The 7 Best Mini Claw Machines
We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Bring the fun of an arcade or carnival into your home with one of these mini claw machines. Available in a variety of colorful styles, they're sure to provide your little ones with hours of entertainment. Our selection includes prefilled options as well as models that can be stocked with toys or candy of your choice. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best mini claw machine on Amazon.
A Brief History Of Claw Machines
Always eager to cash in on a new craze, American businesses began making candy dispensers that looked like these shovels.
Little known fact: about five seconds after the first claw machine was invented, profanity was also invented.
OK, that's technically not true, but the two have gone hand-in-hand ever since the machine first hit the scene — which was prompted, as you might expect, by the construction of the Panama Canal.
Because it was being built in the early part of the 20th century, before entertainment was invented, the public had built a massive fascination with this new engineering marvel. Photos of the excavation were widely disseminated, and one of the things that captured public attention the most was the use of steam shovels.
Always eager to cash in on a new craze, American businesses began making candy dispensers that looked like these shovels. For a nickel, you could turn the crank and watch the gears move, until they engaged a bucket that picked up a piece of candy, carried it to the chute, and dropped it down.
These dispensers would soon evolve to become carnival games, where people could risk a coin in the hopes of being able to operate the shovel adeptly enough to get a big payout.
The most popular of these machines, the Miami Digger, would soon draw the attention of the FBI. After the passage of the Johnson Act, which banned the transport of gambling machines across state lines, many barkers found themselves on the wrong side of the law.
The feds stopped really enforcing the Johnson Act by the early 1970s, which paved the way for the next innovation in diggers: claw-style machines. These devices addressed one of the major issues that the government had with the diggers: namely, the fact that you were theoretically able to reach every part of the prize box with the claw, whereas diggers made it virtually impossible to get in the corners.
These became massively popular in the 1980s, thanks to the fact that major chain restaurants like Pizza Hut and Chuck E. Cheese started displaying them in stores, and even hotels and grocery stores were likely to have one or two on the premises.
Today, they're still easy to find in a variety of locations, and people continue to try their luck despite the overwhelming odds that they won't, in fact, be lucky — and every sign points to the fact that they're here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Speaking of which, we're going to stay here for the foreseeable future as well...we've just about got that lobster harmonica...
Tips For Winning That Stuffed Animal
Before we teach you how to beat the claw machine, we need to let you in on a little secret: there is no beating the claw machine.
Before you even start playing, you should scope out the prize pit.
Many machines are programmed to only let you win some of the time, just like slot machines. Regardless of how skilled you are (or how many quarters you pump into the machine), you can only walk away with a prize a fraction of the time.
That being said, there are ways to improve your odds.
Before you even start playing, you should scope out the prize pit. If the machine has just recently been re-stocked, all the prizes will be packed in tight — and good luck getting them out. You're better off saving your money and coming back another day, after some sucker has spent a small fortune jiggling something loose.
If there's already someone in front of you when you get there, check out their turn. See how the machine moves, and how tight the grip is.
Expect to lose your first try — and maybe the next few after that. The first go-round should be to gather information about how the machine moves. Then, once you've found a toy you can win, you might need several tries to move it into position.
Also, have a stop-loss plan before you begin. Don't spend more than a buck or two, because the prizes aren't worth it — and there's no worse feeling than walking away empty-handed and empty-walleted.
Ways To Beat Other Popular Carnival games
Before we share our tips and tricks with you, remember: if it were easy (or even possible) to beat these games, the operators wouldn't offer them.
With that bit of cheery news out of the way, let's look at some strategy!
The bottles are weighted down, so what you need to do is aim for the two on the bottom.
For the classic milk bottle game, don't aim for the middle — that's just what they want you to do. The bottles are weighted down, so what you need to do is aim for the two on the bottom. Hit them hard and hit them low, and you've got a shot (not a great shot, but better than you would aiming high).
If you're trying to show off your hoops skills on the basketball game, know that the backboards are loose and the balls are over-inflated. This means that if you try to use the glass, you're going to have a bad time. Instead, shoot with a high arc, and aim for nothing-but-net (and also practice your shot, of course).
The most important game of all to master, though, is the strength-test machine. If you're trying to impress your date, the last thing you need is for some carnival barker to call you a wimp. The secret is to hit the target dead center, as it's actually a test of your accuracy, not your brawn.
For all the other games, spend some time watching and see if it's even theoretically possible to win. Also, see what strategies most people are using, because these are the techniques the manufacturers anticipate — and rig the game to beat.
At the end of the day, however, the best way to go home with a stuffed animal is to just buy one yourself.
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