affiliated artists.

Personalized tea

Coca-Cola Freestyle changed the pop game a few years back with its mix-and-match soda stream. Now, teaBOT is doing the same for tea. In a few taps, you can create your own loose-leaf blend, which is then brewed up on the spot. There are six locations across Toronto, including the MaRS Discovery District atrium, Ryerson University and the Organic Garage in Liberty Village.

Quirky art

Gumballs may lose their taste within minutes, but the Magic Gumball Machine of Fate (yes, that’s actually what it’s called) dispenses great art that lasts forever. The coin-operated machines can be spotted at Artscape Youngplace on Queen West and OCAD University. Inside, you’ll find plastic spheres that contain a rotating collection of work by Canadian creators, including ceramics, figurines, illustrations, pins and knitted “boob balls.”

Old-school baseball cards

Back in the prime days of sports card collecting, tracking down a shiny new pack was as easy as dropping a coin into a machine. Today, you’ll probably have better luck on Kijiji, but Jays fans can still find a handful of card machine relics inside the Rogers Centre. You won’t see Bautista in any of these packs, but you will see star sluggers from the ‘80s and ‘90s.


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