> Hello. I have a Criterion music box that I'm looking for more
> information on. It is a table top version. It has its own
> stand that also houses the discs. The disc size is 15-1/2 inches
> (I have 53 of them), seems to have one comb, is in very good
> condition. There are cherubs playing instruments on the underside
> of the lid. Trying to find out the date of it, who made it, and
> what value it may have, sight unseen. Thank You. Mike LaClaire
Dear Mike: From several reference sources I have, I can tell you the
following about your Criterion musical box.
They were made in America, in New Jersey, by the firm of F. G. Otto &
Sons. The inventor was Ferdinand Schaub, who was in Otto's employ. It
was marketed initially by M. J. Paillard of New York in November, 1896.
Like a previous brand that Otto manufactured, this one was also
challenged by the Regina Company (maker of the Regina Music Box) over
patent infringements, and was replaced by another brand, the Olympia.
Olympias began to appear in 1898.
There were six different sizes of the Criterion brand, including 8-3/4
inch, 10-1/2 inch, 11-5/8 inch, 14 inch, 15-1/2 inch and 20-1/2 inch,
these being the diameter of the discs they played. The discs were made
of zinc on all but the smallest size machine; those were made of steel.
The discs are driven by perforations around the edge of the disc except
for the smallest size which was driven by a center spindle. The
rectangle shaped edge-drive perforations are reinforced on the leading
edge by the metal that was punched for the perforation itself.
Most of the Criterion music boxes were of the single comb design,
although many of the larger size boxes were available (and are found
today) with double combs. Their cases were either mahogany or oak,
most having pressed wood trim and carved panels in the front and sides.
Matching tables and disc storage bins were also available, such as the
one you have. They are a good thing to have when storing a quantity of
discs to keep them from getting damaged.
So, as to the date of manufacture, it is safe to say that it was made
between 1896 and 1898. As for its value (sight unseen), your machine
might fetch anywhere between $3,000 to $6,000 at auction or by private
sale. You have a nice instrument and I know you will enjoy its music
for many years to come.
The sources for this information are: Q. David Bowers' "Encyclopedia of
Automatic Musical Instruments" and Arthur W.J.G. Ord-Hume's "The
Musical Box, A Guide For Collectors."