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In 1889 Louis Glass and William S. Arnold of San Francisco invented a music machine that played songs using a wax cylinder phonograph. The machine would only play if a nickel was put in it, so it was called "The nickel-in-the-slot phonograph." In 1906, the Gabel Automatic Entertainer became the first actual jukebox. It was hand-cranked, amplified so more than one person could listen, and offered customers a selection of 10 songs on discs instead of wax cylinders.
The first electric music machine was produced by the Automatic Music Instrument Company (AMI) in 1927. The machines became especially popular during Prohibition, when speakeasies needed music for their customers but could not afford to hire live bands. Four companies dominated the jukebox industry during the 1930s and 1940s: AMI, Wurlitzer, Seeburg, and Rock-Ola. The Rock-Ola company still manufactures jukeboxes today.
Collectors are attracted to vintage jukeboxes by their colorful style and nostalgic music. Jukeboxes that play more selections are more desirable to collectors, but brand and style are also factors. A used jukebox, of course, must be in working condition to be of any value. Restoration and maintenance of these vintage pieces is essential.
The Wurlitzer model 1015 from 1946 is the most famous jukebox. This piece, with its rounded top and bubble tubes, is often used as the "jukebox" image in advertising and other media. An original Wurlitzer 1015, restored, sells for over $12,000
The term "jukebox" wasn't used for these music machines until about 1940. It was derived from the phrase "juke joint," which was a slang term for establishments that served as taverns and dance halls for African Americans in the deep south during the Jim Crow era
In 2001, a 1942 Wurlitzer model 1950 sold at auction by Christie's for $22,325, making it one of the most expensive jukeboxes ever sold