Tomszone.comJukebox 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 own.

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" medium.
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 1980's.
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:
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 and feel.
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 Rare?
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 the demand.
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:
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 (100%)
  • 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 often 50%.
  • 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:
    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:
    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.
    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.
    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.

    The inComplete Jukebox

    Developed and Maintained by Tom DeCillis
    Last Updated June-26-2002
    Have found that all Questions, if not answered by the Q&A. are answered somewhere on this site