Ed Chaban's posting about the attitude and greed of some collectors
hit home with me. I was a member of the Musical Box Society in 1949,
the year it was founded by my dear friend Ruth Bornand. I was an early
member of AMICA when it was still just a Bay Area operation.
At one point they named me an Honorary or Life Member. I appreciated
the honor, although I really didn't see why it was made. But I was
subsequently browbeaten by the officers of the group, and I resigned
in dismay. I had been very active for years; a perusal of the MBS 25th
Anniversary Silver Collection will show my name cropping up frequently.
I loved the meetings and the many dear friends I made in the hobby.
I became disgusted with these organizations, when the members' attitudes
shifted from being in love with the instruments and respecting the
craftsmanship of the workers who prepared the devices, inlaid cases,
beautiful music, etc. There was -- and there remains for me -- a romance
about these marvelous devices into which many people had poured their
life's love and energies.
By the middle of the 20th century, one could find small but decent
Swiss music boxes (invariably Mermods, the big producer) and working
disc boxes (usually Reginas, the biggest of them all) for $15 or $30
or so. In the ensuing 20 years, as recognition of the hobby grew, the
prices skyrocketed into the mid-hundreds, and numerous machines into
prices above $10,000.
In connection with my work, I traveled all over our country in the
1960s, carrying with me the membership list of MBS. Reaching a new
town, I contacted a local member and nearly always was warmly invited
for a dinner or afternoon to share our love. Often the host warmed
to my suggestion that other local members be invited. The result was
expansion of the MBS from basically a mid-Atlantic operation to a
Society with chapters around the nation, which grew out of those
meetings. Our late friend, President Harvey Roehl, of the Society
honored me for this, but most of the other members seemed totally
Meetings were then held in various homes in each chapter's areas,
a couple of them in ours. As I lived in New Jersey, most of those
I attended were in the original MBS area within 150 miles of New York
City. In one home, we were shown extravagant glass display cases for
the owner's huge mass of collectibles, while he took special pains to
explain the details of his very expensive burglar-alarm system. From
that point on, I felt the attitude of many of the members (thankfully,
not all) reflected "money-money-money" rather than the love of the
hobby and its members.
Since I was all of 13 when I joined, the older members were tutors and
role models for me. As the years rolled on, they grew older and passed
on. I don't believe any of the original members still live, and I
dropped my membership after being insulted, for one too many times,
by the newer "in" people in the groups' hierarchy.
I've seen the same thing happen in several collecting "fan clubs".
I miss the comradeship, warmth and fun which pervaded the meetings of
MBS and AMICA up until the 1970s.
Could this be reversed? Sure. Will it be? I doubt it very much.
Very sad. Ed, you're right on target.