Questions & Answers
Introduction for Folks Newly Interested in Jukeboxes
If you are just cruising the Web and decided you might be interested
in jukeboxes, these Questions and Answers should be for you. If
you are a knowledgeable collector you may choose to ignore this
since you already know the most of the answers ... or have your
These Questions are based 29 years of owning jukeboxes and
reflect the questions most commonly asked by people when they
either visit my home or discover that a real person actually has
a working jukebox in their home.
- Q: Why are they called "Jukeboxes"?
- First off, manufacturers did not call them "jukeboxes",
they called them Automatic Coin-Operated Phonographs (or Automatic
Phonographs, or Coin-Operated Phonographs). The term "jukebox"
appeared in the 1930's and originated in the southern United
States. Conventional wisdom (for whatever that is worth) has
determined that the origin either comes from the African word
"joot" (meaning to dance), "jute" (a fibrous
product grown in the south) or "jook" which is a word
used by descendants of African slaves and meant "disorderly
or wicked" ... a "jook house" was a term used
to describe out of the way shacks used by southern field workers
for dancing, drinking and also as brothels. So take your pick
but the term clearly originated as a slang term used by southern
US field workers for their "entertainment". Interesting
enough, the "jukebox" provided the only outlet for
black recording artists, as mainstream radio was, through the
30's-40's and part of the 50's, still pretty much a "white"
- According to interviews with former Wurlitzer employee's
the first reference to Jukebox came from a Texas distributor
around 1937 ... it took "headquarters" a little time
to clarify what it meant. When Farney Wurlitzer discovered the
use of the term, he "banned" its use since he viewed
it is degrading and felt "automatic phonographs" to
be "fine things". Wurlitzer never used the term in
advertisement, until 1972 for the Model 1050 "Jukebox",
after Faney's death.
- Q: Who Invented the Jukebox?
- Q: What is that "round topped"
Jukebox I always see?
- The most popular Jukebox of all time, and the one constantly
seen on mugs, t-shirts, logos
etc is the Wurlitzer Model 1015, popularly referred to as the
"bubbler". Almost 60,000 of these jukeboxes were produced,
it was a 24 selection machine (twenty four 78 RPM records playing
one side). This jukebox was produced in 1946-47 right after World
War II and capitalized on the public's pent up demand for entertainment.
The long lasting popularity was driven by an advertising
campaign by Wurlitzer which splashed the 1015's image in
advertisements in Life, Look, Saturday Evening Post as well as
on thousands of billboards across the country. This was followed
by a "point of sale" program featuring "Johnny
One Note" which featured decals in windows, posters, coasters,
drink swizzle sticks and other items. The campaign succeeded
in making Wurlitzer a household name and enshrined the 1015 into
our culture, but was a commercial disaster. Wurlitzer had missed
the basic marketing premise of targeting your advertising to
the customer. The general public did not buy jukeboxes they played
them. The 1015 is currently still produced by Wurlitzer GmB as
the 1015 "One More Time" and is available for 45 RPMs
or CD's. Both Rock-Ola and Seeburg produced lookalikes in the
- Q: Why own a Jukebox ... I have
a Stereo System?
- Personally, I would rather you don't want a Jukebox since
it drives up the prices and diminishes the uniqueness of ME having
a jukebox. But to answer the question I will pose some questions:
- When was the last time friends and family visited just
to hear and "play with" your Stereo?
- How often to do people spontaneously Dance to your music?
- When was the last time your mind really flashed back to pleasant
memories when listing to a CD?
- Have you even sold your stereo for more than what you paid
for it or more?
- If the answers to all these questions is never then
you know a few of the reasons. The real answer to this
question really rests in how you view music. Is it just pleasant
sound or a entertainment medium? A good stereo reproduces
music, but you have to provide the entertainment. A Jukebox on
the other hand has the ability to entertain through sight, sound
- Q: Can I buy a Jukebox?
- Yes, Jukeboxes for sale can be found in many places including
your local classified ads, calling local "Operators"
(Usually found under Vending in the Classifieds), searching garage
sales, visiting antique shows or buying from a collector or dealer
and on the Internet. Dealer and collector advertisements can
be found in various Jukebox Publications.
One Warning, antique dealers who just happen to have a Jukebox
tend to overprice them and know little about what they are selling,
thinking it is more valuable than they really are.
- Q: Are Jukeboxes Hard to Find or
- No and Yes depending on what Jukebox you want. In
general right now there are more jukeboxes available than people
looking for them. This is because most people don't even consider
that they could own one. If everybody with a Recreation Room
decided to look for one they would be rare, but for now they
are not. This being said, there are many specific Jukebox models
that are in high demand by those wanting a classic machine. If
you just want any Jukebox, the supply still far outweighs
- Q: How
Many Jukeboxes Were Made?
- No one is really sure, as virtually all of the major manufacturers
were privately held companies or kept that information closely
held. A guesstimate for the Big Four is about 2 Million. As most
of the production occurred between 1930's and 1960's and most
of the manufacturers are out of business, the task of estimating
production has to be done by comparing serial numbers on existing
machines. Good estimate for each model are contained in the "Jukebox
Production" part of this site. This website is dedicated
to furthering that task.
