The antique music box, whether a Swiss cylinder music box or an American or German disc playing music box, is one of the most magical machines of the ages. Few antiques can stimulate and delight the senses the way a melodious music box does when it begins to play. Though automatic musical instruments entertained royalty and those fortunate few who could afford them in the 18th and 19th centuries and were one of the most expensive and important status symbols of their day, only a small percentage of today’s population will ever hear one or even know that antique music boxes exist.
Music boxes are among scarcest and most esoteric types of antiques in the marketplace, making them an excellent investment as increasing demand and diminishing supply continue to drive prices higher each year.
Swiss cylinder music boxes were only made in any quantity from about 1880 to 1895 and were so expensive to produce that few families could afford them. However, at the peak of their popularity the wealthy aristocracy of Europe and the nouveau riche Americans, capitalizing on the great profits of the industrial revolution, demanded extraordinary music boxes, regardless of their extravagant costs.
Thanks to this great period of prosperity coupled with a capable and ambitious music box industry, large-scale cylinder boxes were made with powerful movements playing a variety of sophisticated musical arrangements, typically on one fixed cylinder. If price was no object, the buyer could commission a music box with multiple interchangeable cylinders and even specify the tunes they desired.
Important music boxes of this type sold for the princely sum of $300 -$400 with additional cylinder costing $60 each. This was in an economy where one could buy an entire farm for about $600! Today we enjoy the luxury of selling music boxes like this, restored to as new condition, for a fraction of their original market adjusted cost.
Disc music boxes are equally scarce having been made between 1885 and 1905. They were made in a variety of qualities and sizes, playing discs of 6” diameter on up to huge machines playing 27” discs. The Germans and Americans dominated this market with only a small percentage of disc boxes produced in Switzerland.
The advent of the phonograph was the death knell of the music box industry. After their tragic and sudden fall from grace, it is said that warehouses of music boxes were burned as they were then considered obsolete. We urge you to visit us to see these beauties online at solvangantiques.com.