How do you get cogs?
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After you get the second prize (cannon control building) when you tap on an elf you can get cogwheels. I find that about 1 in 3 elves give cogwheels. The cogwheels are used to upgrade your cannon. They can reduce your cannon down time, increase the number of elves that can be fired in a session and increase the number of bells granted.
Once you get 1700 bells you win the 2nd prize (the cannon control building) at that point tapping elves will sometimes drop cogs (it's fairly frequent, I wouldn't buy them with donuts) -- you also will get cogs on your 5th day bonus box (aka the rebranded mystery box, those cogs will enter your account even if you haven't reached 1700 bells yet)