So you want to buy an antique Regina music box.
If I offered you a stock certificate for sale you'd probably want to know something about the company. Even if you didn't consult for Goldman Sachs, you'd probably inquire about the capitalization of the company, and the management team, and what sort of dividend it has been paying, and most certainly what the stock is trading for on the stock exchange. Unless your object in life is to be the financial doppelganger of a lamb led to slaughter, you wouldn't blindly buy thousands of shares.
And yet every week we seem to get a call from someone who has just spent thousands of dollars for a Regina or other antique music box, and hasn't a clue as to what he has purchased, and now discovers he needs expensive restoration and repairs.
This site can help. And though like your friendly stockbroker I have a vested interest in making some money from your purchase, just like your friendly stockbroker I try to offer you some good advice. I have been a dealer of Regina and other antique music boxes for over 30 years.
First, I recommend that you read our tutorial on purchasing an antique music box. In four short pages you'll learn how to assess condition, estimate repairs, and otherwise impress and bedevil your spouse and children.
Then, please check out our listings of Regina and other disc music boxes for sale. If you don't see exactly what you're looking for, feel free to contact me. I remain two credits short of my master's degree as a magician, but it's always possible I could make something appear, as I am acquainted with many dealers and collectors of Regina music boxes.
Regina isn't a synonym for music box, as in "Do you have any Reginas for sale?". There were brands large and small, foreign and domestic, all capable of producing a beautiful sound. In the United States, the domestic Big Three consisted of Regina, F.G. Ottto (Criterion, Olympia, Euphonion), and Imperial Symphonion, the local branch of the Germany Symphonion company. Regina, with its factory in Rahway, New Jersey, was certainly the best known of these companies, and the largest in the United States.
Regina was established in 1892 when Gustav Brachhausen, a founder of the Polyphon company, was sent to the United States to set up a factory. The earliest Reginas were little more than Polyphons disguised in domestic cases, but soon the boxes were equipped with combs and motors fabricated in Rahway. Sales were very strong from around 1895-1903, but changing tastes and the arrival of the talking machine as a competitor for musical entertainment conspired to end the era of the music box. Many music box competitors were out of business by around 1905, although Regina was still manufacturing a few machines as late as 1919.
The exquisite short bedplate machines, introduced around 1910, are considered the finest instruments Regina ever made and the pinacle of music box development. Around the time of the First Word War Regina shifted production toward a combination phonograph-music box dubbed the Reginaphone. A few very late Reginaphones were essentially Victrola knock-offs, with no music box components whatsoever. Regina later segued into the hand-pumped vacuum cleaner business.
Reginas were not trouble-prone machines, but like all music boxes they are susceptible to wear and oxidation of the bass leads, and it is necessary to thoroughly examine the combs, leads and dampers before purchase. ( If you find yourself saying "What's that?", and don't understand what the leads and dampers do, kindly refer to our Beginner's Tutorial -- a few minutes of your time may save you thousands of dollars down the road.)
There are a few potential expensive repair issues specific to the Regina music box that I should now like to bring to your attention.
Dampers. Symptom: Your box squeaks. Or else some notes produce only a dull thump. Believe it or not, both these symptoms are caused by the same ailment -- damper disease. Regina, like most other manufacturers, employed laterally activated dampers. In Regina's case, the damper stalk was wedged against the side of the comb, and each damper had a tiny dimple pressed into it. As the star wheel moves towards the comb it rubs against the dimple, pushing the damper finger far enough away from the tooth for the note to ring true. Over the years the dimples wear and the dampers go out of adjustment. It's possible to regulate the dampers, but if your dimples are worn, Shirley Temple, your dampers won't work and the proper solution is to solder in a new damper, a process sometimes likened to do-it-yourself open heart surgery.
