Whatever happened to …

… slugs?

And I recognize that that probably isn’t the current term for them.

I did a great deal of searching and only came up with the slimey kind of slug. Then, I did some searching for “metal slugs” and holy cow. Not the kind of result that I thought I would get.

I should have searched for “electrical box knock out“!

Maybe our use of the term “slug” was a regional colloquialism. But, we’d see and pick them up from the ground every now and again. Currently, on our road, there are two houses under construction and I happened to see one on the ground and picked it up while taking Jaimie for a walk. That brought back memories. I hadn’t seen one in years.

These things, if you followed the link above for an example, are little metal circles that are punched out of electrical boxes so that the electrical cables can be fed into the box. But, there’s more.

To a kid of about 10, they looked just like quarters. The rumour was that you could put them into vending machines, pinball machines, and anything that accepted quarters and they worked. How can businesses make money if all you have to do is walk through a construction site?

I can recall stories of kids who fueled their need for candy with these things. I’d seen the slugs lying on the ground and picked them up but Mr. GoodyGoody here never actually tried to use them as currency. With my luck, I’d get caught.

Truth be told, I can’t ever remember being with anyone who tried and managed to get them to work as quarters.

But the rumours still persisted…

For a Sunday….

  • have you ever heard of these punchouts being called slugs or is it just a thing from my youth?
  • did you ever try using one of these as a replacement for real currency?
  • can you even think of a vending machines that takes quarters these days? Heck, I can think of machines that only take debit or credit cards.
  • have you ever had the sad experience of putting money in a vending machine only to have it work its way through and spit the coin into the change slot, rejected? Did you try it again and again until it worked?
  • or even worse have it just get swallowed up by the machine?
  • with all the technology growth, I find it interesting that the metal electricial box are still around. Do you know of an alternative?

How about you? Do you remember these things? How about sharing your thoughts?

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If you read it anywhere else, it’s not the original.

8 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. Good morning Doug!

    When I read your title this morning, my first thought when I read “slugs“ was of the metal discs, followed by a quick moment thinking about the slimy little creatures that crawl on leaves, and then I snapped back to the metal discs. The same terminology was used when I was a kid where I grew up.

    Nowadays, I would be much more likely to use the word “token,“ having had many opportunities over the years to purchase them at Chuck E. Cheese when the boys were young (skee ball was my favourite) and prior to that on the TTC when I lived in Toronto. I know in my glove box I have some tokens from a car wash that I can only spend at the car wash — and they never seem to get used at all. That’s the thing about tokens— they are normally not accepted as generics by coin vending machines in the same way that quarters are, but rather are proprietary and only useable at one spot. As a result, I have Chuck E. Cheese tokens, TTC tokens, and car wash tokens sitting unused in the glove box. They are also accompanied by traditional Canadian coins—something that I use far less these days as well.

    As for the source of the traditional metal slugs, I know that plastic junction boxes are out there these days at the home reno stores, in the same way that wooden two by fours are also supplanted in this day and age with metal studs. I don’t expect that the knockouts from a plastic junction box would work at all in a vending machine.

    These days, if I put a coin a machine and it doesn’t get accepted or counted, I tend to just feed another one in and trust that it will be accepted. I’ve also found that sometimes it helps if you put a bit of backspin on a coin or try pushing it a little differently and sometimes that makes all the difference. Coin machines can be finicky.

    The newer vending machines that work with your debit or credit card can be handy. It is rare these days that I will have coins in my pocket, as the convenience of debit cards allows them to be used pretty much anywhere. One thing I noticed the first time I used a debit card to purchase a beverage from a machine, however, was that I had to make a second selection before the transaction would be completed. I guess selling one bottle of water didn’t make the transaction worthwhile to the vendor and so they require that you purchase two before they make the debit.

    As with you, I never attempted to put a slug in a vending machine. To this day, if someone mistakenly gives me the incorrect change (it’s a bit more difficult these days, now that the till does the math) I’m likely to pick up the difference and let them know. It’s nice to know that the skill of making change in my head still comes in handy in helping out the kid in the drive-through in keeping their till balanced.

    The clinic I sometimes visit charges $2 for parking. Recently I found I had no loonies or toonies in the car, and had to hunt for coins. I was fortunate to find some American quarters, and even more fortunate when they were accepted. I made a return visit the next day, and discovered that I had no quarters remaining in the coin holder. Fortunately, I found a baggie of smaller coins and was able to escape after inserting a whole bunch of nickels and dimes. However, rarely do coins come in to play these days. Tokens even less. As for slugs, I imagine it’s been years and years since I last saw one.


  2. This post and Andy’s reply are making me giggle and think about schema. Apparently I have none regarding the metal discs, but I’m thinking of my own slimy slugs blog post. Of which, I love slugs by the way, and always wanted one as a class pet. 🙂 #AKindergartenTeacherThroughAndThrough

    Glad that we live in a world where all of these differences can co-exist. And if you and Andy are ever looking for the slimy slug variety, there are lots in Dundas. Just sayin’!



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  6. Coin machines are smarter these days than they used to be I think. Where I grew up we used tokens to ride the subway. There were all sorts of stories of coins from other countries that would work in the machines for the subway. I don’t know anyone who tried one though.

    US coin machines usually reject Canadian coins these days. I get them in change occasionally and wonder what to do with them. Save them for some future trip to Canada or try to pass them along in a store? I have some around the house somewhere. When I get enough of them I’ll take a drive north. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. All I can think of is the line from the Christmas song:
    “…Bought some gum with a penny slug,
    Somebody snitched on me…”


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