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Sheet Music

The publication and sale of music on paper began in the 15th century after the invention of the printing press. European publishers worked out different methods for printing music during the 16th and 17th centuries. The first publisher to specialize in printed music was Bernhard Christoph Breitkopf of Leipzig, Germany. He founded his printing firm in 1719 and decided to specialize in printing music in 1754. In 1795, Gottfried Christoph Härtel acquired the company and it was renamed Breitkopf & Härtel, now the oldest music publishing house in existence.

In the United States, sheet music became popular after the American Revolution, when European music publishers immigrated to the United States and opened shops in Philadelphia, Boston, New York, and Baltimore. Sheet music became even more popular after the Civil War. By 1880, publishers began to print advertising on sheet music. They also included pieces of music as promotional items, including pull-out sections of newspapers. Sheet music hit its peak during the decade of 1900 to 1910.

Vintage sheet music is easy and economical for collectors to acquire, as so much of it was produced. Collectors enjoy these pieces due to their often colorful cover art and significance in modern music history. The value of vintage sheet music depends on its rarity and its condition, not its age. Sheet music produced in the United States after 1880 was so plentiful that much of it has little value today.


Quick Facts

  • The publishing house of Breitkopf and Härtel published many original works of famous composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert and Wagner
  • A copy of the "Buffalo Bill March" by Henry Weinskowitz, published about 1880 picturing Buffalo Bill on the cover was sold by Heritage Auctions in 2010 for $658
  • In 2007, a collection of 14 pieces of Confederate sheet music from the American Civil War era was sold by Heritage Auctions for $4,481.25

Recommended Items at Auction

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2 Antique Lithographic Sheet Music Kanes Funeral March, The Ocean Telegraph March
Dec 03, 10:00 AM MST
2 Antique Lithographic Sheet Music Kanes Funeral March, The Ocean Telegraph March
by Regency Antique Books
Est: $100- $120
$801 Bid
Circa 1890s Collection of 11 French Sheet Music, Les Marsouins, Moustches Polka & Others
Dec 03, 10:00 AM MST
Circa 1890s Collection of 11 French Sheet Music, Les Marsouins, Moustches Polka & Others
by Regency Antique Books
Est: $75- $100
$500 Bids
Vintage sheet music - Irving Berlin, Bob Hope
Dec 28, 6:00 PM EST
Vintage sheet music - Irving Berlin, Bob Hope
by Captain Ahab's Antiques
Est: $30- $65
$250 Bids
1849 Goldrush Antique Sheet Music California Quick Step Introducing the Popular Air of Uncle Ned
Dec 03, 10:00 AM MST
1849 Goldrush Antique Sheet Music California Quick Step Introducing the Popular Air of Uncle Ned
by Regency Antique Books
Est: $150- $200
$1000 Bids
1890s A Mon Ami Mercadier Mimi Sheet Music, Henri Gabriel Ibels Lithograph
Dec 03, 10:00 AM MST
1890s A Mon Ami Mercadier Mimi Sheet Music, Henri Gabriel Ibels Lithograph
by Regency Antique Books
Est: $30- $40
$200 Bids
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Medieval 16th C. Antiphony Music Sheet
Dec 06, 9:00 AM EST
Medieval 16th C. Antiphony Music Sheet
by Lion and Unicorn
Est: $10- $200
$100 Bids
5 Antique Lithographic Sheet Music Mexican War Era Hero’s Quickstep Hewitt’s Quickstep & Others
Dec 03, 10:00 AM MST
5 Antique Lithographic Sheet Music Mexican War Era Hero’s Quickstep Hewitt’s Quickstep & Others
by Regency Antique Books
Est: $75- $100
$500 Bids
1941 racist anti Japanese sheet music from WWII
Dec 04, 10:00 AM EST
1941 racist anti Japanese sheet music from WWII
by Yardley Antiques
Est: $300- $500
$2200 Bids
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2 FRAMED GREGORIAN HYMNAL MUSIC SHEETS
Dec 07, 10:00 AM EST
2 FRAMED GREGORIAN HYMNAL MUSIC SHEETS
by Litchfield Auctions
Est: $200- $300
$1000 Bids
MY CAVALCADE OF OLD SONGS, 1900s (50+)
Dec 12, 7:00 PM EST
MY CAVALCADE OF OLD SONGS, 1900s (50+)
by Kensington Estate Auctions
Est: $200- $300
$1000 Bids
IRVING BERLIN - 2 sheet musics 1926 and 1933
Dec 15, 2:00 PM EST
IRVING BERLIN - 2 sheet musics 1926 and 1933
by East Coast Books
Est: $50- $75
$200 Bids
16th Century Ink and Gouache on Vellum
Dec 04, 1:00 PM EST
16th Century Ink and Gouache on Vellum
by Helmuth Stone
Est: $300- $500
$1500 Bids
Vibes One Sheet Cyndi Lauper Jeff Goldblum
Dec 09, 3:00 PM EST
Vibes One Sheet Cyndi Lauper Jeff Goldblum
by Plain City Auction
Est: $10- $500
$50 Bids
Lot of 10 Music Articles
Dec 04, 1:00 PM EST
Lot of 10 Music Articles
by Designer Homes of Central Florida
Est: $15- $150
$150 Bids
Group of sheet music
Dec 04, 11:30 PM EST
Group of sheet music
by Baker's Antiques and Auctions
Est: $40- $50
$250 Bids
Group of pictures, prints, sheet music and sign
Dec 04, 11:30 PM EST
Group of pictures, prints, sheet music and sign
by Baker's Antiques and Auctions
Est: $150- $200
$750 Bids
MUSIC - SOTHEBYS - 1981 Fine Books and Manuscripts
Dec 15, 2:00 PM EST
MUSIC - SOTHEBYS - 1981 Fine Books and Manuscripts
by East Coast Books
Est: $25- $35
$100 Bids
MUSIQUE. ROUSSEAU (Jean-Jacques) : Page de partition manuscrite de la main de l’écrivain
Dec 05, 12:00 PM CET
MUSIQUE. ROUSSEAU (Jean-Jacques) : Page de partition manuscrite de la main de l’écrivain
by Geneve Encheres
Est: CHF1,000- CHF1,500
CHF8000 Bids
Early firemans sheet music booklet
Dec 13, 11:30 PM EST
Early firemans sheet music booklet
by Baker's Antiques and Auctions
Est: $75- $100
$500 Bids
Antique Steamboat Bill Sheet Music
Dec 03, 10:00 AM MST
Antique Steamboat Bill Sheet Music
by EJ'S Auction & Appraisal
Est: $0- $0
$100 Bids
1847 Ludwig Leichhardt Sheet Music
Dec 02, 11:00 AM AEDT
1847 Ludwig Leichhardt Sheet Music
by Sydney Rare Book Auctions
Est: AUD500- AUD750
AUD4000 Bids
Pair of 16th C. Ink and Gouache Musical Sheets
Dec 04, 1:00 PM EST
Pair of 16th C. Ink and Gouache Musical Sheets
by Helmuth Stone
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Sheet Music


Regency Antique Books

Regency Antique Books

East Coast Books

East Coast Books

Helmuth Stone

Helmuth Stone