Star wheel gantry Sympton: You are examining a double comb machine. You rotate a star wheel. Instead of hearing both teeth ring simultaneously, you hear a PING-PING. This means that your combs are unhappy because they are out of sync, just like you don't function well on a day when you are out of sync. There are three screws under your bedplate that hold the star wheel gantry in place. The gantry contains soft solder. Over the years the screws loosen up and the gantry slides. You may, after a great deal of trial and error, be able to re-sync the gantry. Don't over torque the gantry set screws!
Motor Symptom: Motor doesn't work. I cover the usual inexpensive culprits such as the ruby in the antique music box tutorial. There are, however, a few expensive repairs that I've seen just enough of with the Regina music box to warn you about. Not a lot, but just enough.
The first is the possibility of a cracked spring barrel. You can usually get a good glimpse of the barrel by removing the slats adjacent your motorboard. If you are greeted by the ugly sight of your mainspring wedged against your sounding board you can look forward to the replacement of your barrel.
The second has to do with an intermediate style motor that was used on a small number of machines. I don't want to write an entire essay on Regina motors, and even if I did you wouldn't want to read it. I know this because I wouldn't want to read it either. So the best way I can describe this motor is to tell you that winds via a sort of large, internally geared, cast iron winding ring. This ring often cracks; you may sometimes find the pieces sitting in the bottom of the case. Nobody to my knowledge has this gear available, so unless your brother is a master welder and machinist you may be out of luck.
As I noted in the antique music box tutorial. almost all replacement parts for your Regina music box must be hand made. If your puchase requires combwork, consider the following. There are a lot of animals in the zoo. There are thousands of animal species not in the zoo. There may be thousands of species yet to be discovered. But there is no such animal as a new comb. Teeth must be individually replaced, a difficult and time-consuming task. That being said, a few more replacement parts may be available for Regina music boxes as opposed to competitor brands, and this may include items such as star wheels, dampers, dishing wheels, and lid pictures. Try Nancy Fratti for parts or Regina music box repair.
Although it's certainly possible to land a hundred year old Regina music box in original mint condition, many examples will require some degree of restoration. A complete restoration, complete enough to overpower you with the beauty of your box, might include any or all of the following: tightening of the gantry, replacement of bent star wheels, honing of the comb, retuning of the comb, replacement of broken or worn dampers, regulation and adjustment of individual dampers, polishing and adjustment of the endless screw, replacement of worn idler and dishing wheels, and refinishing. This type of restoration may consume hundreds of hours of specialized labor, and will be reflected in the price. If you see a box for sale on ebay or some other venue that is touted as "completely restored" but seems inordinately inexpensive, it is because the seller's idea of restoration differs from the musical box professional's, and that the box has probably been the victim of an amateur refinisher. The analogy would be hitting a hundred year old automobile with a can of spray paint.
Regina made a vast array of disc sizes and models. I have a complete listing of disc sizes below. Some of these discs have been reproduced by enterprising individuals over the years, and in a few cases brand new tunes have been cut. Will other brand discs swap with Regina? The following discs are interchangeable: 8 inch Regina and 8 inch Polyphon, 11 inch Regina and 11 inch Polyphon, 15.5 inch Regina and 15.5 inch Polyphon.
We also sometimes have extra original Regina music box metal disc records for sale. Please write or check our listings of music box parts and records.
Regina music box disc sizes
Twelve and quarter inch
Fifteen and a half inch
Twenty and and a half inch
Twenty seven inch.
A 32" disc was cut for a star wheel-activated piano, but this instrument is not technically a music box. Also, some discs around 12" in diameter were cut for the Regina chime clock, but this instrument again is technically a star wheel activated set of chimes, and not a music box.
I have pictures for you of a few of the Regina models, referred to as "styles" in Regina literature, but what I have is not comprehensive. If you want an authoritative listing and history of the company the standard reference is The Encyclopedia of Automated Musical Instruments by Q. David Bowers. Published and researched over 30 years ago, this book is still referred to by collectors as The Bible.
We buy, sell, and repair antique phonographs and music boxes.
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