A Sticky Love Story

Curio & Co. thinks about Bubble Gum

Chewing gum sticks in our hearts, not just under the table.

Our love affair with chewing gum probably dates back to the time of the Ancient Greeks.  They chewed a gum made from the resin of the Mastic tree.

In fact all of the early chewing gums were made from various tree resins – except for a brief period in the late 19th century when chewers used paraffin wax.  Today, resin from tropical trees still forms the base of modern chewing gum… along with a whole lot of synthetic ingredients that most of us would rather not know about (polyvinyl acetate?!?).

With chewing gum’s long connection to popular culture and leisure time entertainment, it’s no wonder that it inspires collectors all around the world.

Many collectors search for gum wrappers from rare flavors or old companies, such as those from the first mass marketed gum made in 1871 by Adams New York Chewing Gum.  Some collectors, however, don’t stop at the wrappers and collect the actual sticks of gum themselves.  Several years ago a dozen serious gum collectors paid between $300 – 350 for a stick of Colgan’s Taffy Tolu Chewing Gum circa 1900-10.  That’s $350 per stick!

In the 1950s, chewing gum manufacturers figured out that gum could deliver more than just bubbles and pop: it could deliver pop culture too.  In 1952 sports enthusiast Sy Berger added a baseball card – complete with player photo and stats.  The following year, the first comic was added to Bazooka Bubble Gum.

In today’s market, even old gum vending machines turn over a tidy profit.  The earliest gumball machines dating back to the 1880s are among the oldest examples of coin-operated vending machines and one would easily be worth thousands.

Of course, they could also be hiding valuable coins, such as wheat pennies, buffalo nickels and mercury dimes.  Just don’t chew any old gum you might find inside.  Three out of four dentists do not recommend it.