Sounds From The Past: A Vintage Music Box
Music boxes have a long and interesting history. Their rise to popularity began in the 19th century, and all these years later you can find a music box in nearly any home. The modern incarnations of music boxes come in so many shapes and sizes, one might think that they would make vintage music boxes obsolete. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. The serious collectors of music boxes know that they would be remiss if they did not have at least one vintage music box in their collection.
We have all seen the music box that, when opened, reveals a dancing ballerina who performs gracefully to the twinkling sound of the music box. As fun as such a display can be it has nothing on its ancestors. How about opening the lid and revealing a miniature town, complete with a functioning train that circles the town on its own set of rails, all to the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad?” Or perhaps you prefer the subtle elegance of a handcrafted cylindrical wood cabinet with a circular glass cover that reveals the intricate musical movement inside? Such is the diversity of the vintage music box. But whether your interest lies in the whimsical novelty of a railroad, or the sublime craftsmanship of a Swiss cylinder, you need to understand a few basics regarding a vintage music box.
The vintage music box can be divided into two basic forms: the disk and the cylinder. The first music boxes used cylinders, and later versions utilized the less expensive and more easily manufactured disks. In both versions, tiny prongs on the cylinder or disk would pluck the teeth of a metal comb in the music box, and it was the vibration which ensued that created the tone of a musical note. If you are serious about purchasing, or simply understanding, the vintage music box, then you must turn your attention to the comb.
The key to beautiful music in your music box is the integrity of the comb. Are all the teeth intact? Are they bent? Do they have small pits that indicate previous repairs? Are they rusty? The answers to those questions will clue you in to the quality of the music box you are examining. Another thing to look for is a large comb. A small comb usually means a small sound with a limited range of notes as well. It is important to avoid falling in love with a vintage music box based on how it looks while ignoring how it sounds. Good quality music boxes have a quality musical movement.
The vintage music box has a broad appeal and is readily available at antique shops and online brokers. Be sure to do your homework before purchasing a vintage music box because they can costs thousands of dollars, or more! But a vintage music box is more than just an heirloom or conversation piece; it is an investment that can pay dividends in its monetary value and entertainment value as well.