I hope you can help me with the value and market interest of my Symphonion. It is 20 x 16 x 11 inches and works when a nickel is inserted in the coin slot. I also have 22 13.5 inch steel disks.
Tabletop music boxes evolved from clock and watchmakers. As early as the 16th century, a Flemish clockmaker developed a clock with a central cylinder. Pins covering this cylinder hit tiny tuned bells to produce recognizable music (rather than simple chimes). The genius of his invention was the removable pins which could be placed anywhere on the pierced cylinder to produce custom music.
The clockwork mechanism led to the development of the cylinder music box. These music boxes contained large horizontal pinned cylinders. As the cylinder revolved, pins would strike tuned metal combs. Owned only by the wealthy, these boxes were expensive and limited to the tune programmed into the cylinders. Some boxes featured multiple cylinders, but the mechanics of swapping out one for another was awkward.
Music boxes playing flat disks like Symphonion were more user friendly and less expensive to produce than the cylinder music box. In both cases, tuned metal combs have their teeth plucked by precisely placed pins. The genius of these music players was the shaft drive rotating a plate, which enabled each machine to use interchangeable disks. The relatively modest price and easy storage of the steel or zinc disks meant that consumers could enjoy a huge range of music with the same machine.
Your machine was made by the Symphonion Musikwerks, the German company, which patented the star flywheel vital to the workings of these music boxes. They were started manufacturing and marketing these in 1880; yours is a little later, perhaps 1895 or so.
At some point, Symphonion split into two companies: Symphonion and Polyphon. In 1892, Polyphon employee Gustave Brachhausen left Germany for New to start the Regina Music Box Company. To keep customers and prevent competition, each music box company produced their own disks: differences in diameters meant that disks made for Symphonion, for example, would not play on a Regina.
Most boxes seen on the market today are by Regina and the term has become an almost generic term for flat disk music boxes. In evaluating these machines, one has to look at the condition of the combs: if any teeth are missing that note is missed; the complexity of the music and whether it is a single comb or double comb machine. Additionally, the winding mechanism needs to work smoothly and the cabinet should be in good condition.
Your machine is a coin-operated model, meaning it was used in a public place, a tavern or a pool hall. These automatons saw much harder use than home models and are, consequently much scarcer.
On the market today, a Symphonion Music box with 22 disks would sell in the $800-1500 range. Your machine, though, because it’s a coin-operated model, would sell for more. I’d estimate it to sell in the $2000 to $4000 range.