- Q: How Much Does a Jukebox Cost?
- This is like asking how much a car costs ... it all depends
on the condition, model, rarity and age and an agreeable seller
and buyer. They can be as inexpensive as $100 to over $30,000.
But being reasonable:
- At the High End: A 1940's "Classic" Wurlitzer fully
restored 78 RPM will run between $5000 - $10,000 (Excluding the
rare Model 950 at $30,000)
- At the Middle Range: The popular Seeburgs (45 RPM) with chrome
and looks of 50's automobiles, restored will run between $2000-$5000
- At the Bottom End: A solid working machine can range from
$100 to $2000 and vary from the 1970's 200 Selection Solid State
"box" for $100-$500 to a 1950's plain looking (but
visible record mechanism) 80 Selection Machine for $600-$900
to nice looking chrome and glass machines of the 1960's with
visible mechanisms for $900-$2000. MOST Jukeboxes will be
priced in this range
- Believe it or Not, you can actually get a 1930's to 40's
Machine (78 RPM) fully Working for $1000-$2000 ... these include
AMI's, Seeburg's and some Rock-Olas. For now, collectors aren't
driving the price up, as they are focused on Wurlitzer's, but
many of these have good "eye appeal" and most have
good to great sound.
- Condition plays a major factor in
price/value: Jukeboxes are commonly graded in to 1,
2, 3, and Partsbox and similar to most hobbies, collectors often
over-grade their item.
- Grade 1 is "new" or looking new.
It is only found in rarely as NOS (new old stock) or when a professional
has restored the jukebox mechanically, electrically and cosmetically
inside and out. It is unlikely an amature can do a Grade 1 restoration.
Some parts may be reproduction, which unlike other fields of
antiques is acceptable. This is the highest value/priced machine
- Grade 2 is similar to grade 1, excellent
original condition or restored, but may have small mars, imperfections
to finish, of course works regularly and reliably, and may have
been finished in a non-original style but professionally done.
These are generally priced/valued at 50%-65% of Grade 1's, more
- Grade 3, covers a wide range of machines.
All major parts are there and work either totally or to some
degree, mechanism may need cleaning, amps rebuilding, cabinet
is solid but needs cosmetic improvement. These are generally
priced at 20%-35% of Grade 1's, more often 25%.
- Partsbox: A jukebox, where parts are missing,
probably has major cabinet problems, etc, where the cost of restoration
and new repairs would outweigh alternatives, Generally valued
at 5-15% of Grade 1's, but highly dependant on the condition,
extent of useable parts and underlying collectiblity of the machine.
Age and Style
- The age and style of a jukebox box play a part in jukebox
pricing, but style has a much more dominate role. The primary
factors of style include:
- Visible vs hidden mechanim ... visible mechanism being highly
- Shape of cabinet/dome (rectangular, angled, curved/ornate,
) ... curved/ornate valued, rectangular least valued
- Cabinet finish (e.g. fine woods, woods/lighted plastics,
chrome & glass and plain laminates) Fine woods with lighted
plastics and chrome & plastics both are highly collectible,
plain laminates least valued.
- Q: I have a jukebox, how much is it worth, where
should I sell it?
- Assuming the jukebox is in good shape physically and plays
or plays intermittantly, it will roughly be valued as follows:
- Late 1960'- Early 1980's, Rectangular Laminated Box, Non
Visible Record Mechanism ... $300-500 Dollars.
- Early 60's, Stylized Chrome and Glass, Visible Mechanism,
$500 to 1200 Dollars
- 1950's Stylized Chrome & Glass, Visible Mechanism, $700
- 1930's-40's Machine ... Too wide of a style/price Range.
- Your best bet for selling it is probably through local classifieds.
You may get more than the price ranges listed nor are they all
inclusive ... they are just given as indicators. Each machine
becomes unique when it is time to sell or buy. Due to their size/weight,
most folks try buying the jukebox locally. Unless your particular
machine is rare, you probably can't spread your selling market
very wide to justify the additional costs that will be incurred
by either the buyer or seller to move the machine great distances.
The bottom line on pricing will be local supply and demand. You
need to find a local buyer or seller. Due to the relatively low
amount of jukeboxes sold, setting firm prices is very difficult.
So advice to both the SELLER and the BUYER is do not be offended
by each others positions ... no one is trying to cheat the other.
- Q: What if the Jukebox is not working
or breaks, can I get it fixed?
- If you are reasonably handy you can fix your Jukebox yourself.
First off, Jukeboxes were designed for abuse. Expecting constant
repair and adjustment by the local operators, repair manuals
exist and are readily available.
- Most early jukeboxes (1930's-50's) are nothing but a cabinet,
gears, motors, wire and tubes. There is nothing that really can
go wrong except the machine gets knocked about and something
is out of alignment or loose. The repair maintenance manuals
have trouble shooting checklists and plenty of photos showing
how the parts are supposed to be positioned.
