Hello all -- I was going to stay away from this because, as Don Teach
wrote in 050628 MMDigest, it is all subjective to the type of
instrument, location etc. Then he said perhaps interest has declined,
and in this writer's opinion, Don is right on the money.
When you want to equate the value to the instrument, interest must be
a major factor. If you have interest, you have desire to own and then
demand for existing items goes up. This demand is what drives prices
to higher levels because there are just so many units to go around.
This also spawned the creation of built up mock nickelodeons to satisfy
The folks at Disney, who operate everything in the park as a cash
point, saw a decline in interest years ago and sold off their automatic
music machines. Most if not all clubs and associations for player
piano buffs have seen a notable decline in membership. Whether this
is age related or not, it still shows a decline in interest with not
enough new members to keep numbers up. Also the large numbers of
dealers have dwindled to a few. The latest loss was Mastertouch
We have all been encouraged in many ways to spread the word and try to
get new blood involved -- to increase interest, then demand -- and of
course this will be followed by prices going up.
I regret to say that from personal experience, folks really just don't
want to know! Perhaps the type of music you are playing or the quality
of the music available to-day has some small bearing on the reaction,
but the mechanical musical instrument itself just does not have the
drawing power it once had.
Bruce Clark has mentioned how frequently people talk all through
a demonstration and the subject is not music. Until my recent
retirement, my entire collection was part of a large inn I operated.
The vast majority of the guests wanted to know why I would keep all
this junk around. Some would give things a funny look. Perhaps two
guests, over an entire season, actually wanted to know how things
worked and what they sounded like.
I personally, in addition of one of the larger collections of music
machines in Canada, have a wonderful Wurlitzer 125 Band Organ, restored
to factory-new condition. It is mounted in a show trailer, with power
supply, billboards and all -- even a popcorn maker. I had hoped I could
hire out, but there were few takers. Most don't know what a Band Organ
Rather than just let the unit sit silent, I started taking it to the
beach, public parks and any place there were people, and playing for fun,
or until the police got a noise complaint and chased me off. This only
happened once so far.
The up side was seeing a lot of smiles and hearing the odd person join
in with a familiar tune. Folk would drive by and walk by. Some would
wave, some give the thumbs up sign. The odd one would say, as he
passed, "It looks good, nice job."
The down side: None of them stopped to chat or gather information,
which tells me their interest was nothing less than fleeting for the
moment of exposure. I am out with the organ in various locations on
average of 12 hours per week, mostly on weekends.
It would be safe to say that none I have exposed to this wonderful
instrument would have the desire to own one or even find out what made
There is no interest, leading to no demand, leading to falling prices.
Much like old cars are admired by old car collectors, player pianos,
nickelodeons and band organs are admired by fellow collectors, but no
longer attract the general public in large enough numbers to sustain
interest, demand and prices.
This is a national holiday for both Canada and the United States (July
1st and July 4th) and I will be going steady with the organ, having a
lot of fun, and spending a fortune for gasoline to tow the trailer and
power the generator. But, if I don't pay the costs myself, the organ
would be parked and, looking at the recent market place, I could not
even get part of my investment back.
Times change as the years roll by and when you realise that a lot of
folk today do not even know what a phonograph record is, there really
can't be much surprise that interest in a paper roll operated
mechanical monster, just no longer has drawing power.
Aylmer, Ontario, Canada