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MMD > Archives > November 1997 > 1997.11.03 > 01Prev  Next

Value of Nicole Freres Music Boxes
By Nancy Fratti

To Michael Grosser regarding his Nicole box: First -- I'm glad you
rescued the Nicole!

Jody's right: for an appraisal you have to go to a qualified dealer
in musical boxes.  Most general-line antique dealers simply have no
realistic idea of what price different types of musical boxes are
bringing.  They have little if no recognition of variations in quality
of boxes either; to them, if you have a sweet sounding 13" Nicole or a
plunky sounding 13" Paillard, it makes no difference -- they'll price
them the same!

Unfortunately, there are no musical box dealers near you.  There was a
music box & phonograph swap meet in Bound Brook, NJ for the last few
years, but the promoter is moving it somewhere else next year.  Perhaps
around the Philadelphia area, maybe's not known yet.

My suggestion would be to contact me around March next year and I can
tell you where the show will be held.  You can then bring the box to the
show and have myself, or any of the other musical box dealers look at it
and tell you what they think of it.

There are many variations on the theme of quality and condition.  What
seems to be in wonderful playing condition to the owner of just one box,
with no basis of comparison, might sound passable to someone who is very
familiar with boxes and has heard hundreds of them.

I can't tell you how many times I've been told by a box owner how the box
is in 'perfect condition' and sounds lovely, only to listen to it and
hear all the damper squeaks and sometimes even unrecognizable tunes.  It
is understandable -- the owners have never heard the box play any
differently and have never heard a restored musical box play, so they
have no way of knowing how it is really supposed to sound!

According to Arthur Ord-Hume's book (and he got this information from
many years of research by another music box person), serial # 53,000
was made AFTER 1902.  Nicole went out of business in 1906.

Unfortunately all musical boxes marked "Nicole Freres" were not
necessarily MADE by Nicole.  Nicole had showrooms in many parts of the
world and sold boxes by other makers.  They were business-oriented enough
to put their name on/in the boxes, sometimes in many places, leading to
confusion as to WHO actually made the box.

I once restored an interchangeable cylinder box for a man in Ohio.  There
were no fewer than 5 Nicole stickers in various places in the case.  I
immediately recognized the mechanism as a Paillard invention.  Naturally,
I told the owner this, thinking he would like to know the real maker of
the box.

He still insisted it was made by Nicole.  I didn't argue with him;
I restored the box and Xeroxed a copy of the patent for the mechanism,
a patent awarded to Paillard.  He acknowledged the patent, but still
insisted that HIS was a Nicole!

Nicole, in the early days of the keywind boxes, was one of the more
highly respected names for quality musical boxes.  As the industry grew,
that quality factor changed dramatically.  The musical box industry was
much like our auto industry -- there are Lincoln Mark V's and there are
Ford Escorts.  They are all made by the same company, but one is
definitely more superior in quality to the other.

Nicole made some fabulous boxes, but they also made some of what I term
'typical commercial quality boxes'.  They also sold other brand boxes and
put their name on them.

The point being, just because a box says Nicole, doesn't mean (1) that it
is a Nicole and (2) that it is a superior quality box.

And let's not forget that no matter what quality a box started out being,
it can be subject to the screwdrivers and hammers of years of well-
meaning tinkerers, and may currently be a mere shadow of its original

An accurate appraisal cannot be made with a verbal description from
a customer.  Any musical box has to be seen and heard in order to be
accurately appraised.

If you want to take a trip into NYC, you can take the box to Rita Ford's
Music Boxes at 19 E. 65th St.  Gerry Wright owns the shop now and can
give you an appraisal on it.

If you have any further questions, I'd be happy to answer them for you!


Nancy Fratti - Panchronia Antiquities
PO BOX 210 - Whitehall, NY 12887-0210 USA
518-282-9770  or fax: 518-282-9800
Disc & Cylinder Musical Boxes - Musical Box Restoration Supplies

(Message sent Mon 3 Nov 1997, 13:48:37 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Boxes, Freres, Music, Nicole, Value

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