- Later machines (late 60's to today) used some solid state
components, and repairs are more difficult, you will either have
to find the replacement part and know what you are doing or locate
a good technician which can be found in many jukebox collector
- Earlier Machines (1930-1960's)which relied on tube based
amplifiers, normal motors and a mechanical record selection/playing
system are actually easier for an owner to repair, and be more
cost effective over time. These machines are not all
expensive, many being available for $500-$1000.
- If you need to find a local repair person, try the local
yellow pages under either jukeboxes, amusements, etc ... to my
knowledge there is no central listing of repair folks so your
best bet is to find somebody working for a local amusement merchant.
- Q: Can I find Replacement Parts
- Yes, Jukebox parts for virtually all models can be found
in Jukebox Publications. These parts
will include not only the mechanical parts but tubes, capacitors,
belts, cartridges/needles and pieces of the exterior/exterior
cabinet and trim. Also many of the more popular jukeboxes have
a full range of reproduction parts available for the cabinet.
You can find a listing of dealers in repro and old parts on the
Internet Links part of this site.
- Q: Where do they get these parts?
- Many jukeboxes exist in homes, warehouses, etc. that are
no longer working so these Jukeboxes are relegated as parts
machines. Even though they are repairable, the labor involved
does not justify the current selling price for restored or operating
machines. So the machines are "parted out". The machine
you buy in the classifieds that is "not working" would
be considered a parts machine by a dealer unless it was very
rare. You on the other hand can often justify restoring it if
you provide the labor.
- Q: Can I get one of those miniature
Jukeboxes like there used to be in Diners?
- Yes but they are NOT jukeboxes. You can buy those "Miniature Jukeboxes" you remember from
diner counters or booths for about $100-$300, they are called
"Wallboxes" or "Remote
Selectors". They are nothing more than a remote set of selection
buttons and a coin mechanism that was connected to the Jukebox.
They were advertised to provide a convenience to customers, which
they did, but their primary purpose was provide extra income,
by having several patrons pay for the same song. This worked
since at any given time, many people were making selections,
usually favoring top hits, as the jukebox would could only record
a single selection for a given song, it only played once, but
each patron figured it was his or her selection.
- Q: What type of records do Jukeboxes take?
- Most Jukeboxes either take 78 RPM (10"), 45 RPM (7")Records
or Compact Discs. Many 45 RPM Machines also took 33 RPM (7")
"Little LP's" but these records were manufactured just
for Jukebox operators and are very difficult to find. Don't*
expect to find a jukebox that plays the 12" 33 LP's.
- 78 RPMS are those "big" (10") discs
that your parents or grandparents had and also played on Victrolas
and broke easily. All jukeboxes from the first jukebox in 1927
until 1949 played 78's. Between 1950 and 1954, many jukeboxes
were available as either 78 RPM or the new 45 RPM
- 45 RPMS, the 7" singles with the big hole in
the middle, were introduced around 1950, and most jukeboxes used
them starting intermittently in 1950. By 1954 all jukeboxes used
45's and their use continued into the 1980's, though by the 80's,
they were no longer being released to the public
- Compact Discs, which have now long since replaced
most forms of records, were introduced around 1985, and Jukeboxes
using them started to be manufactured in 1987. Most of todays'
Jukeboxes use CD's, but these machines are expensive, lack any
collectible appeal and miss many of the attributes a nice jukebox
offers ... sight, sound (its too pure) and feel.
- 33 RPM "Little LP's" were designed for
the Jukebox industry and were the same size as 45 RPM. Many machines
from the 1960's until the 80's took either 45 RPM's or 33 Little
LP's. Each little LP usually had 3-4 songs per side.
- 33 RPM 12" No Commercial coin operated jukebox
was ever designed to handle these. The reason are mainly commercial,
why let somebody get 30 minutes of music for one price, and why
subject patrons to that same music? But, Seeburg did produce
a full line of "home music systems" in 33 RPM. These
machines generally handled 50 LP's and are much like old record
players, having cables to the amplifier and a selection system
that was based on a "side" of an LP. These are generally
readily available within the collecting hobby and are relatively
inexpensive ($300-$500) and many come in fine hardwood cabinets.
- Q: Can I buy records I want
for my Jukebox?
- Yes, If you don't already own records, you can buy sets of
25 records with 50 popular Hits in either 45 RPM or 78 RPM. These
have the advantage of being new, have two hits per record (vs
one on original disks) and come complete with pre-printed Jukebox
record labels. The cost is about $1.50 per song for 45's and
$2.50 for 78's. Virtually all jukebox publications advertise
these for sale, as well as being available from various sites
on the Internet. The links section of this site list a few places
that sell these record sets online.
- Q: I want a Jukebox, what should
I do next?
- Subscribe to a Jukebox Publication
to learn more and get a feel for prices and the collecting hobby.
The expense is minimal, about $30 for annual monthly subscription.
It will also provide access to guide books and other reference
materials such as manuals. Also cruise
the Internet for Jukebox Sites to get
a feel for the prices, availability and the general "feel"
of the hobby. I think you will find that the hobby, and even
those that make a living from it are not "commercially"
driven. They do it because they like it.
Developed and Maintained by Tom
Last Updated June-26-2002
Have found that all Questions, if not answered by the Q&A.
are answered somewhere on this site