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MMD > Archives > February 1997 > 1997.02.05 > 16Prev  Next

Value of Nickelodeons
By Stephen Kent Goodman

Re Nelson- Wiggen and Seeburg values -- As true with most things, the familiar always takes precedence. There are simply more Seeburg instruments around than NWs. Seeburgs are famous for colorful art glass, elaborate and often gilded case components and most of the cases were quarter-sawn oak veneered, the most popular "antique" veneer. On the other hand, the NWs had mostly mahogany or walnut cases (actually of higher class than quartered oak), used mostly beveled glass with curtains behind to give them a real upscale, classy and chaste appearance.

The NWs expression, multiplexing and various other systems were more sophisticated and generally better constructed than Seeburg counterparts, truly earning them their title of " the better automatic". This value phenomena is also present with other makes as well. I think the Berry-Wood Auto-Orchestras are superior both in construction and musical arrangements to any Wurlitzer Orchestra Piano or Seeburg G, H or L orchestra. But which has the higher value to most collectors?

As far as the general market for instruments these days, a thought or two. These instruments are naturally associated with a certain style of music- mainly non-amplified and non-rock. Most collectors are over age 50. Those born after 1950 are members of the first generation that has grown up with amplified guitars and electronic instruments and rock as the musical standard.

I cannot imagine a fine Hupfeld Helios (or even a Seeburg style H, for that matter!) playing contemporary music, such as Rap or Grunge (maybe with the exception of an Arburo Jazz Orchestra! -- Just kidding ;-) ). Even hearing Beatles songs (now over 30 years old!) on an 88n player sounds strangely anachronistic and out of character (at least to my ears). Bottom line -- if a hobby or collecting field is to grow, it must appeal and be made accessible to a continual influx of younger potential devotees.

As the music (at least the good stuff, I think) appeals to a very limited number of younger people, and as most collections are inaccessible by the public, the "handwriting is on the wall" for the collecting of mechanical musical instruments. Add to this the nearly universal accessibility that the Internet has provided (along with sound cards and synthesizers) to people of all ages in the way of Midi files, and the marketing efforts of Yamaha and their Disklavier (r), and it isn't a pretty picture for the future.

I'm not trying to be a "gloomy Gus" here -- believe me, I have a lot at stake both with the instruments and the "old-timey" music which I compose and arrange. No one wants to see the hobby grow and prosper more than I, but I simply cannot ignore what is happening culturally. I feel it has less to do with the current soft tangible assets market than the general cultural/historical apathy in our (U.S.) society.


S. K. Goodman

(Message sent Wed 5 Feb 1997, 19:40:58 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Nickelodeons, Value

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