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Collecting Music Boxes: Tips & Tricks for Starting a Collection

Collecting Music Boxes: Tips & Tricks for Starting a Collection

Posted by Boris Muchnik on May 22nd 2023

While music boxes originated in the late 1700s in Switzerland, by the 1900s, they were a common household item that everybody owned. However, due to the advent of advanced musical technology, many people quickly transitioned to other forms of musical devices, including gramophones, turntables, radios, and, eventually, smartphones.

Even though we have alternative music listening devices, people’s interest in vintage and antique creations has turned our collective attention back to music boxes and their unique history. If you’re considering starting a collection of them, you’re in good company! Many people love finding unusual, whimsical, and novelty boxes just as much as exploring the traditional varieties from Switzerland, Japan, and Italy.

Learn more about collecting music boxes and start your own treasure trove of history when you read this blog today.

1. Shop Quality Boxes

Not every music box is made equal! If you want an heirloom quality box, look for those boxes that come from reputable companies, like Reuge, from Sorrento, Ercolano, San Francisco Music Box Company, and Sankyo.

The brand of music box you buy may also determine the style. For example, traditional Italian boxes, like those from Sorrento or Ercolano, generally only work with wood inlay, so it would be a rare thing to break away from this theme. On the other hand, Sankyo and Reuge are mainly responsible for the mechanical movement inside the box, so you may find a wide variety of themes and styles with movements from these brands.

2. Choose a Theme

Do you want an eclectic collection of all varieties, sizes, shapes, and styles? Amazing! You can start buying any music box that grabs your attention. But we recommend settling on a theme to create a cohesive display when you start collecting music boxes. There are a few popular categories to consider, including:

You might also want to think about considering music boxes with modern or unique elements, like USB music modules, picture frame music boxes, and no-compartment music boxes.

3. Think About Note Sizes

Another important thing to consider when collecting music boxes is note sizes. The note size will determine the quality of the melody and the length of the song and how much of it you’ll hear. With smaller note sizes, your mechanical movement has a limited number of notes it can play — resulting in a tinkling music style you might recognize from antique music boxes with less music played. Higher note movements have richer, fuller sounds because they have more notes to play, and in-turn play more of the verse. Some of the most common note sizes include:

Generally, the higher note boxes are more expensive because they need more precise engineering.

4. Dating a Music Box

music module with Beatles melody

If you want to start collecting music boxes from a particular era, you’ll need to learn a little bit about dating the music box. While you can rely on some stores to provide a box’s history, if you’ve sourced them from a garage or estate sale, you’ll need to do some of your own research. One of the easiest ways to date a music box is by looking a the combs (the part that plucks the notes on the cylinder).

  • Laminated Comb: 1796-1810
  • Singel Grouping on a Sectional Comb: 1796-1820
  • Double Grouping on a Sectional Comb: 1810-1820
  • Single Piece on a Sectional Comb: 1820 - Today

Another element you can look at for dating your music box is the cylinder. If it’s hollow or waxless, it likely predates 1820. You might also be able to find hallmarks or maker’s marks to determine who made the music box and when.

Start Your Collection

Are you ready to start collecting music boxes and exploring your options? Music Box Attic has one of the largest selections available online, with tons of themes, brands, styles, and sizes. Explore our entire store to find common music boxes, as well as one-of-a-kind designs.

Have questions about music boxes? We have answers. You can always reach out to our team of knowledgeable customer service representatives for more personalized guidance.

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