In 1971, sick of working in middle management in Chicago, William Jones purchased a number of Mold-A-Rama vending machines on a whim. He knew nothing about the technology, which produces injection molded plastic figures, and didn’t understand its appeal, but saw the purchase as an opportunity to do something new for a living. Little did he realize that almost 50 years later, his family would still be in the business, maintaining a collection of the beloved machines, which are as popular as ever at zoos, museums, and other attractions across the United States.
When Mold-A-Rama debuted at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, the molds of the Space Needle, a monorail, and other fair-related designs drew as much attention as the unique production process, which remains the same to this day. After inserting payment, customers watch two sides of an aluminum mold close as it is injected with heated polyethylene pellets. In less than a minute, the mold opens, releasing the plastic object.* The signature “waxy” smell hangs in the air as the hollow figurine slowly cools.
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