Owning A Piece Of History: Why Are Jukeboxes So Hot In The Collector Market?

Transport yourself back into the 80s, a fistful of dimes in your pocket as you walk up to your local diner’s jukebox and search for that perfect song to get your groove on.

While jukeboxes have been around for decades with some as old as our grandparents, there still remains an appeal for both classic and postmodern jukeboxes even up to this day. Beyond being able to provide audiophiles with a more immersive music listening experience, there are plenty of other reasons why jukeboxes still hold an appeal and appreciating value for all kinds of collectors. In fact, I would argue that the resale price for most jukeboxes can range up to two to three times its original market price depending on its condition, the era it was made in, and many other factors like design, playing mechanisms, and more. 

With this, the TMC editorial team has decided to get down to business and work out what is it that still makes jukeboxes so appealing even in the modern age of technology. 


Historical Significance

Going back to the dawn and rise of jazz that eventually gave birth to the rock n’ roll that we know and love, it would be hard for many of us to disassociate this monumental movement in music from these notorious sound machines. 

Starting out in juke joints before finding their place in every diner and bar they could find, jukebox music influenced a generation’s worth of music tastes by deviating away from standard radio tracks. With the ability for customers to choose what they wanted to listen to and bar/diner owners catering towards this demand, sales in record industries eventually began to overperform all other competitors. Jukeboxes were thriving, and this demand also gave way to bigger, better, and flashier models as times progressed. 

A representation of the American Dream during the rise of industrialisation.

Jukeboxes were also a physical representation of their time. With their bright, flashy colours, and chrome-coloured linings that mimicked automobiles, they practically transport you back to a time in history many of us have only been able to read about in textbooks. Designs did become more streamlined as we neared the early 90s, but jukeboxes had already become a distinct feature of the era, giving birth to the current design model of most postmodern jukeboxes that are now available.

Online searches and pixelated images themselves do no justice towards the splendour of a jukebox in real life, and I would argue that despite the years of modernisation and rapid advancements in technology, jukeboxes still manage to create wonderful moments with music that are unreplicable by any other modern music machine.  


Brand Representation

Nowadays, many avid collectors will usually gravitate towards what are considered the ‘Golden’ brands: Wurlitzer, Rock-Ola, Seeburg, and AMi. Whether it’s due to their historical significance or their unique designs that remain unreplicated in our current era, it’s certainly hard to deny the significance these brands brought to jukebox history.

Especially for collectors, out-of-production brands—Wurlitzer, Seeburg, and AMi—have an increased value on the market due to their scarcity and the difficulties you’d face to find either parts or someone with the expertise to make it work the same as the day it was produced. However, even the ‘newer’ Sound Leisure—which still has its own history as the first and only British jukebox crafters—has been steadily seeing a rise of demand and love from casual customers and collectors alike due to their controlled quality of keeping everything handcrafted amongst their small team and factory based in Reeds, England. 

Even if you might dispute that brand loyalty or competition is hardly a thing in an industry where there are only two major jukebox manufacturers left, collectors like Ed Liss give us a glimpse into the impact that these brands had during both their heydays and even now. An item’s value is what the collector purchasing it deems it to be, rather than a market listing, so such personal items like jukeboxes are usually big-ticket items for most collectors and enthusiasts. 

Close To The Heart: Ed Liss shares the effort and value behind restoring his purchase of the 1647 Wurlitzer 1015.


Recent Popularity Of Analogue In The Modern World

In a world of modernisation and accessibility, people are now craving the nostalgic. Whether it’s analogue equipment, TV shows set in the 80s or 90s,  fountain pens over digital notes, and even vinyl records instead of MP3 files, there has been a rising interest in all things vintage or analogue over the last decade amongst both young and old. 

But what does this mean, exactly?

The rise in technology has certainly made things convenient, but increasing digitalisation has made us as human beings crave the tactile experience of analogue, a unique experience to each individual. Especially with a younger generation that has grown up surrounded by instant but monotonous accessibility of the internet, digitalisation cannot truly mimic the ways in which we experience analogue technology. It’s like an individualised experience that’s catered just for you, bespoke even if you might be in the same room listening to it with someone else. 

While it can be argued that this nostalgia phenomenon is definitely not considered something new, it has still given people a newfound appreciation of jukeboxes and all things vinyl. This is especially true for vinyl and jukeboxes in general as they combine what is considered the best of both worlds to create what I label a ‘tactile music experience’—the best description I can give to the rich sound and personality that jukeboxes breathe into the music it plays to give it its own sort of life. 

As such, many youngsters all around the world are now investing in jukeboxes for personal listening, even willing to go the extra mile to get them restored to bring us back to that era of nostalgia and simpler times. To me, this is the best indicator of why the price range for collectors in the jukebox market still remains as strong as ever.

Demand VS Supply

I would call this the most straightforward point of all in why jukeboxes are so favoured amongst collectors. Marketing and Economics 101 would tell you that when the demand for something is greater than its supply, prices will increase to reflect that. This is also true for retro jukeboxes, where production lines have been stopped for decades. If a collector is also looking for jukeboxes within a specific era, model, or design, this can make the demand even higher. 

Furthermore, newer jukeboxes are usually made to order or only produced a limited number of models to ensure each jukebox retains its value. This is another reason why collectors will prize retro jukeboxes that have been maintained and are in working, playable condition, easily fetching a price that is worth a few ten thousand dollars!

All in all, this is the tip of the iceberg of why jukeboxes still remain so highly sought after by collectors even now and there are plenty other reasons why jukeboxes are and will most probably remain valuable collector items in the future. While its price may be subjective to each individual, the significance and tenacity that jukeboxes have held throughout these decades will only make their value grow more in the years to come.


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