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Archive for the Buying and Selling Category

What do you think about buying mechanical instruments from Internet auction sites?

Caveat Emptor! or Let the buyer beware! I have watched items being sold on internet auction sites for several years now. I have seen many items that are over-described with reproduced or missing parts and displayed with poor pictures. Also some items are NEVER meant to be sold and are used as lost leaders to attract the viewer. Then there is “auction fever” where the bidder gets carried away and overpays. Then there are the “sniping” programs that force the last higher bid over yours. As a rule, the more expensive the item is, the more cautious you should be. Beware of those in the shadows who after bidding is closed, offer a sold instrument to you. I was once offered an instrument by 4 such shadow operators after the bidding was closed on an instrument. In other words, you REALLY have to know what you are doing and you have to exercise due diligence and caution.

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Should I buy a reproduction mechanical musical instrument?

For the most part, a reproduction mechanical music machine is NOT an investment. Do not be lulled into complacency by a cheap price. Very few reproductions go up in value or hold their value. Also you have to be very careful in your research of such instruments. Many reproductions are built poorly. They simply are not up to the quality of the original instruments. Beware of instruments that are heavily converted from their state. In the past a many player pianos were converted into “O” roll orchestrions. For the most part the conversions are poorly done. All that being said, there are some superb reproductions being made by qualified builders. The quality is reflected in the price. If you have a question about a particular instrument, send me an e-mail for my opinion. It may save you money, time, and effort.

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Can I make money with a mechanical instrument without selling it?

Yes. You can rent a band organ, calliope, or monkey organ to festivals, store openings, parades, and events. Not only are you enjoying your instrument, you are the life of the party and you are getting paid for it! Typically you can charge $400.00 and up for such events. Not only that, you can also sell recordings of your mechanical instrument to the eager and interested public! Nickelodeons can be put on location and can collect the coins from the public. Most coin operated old nickelodeons can be fitted with a remote relay operated coin mechanism or dollar feeder. Remember with inflation a nickelodeon should now be a Buck-a-lodeon! I recently visited an ice cream parlor in New Hampshire that has a nickelodeon. The kids and adults were constantly feeding the instrument money! One WWII double amputee I knew owned a string of coin pianos which he placed throughout northern Wisconsin. Over the years he made a comfortable retirement income from his instruments!

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Is mechanical music affordable?

This depends on your annual income.  Generally mechanical music IS affordable!  Most beginning enthusiasts can afford a player piano, a gem roller organ, a small monkey organ, or a table top disc music box.  Price is generally a function of rarity.  Remember, however, that price or rarity has nothing to do with enjoying  piece.   An inexpensive common foot pumped player piano can give you hours of enjoyment as can a Gem roller organ that you find at an antique market.  As your income progresses you can afford larger or rarer pieces of mechanical music such as coin pianos, reproducing player grand pianos, orchestrions, automata, large upright disc music boxes, violin playing machines, calliopes, etc. 

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What qualifies you to be an expert on mechanical music?

For over 30 years I have been actively involved in all aspects of mechanical music as a dealer, restorer, historian, lecturer, and consultant.  I maintain a large respected archive for my business.  I have written articles for the Journal of the Musical Box Society International and have served on their publication committee.  I have written e-articles for MMD, the Mechanical Music Digest with an eye toward promoting the exposure and sale of mechanical music.  I have presented many lectures and workshops on various mechanical music topics to the annual meetings of the Musical Box Society International, MBSI; the Automatic Musical Instrument Collector’s Association, AMICA; the Mid-America Chapter of the MBSI, and the National Carousel Association, NCA.  I have supplied instruments and music boxes to countless enthusiasts and have helped build some of the largest displays of mechanical music in the world.   I have helped form international museum collections.  I have been a consultant to corporations that use mechanical music such as the House on the Rock, the Marriott Corporation and  the Six Flags Corporation.

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Where is the Smart Money Being put These Days? In Hard Assets like Mechanical Music!

Since Wall Street entered its recent frothy ups and downs, people have been moving their money into hard assets from gold to antiques like mechanical music. So you have parked your funds from a 401K into the bank. Why not have some fun and profit and buy a mechanical music machine? And what a better way to enjoy the times than with a happy sounding mechanical musical instrument that will not melt into the carpet at the whim of speculative Wall Street! The smart people have put some of their money into mechanical music! Why not join them!

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Are all Mechanical Music Dealers the Same?

No! What is most important is knowledge of the item, its history, and its condition. Not every dealer has a firm foundation in the mechanics and history of a piece of mechanical music or has worked in a prominent restoration shop as I have. Their lack of expertise will result in you making a bad purchase decision. Not every dealer understands music and is a trained musician as I am. I am generous with my time and give a lot back to the field of mechanical music. Few such as I have given numerous lectures and have written articles on mechanical music. Few such as I have been consulted by the top experts in the field. I freely offer my vast knowledge about the field of mechanical music to those who want to learn. If you want valuable insight into the world of mechanical music, then contact me with your questions about mechanical music! My knowledge of the mechanical music business is backed by a huge mechanical music archive that has taken years to build which fills numerous file cabinets! Enthusiasts have told me I am a “walking encyclopedia” on mechanical musical instruments of all types. And I am faster […]

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Auctions of Mechanical Music

It pays to have advice before you buy at an Auction especially if you are new to these items. I am here to educate you. It is so easy to get caught up in the auction atmosphere. Let my years of experience and encyclopedic knowledge work for you on these items. Shorten your learning curve by consulting with me first before you buy so that you do not make a costly mistake. If you buy an instrument at an auction, I can help you with post purchase details such as optimal display temperature and humidity, restoration and maintenance sources, music rolls, disc, and book music. If you want to convert the instrument to MIDI, I can assist you.

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Discover the Hupfeld Phonoliszt Violina – The Ultimate in Automated Violin-Piano Music.

Stop! Before you buy a violin playing music machine, have you ever heard a beautifully restored Hupfeld Phonoliszt Violina? Your answer is probably no. This is especially true for many coin-op collectors. Other violin playing machines are mere novelties when compared to the Phonoliszt Violina. The Hupfeld Violina is known for beautiful and well arranged music. The piano has a much broader range and plays with reproducing piano expression. The violins also express in a very human like way. The horse hair bow (with three thousand horse hairs) spins at various speeds and the violin greets the bow with various intensities as dictated by the rolls. The result is magnificent music! I have these instruments for sale. You don’t have to be an advanced collector to like one of these, you just have to enjoy superb music!

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