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Archive for the Mechanical Music Category

Nickelodeon Coin Pianos are Fun!!!

A coin piano is a roll operated automatic piano that is operated by the drop of a coin into a slot. For a number of years they were called “nickelodeons” based on the song, “Music, Music, Music” made famous by Theresa Brewer. Coin pianos come in two formats; ones with keyboards and ones with no keyboards called cabinet coin pianos. The coin pianos usually have a mandolin rail for a rinky tink or mandolin effect. Some have an extra instrument such as a xylophone, orchestra bells, violin pipes, or flute pipes. The usual roll they play are the 10 tune “A” roll or if it is a Wurlitzer, the “APP” roll. The music from a Coin Piano is happy music! The music is well arranged and much was hand played into the roll perforator equipment by noted artists of the period. Many of the coin pianos are in a quarter sawn tiger grain oak veneered case. Many feature designs from the Arts and Crafts period. Art glass is usually a very attractive feature on these instruments. J. P Seeburg pioneered the use of art glass in his coin pianos. Seeburg patented his case designs. He was a true artist with […]

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Mechanical Music in New York City

There is a beautiful 1908 Stein & Goldstein carousel that resides in Central Park in New York City.  In the historic carousel resides an A. Ruth & Sohn Style 33 carousel band organ made in Waldkirch, Germany. The carousel organ is a prime example of MECHANICAL MUSIC! Years ago the Lenox Lyceum Skating Rink which was just off Central Park featured a 110 key Gavioli which provided music for the skaters. This grand Gavioli still exists and was probably the largest music machine to ever play in New York City. Numerous mansions in the city had elegant Welte orchestrions for entertainment. Other mansions had art case reproducing player grand pianos by Steinway, Mason & Hamlin, etc. The Atlantic Garden featured two mammoth Welte Orchestrions. But the one that resides in NYC today is the carousel organ in the Central Park Carousel.

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Gavioli Fairground Organ Catalog photo

This is a picture from the Gavioli fairground organ catalog. I purchase original catalogs of mechanical musical instrument manufacturers for my business archive. This rare catalog was purchased from the granddaughter of the famous street organ builder, Carl Frei. If you have any such catalogs or original literature you would like to sell, please contact me!

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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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Why Mechanical Music?

A mechanical musical instrument is the ULTIMATE antique! Mechanical music combines art, music, mechanism, and design into a very entertaining antique! Not only are you intellectually entertained, you are also having fun! Each roll or cylinder is a time capsule of history! No other antique can give you the same concert that was given to generations years ago! YET mechanical musical instruments are not tied to the past. New arrangements of new songs can be made. Each newly acquired roll, disc, or cylinder adds a new dimension to enjoyment. There is also a special excitement that comes from sharing the music from a restored instrument with others. Many collectors tell me they have moved from interest to interest over the years until they discovered mechanical music. Once the discovery is made, the fascination and interest literally lasts forever!

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Are you too busy to help a new enthusiast?

NEVER!  I always make time for the new enthusiast!  I am YOUR expert in mechanical music.  AND free advice is always given!  Just e-mail or call me today!

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What if I have a mechanical music item I would like to sell? Can you help me?

Yes!  E-mail or mail me photos and a description of the piece.  Or give me a call at 630-269-3059.  You will find that I am easy to talk to and willing to give you all the necessary information that you require.

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