You may want to think twice before getting gum from a gumball machine

Ah, the gumball machine. That tempting, rainbow-hued orb of treats that lurks outside every supermarket, dry cleaner and amusement park in America. Just a quarter gets you a sweet treat to bubble and stretch as you please, but how long has that gumball been sitting there?

In 1888, inventor Thomas Adams debuted coin-operated vending machines in New York City, which dispensed packaged gum, mints and stationery. Fewer than 20 years later, in 1907, Adams Sons and Company upstaged the original gum machine with a machine that dispensed balls of gum, or, what we call them, gumballs.

While gumballs have a shelf life of about 12 months, without intensive DNA research, it's almost impossible to know exactly how old the gumballs in that creaky gumball machine outside your laundromat really are. For all you know, the colorful mouth marbles could be 100 years old. Probably not, but still. It's possible.

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Seattle Gum Wall
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Seattle Gum Wall
USA, Washington State, Seattle, Post Alley, Near Pike Place Market, Market Theater, Detail Of Colorful Gum Wall. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
USA, Washington State, Seattle, Post Alley, Near Pike Place Market, Market Theater, Detail Of Colorful Gum Wall. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
USA, Washington State, Seattle, Post Alley, Near Pike Place Market, Market Theater, Colorful Gum Wall. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
 A general view of the Pike Place Market wall in Seattle, Washington. Containing an estimated one million pieces of chewed gum, the Pike Place Market wall in Seattle is one of the world's most unusual as well as unhygienic tourist attractions. Taking second place in a survey conducted by TripAdvisor.com of the 'World's Germiest Attractions', the 50 foot long wall of gum has even inspired a scene in the Hollywood film, Love Happens, staring Jennifer Aniston. Beaten only by Ireland's famous Blarney Stone, which visitors kiss, the Seattle local landmark has slowly accumulated pieces of chewed gum since 1999. Now inches thick, brightly coloured messages adorn the wall as well as small art works made from peoples left over bubble or chewing gum. (Photo by Jamison Johnson / Barcroft USA / Getty Images)
A general view of the Pike Place Market wall in Seattle, Washington. Containing an estimated one million pieces of chewed gum, the Pike Place Market wall in Seattle is one of the world's most unusual as well as unhygienic tourist attractions. Taking second place in a survey conducted by TripAdvisor.com of the 'World's Germiest Attractions', the 50 foot long wall of gum has even inspired a scene in the Hollywood film, Love Happens, staring Jennifer Aniston. Beaten only by Ireland's famous Blarney Stone, which visitors kiss, the Seattle local landmark has slowly accumulated pieces of chewed gum since 1999. Now inches thick, brightly coloured messages adorn the wall as well as small art works made from peoples left over bubble or chewing gum. (Photo by Jamison Johnson / Barcroft USA / Getty Images)
A general view of the Pike Place Market wall in Seattle, Washington. Containing an estimated one million pieces of chewed gum, the Pike Place Market wall in Seattle is one of the world's most unusual as well as unhygienic tourist attractions. Taking second place in a survey conducted by TripAdvisor.com of the 'World's Germiest Attractions', the 50 foot long wall of gum has even inspired a scene in the Hollywood film, Love Happens, staring Jennifer Aniston. Beaten only by Ireland's famous Blarney Stone, which visitors kiss, the Seattle local landmark has slowly accumulated pieces of chewed gum since 1999. Now inches thick, brightly coloured messages adorn the wall as well as small art works made from peoples left over bubble or chewing gum. (Photo by Jamison Johnson / Barcroft USA / Getty Images)
A general view of the Pike Place Market wall in Seattle, Washington. Containing an estimated one million pieces of chewed gum, the Pike Place Market wall in Seattle is one of the world's most unusual as well as unhygienic tourist attractions. Taking second place in a survey conducted by TripAdvisor.com of the 'World's Germiest Attractions', the 50 foot long wall of gum has even inspired a scene in the Hollywood film, Love Happens, staring Jennifer Aniston. Beaten only by Ireland's famous Blarney Stone, which visitors kiss, the Seattle local landmark has slowly accumulated pieces of chewed gum since 1999. Now inches thick, brightly coloured messages adorn the wall as well as small art works made from peoples left over bubble or chewing gum. (Photo by Jamison Johnson / Barcroft USA / Getty Images)
Seattle Grunge Wedding. (Photo by Gregory Adams via Getty Images)
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To get an accurate age range of the gumballs in your local gumball machine, a representative from Gumball.com suggested asking the store that stocks the machine when they last restocked (and hopefully, cleaned out the globe) to estimate how old the gumballs in it are. That would be a fun game though!

No matter how old the gumballs are in the machine, the good news is that the International Chewing Gum Association has deemed gumballs of any age "safe to chew," though antique gumballs may lose some of their taste and texture. Um, happy chewing!

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