Monday, December 5, 2022


Dinosaurs in the claw machine at the supermarket


By Chuck Woodbury

Some photographers specialize in portraits, others in sports or fashion. Still others spend their time in the great outdoors and capture stunning scenic shots; Ansel Adams is among the best known.

My favorite subjects are a bit more offbeat. Like the toy dinosaurs I photographed here with my iPhone in a Seattle area supermarket. They were the prizes in one of those games near the exit where you pay a dollar and then with a joystick that controls a metal “claw crane” try to snag a dinosaur for your very own. Of course, most of the time the dinosaurs — or whatever else is in the glass case, often plush dolls, encapsulated toys or even cheap jewelry — slip out of the claw leaving you a dollar poorer.


Not many adults play these games. But kids are suckers to play. The machines are programmed by their owners to control the claw strength and aperture and, ultimately, the expected payout.

I once came upon a claw crane in a Tampa area restaurant. Instead of toys, the prize was a live lobster in a tank in the display case. If you managed to snag a lobster, the restaurant would cook it and serve it to you. I invested a dollar, but, as I expected, the lobster lived to be clawed another day.

Perhaps the most controversial claw crane game was in China, where in 2017 an amusement park opened a claw machine that tempted players to scoop up kittens only a few weeks old. The public went crazy and the game was shut down.

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Kristin M Winn
3 years ago

We once saw a little boy being rescued by the fire department after trying to crawl into the machine after a toy, and getting stuck! I guess he was so frustrated he decided to crawl inside the machine to get the toy that was so elusive! We laughed a lot (once we were out of the restaurant and out of earshot) but we understood his frustration.

RV Staff(@rvstaff)
3 years ago

And then there are those kids who don’t get what they want so somehow crawl into the machine! Several cases of that over the years. Oh my! 😮 —Diane at

3 years ago

There is a place in the Wisconsin Dells, the Showboat Saloon, that used to have the lobster claw machine. We saw someone win it then my friend invested $3 trying to win her own.

She failed.

Last time i was there they had removed the machine. A bummer really, it was fun to watch.

3 years ago

Stopped at a truckstop once where a trucker was routinely pulling out stuffed toys out of a claw machine. He gave each of our kids (young at the time) a stuffed toy…really made their day!

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