Looking back a century or two, we find many objects that allow us to enjoy music. From the early Edison phonographs, Regina music boxes, and Wurlitzer free-standing jukeboxes dating from the late 1880s to the 2007 iPhone and more contemporary music machines, the sounds of our favorite songs have come in a variety of packages over the centuries.
When Apple released the iPod in October of 2001, it changed the face—or perhaps more accurately, the ear--of music. The highly identifiable scroll wheel prompted sound to reach the masses and today, we can shuffle and select music with ease. If you look back at the history of these music players, they show advancements in technology for the soundtracks of our lives.
The turn of the century in sound
Back in the early 1900s, the cylinder music box had a rotating brass cylinder with teeth which played a song when a comb moved over it. This object gave way to a piece of furniture called a disk music box. The disk music boxes worked on the same comb and teeth principle but there was an important innovation. The innovation was unlike the cylinder which played only a few selected songs, the disk music box had interchangeable steel disks or tune sheets which allowed owners to change disks and listen to different pieces of music. The Regina Company of Rahway, NJ is best known for manufacturing these valuable and musical antiques. Some Regina music boxes command $2,000 to $5,000 on today’s market and tune sheets bring $15 to $20 each.
The steel disks of the hand-cranked Regina music boxes were replaced, decades later by traditional vinyl records and portable record players. Some of the record players were attractive to a teen audience for their portability and their portable box speakers. The record players of the late 1900s were not too far afield from their music box ancestors.
Record players and vinyl records moving at varying speeds (i.e., 78, 33, 45) were the mainstay of the music scene for decades. The vinyl disks let Benny Goodman bring post-war America his Swing classics, prompted a generation to shake their hips with Elvis, and let the Beat generation experience the British Invasion with the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Vinyl records with their artistically printed and collectible jacket covers are longstanding favorites and have maintained a position of musical honor long after the 8-track tape was introduced in 1964.
Collectors have Disco Fever
The Age of Aquarius brought music lovers both the Disco movement and the cassette tape. In 1971, the cassette tape was the miniature way to take along album after album without fear of damage. The boom box which made its mark during America’s Bicentennial in 1976 was a common object on the shoulders of young people. And, the portable Sony Walkman came into favor with fitness fanatics and music moguls in 1979. Music and music players are among the most popular collectibles in the music genre including albums by the Bee Gees, James Taylor, and others. The revival of the Age of Aquarius is attracting music lovers to the collecting arena with characteristic 1970s era records bringing high values at estate auctions, flea markets, and online sales.
Compact disks and diskman players were items of the early 1980s. Technological innovations brought us the MP3 player in 1997 and then, at the dawn of a new century, Apple gave us iPods and most recently, iPhones by the advent of the 21st Century.
When it comes to collecting music and related objects, interest remains with high quality players and tune sheets, vinyl, 8-tracks, and cassettes in good condition. If it doesn’t sound good, it won’t sell well.
Celebrity Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events nationwide. Dr. Lori is the expert antiques appraiser on the Discovery channel’s hit TV show, Auction Kings. Visit www.DrLoriV.com, follow Dr. Lori at www.facebook.com/DoctorLori or call (888) 431-1010.