Treasures

Is Regina music box valuable, even with damaged cabinet?

 
 
 <span class="cutline_leadin">Sound of music:</span> Regina prospered making music boxes until the phonograph became serious competition.
Sound of music: Regina prospered making music boxes until the phonograph became serious competition.
HANDOUT / MCT

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Q: I am wondering if you have any information on this Regina music box. It was my grandmother’s and I always loved it. As a little girl I would spend hours playing with the metal discs and dancing to the music they produced. I am pretty sure this music box dates back to the late 1800s. The cabinet is in rough shape, but the mechanism still plays beautifully. Any history or value would be wonderful.

K.F.

A: The history of the Regina Music Box Co. of Rahway, N.J., really starts with the Symphonion Music Box Co. of Leipzig, Germany, when they introduced the disc-playing music box in 1885.

Two of Symphonion’s employees — Gustave Brachhausen and Paul Reissner — decided they could make better music disc boxes than Symphonion, and decided to start a rival company. They set up their own company, Polyphon Musikwerke, in 1889, and in just a short time were outselling Symphonion.

At that point the U.S. Congress struck. They enacted the McKinley Tariff of 1890 (it went into effect in 1891), which placed a high tariff on music boxes imported into the United States. The new tariff was so high that Brachhausen and Reissner decided that it would be cheaper just to move to the United States.

Brachhausen came in 1892 and leased some space in Jersey City. At first, the movements were imported from Polyphon and installed in American-made boxes, but Regina was established in Rahway in 1894.

Some sources say the year was 1895, but that may be the year that production actually began in the new factory or it may be the year that Regina actually split from Polyphon to become an independent company. In any event, Regina prospered until the phonograph became serious competition.

In 1902, the name “Music Box” was dropped from the company’s name, and the enterprise began to diversify. Other than the music boxes, Regina is mainly known for its vacuum cleaners, and, during World War II, the company manufactured bomb fuses. Regina went bankrupt in 1922, but returned to business in the 1930s — mainly with the vacuum cleaners.

The cabinet on this piece could be rather attractive if it were professionally cleaned, but DO NOT let anyone “refinish it” for any reason. We feel that most if not all refinishing processes would probably destroy the pictorial contents of what we have seen described as “decals.”

It is our opinion that this design was meant to mimic Vernis Martin, which is a type of imitation lacquer associated with 18th century brothers Guillaume and Etienne-Simon Martin. This type of decoration was also popular in the early 20th century when this Regina music box was manufactured.

As K.F. pointed out, the cabinet of this example is in rather rough condition — and she is not mistaken. It has a crack in the lid and this will hurt the value somewhat. We did find one auction value for a piece that is extremely similar to the example owned by K.F. It too had a cracked lid and the surface of the cabinet appeared to need cleaning as well, but on March 17, 2012, Morphy Auction in Denver, Pa., sold it for $4,750. We feel that an insurance replacement value on this piece would be somewhat higher in the $6,000 to $8,000 range.

Read more Home & Garden stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Dormify's Black Diamond and Stripe Bed Set is reversible with grey diamonds on one side and bold stripes on the other at $69. For a loft look, install temporary brick wallpaper ($98/roll) and hang graphic posters with washi or painter's tape.

    Home away from home

    How to furnish and decorate a dorm room

    Today, creating a dorm-away-from-home requires little more than a simple college try. Many university dormitories are often more akin to collegiate cells, with white walls and institutional furniture design that doesn’t always make the grade.

  • Ask Angie

    How to check a contractor’s references

    Q: When I contact contractor references, what should I ask?

  • Washington Report

    Stuck in the credit score logjam

    Homeownership is now at its lowest level since 1995, in part because so many buyers can’t get past lenders’ severe underwriting requirements.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category