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Jukeboxes showcase beauty in form, sound

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Stevan Miner jukebox collection

Coin-operated machines such as the jukebox make up one of the fastest-growing interests in today’s collector market.

They are being bought, restored and used for home entertainment.

Collector Steve Miner of Winnebago has about 14 jukeboxes, and Dave Close of Lake City has five.

Miner started his collection because "I’ve always had a love of music and had quite a record collection as a kid. My first jukebox was a Seeburg model 220, made in 1958. I was attracted to it because it was the first stereo model and had great looking colors and chrome."

"Little did I know at the time," Miner says, "it was one of the harder machines to restore."

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Close bought his first jukebox at Trader's Market in Elko in 1983. It was a Seeburg 1939 Luxury light-up.

"I loved the look and the color of it," he says.

The coin-operated phonograph from the 1920s opened the way for the jukebox, as the Seeburg was the first on the market with an automatic eight-tune phonograph. The 1930s Wurlitzer was the top name on the market.

As a result of the competition, some of the most beautiful jukeboxes were made in the 1940s, many of which are now the most sought-after collectibles.

According to 'Schroeder’s Antiques Price Guide," the model 1015 Wurlitzer jukebox is a classic and can be worth more than $10,000 in mint condition.

With its Gothic shape and illuminated pilasters with moving colors, this has become what people imagine when they hear the word "jukebox."

Because the 1015 model was much more popular than any other Wurlitzer models, in 1986, to celebrate their 40th anniversary, the company re-released that model.

What appeals to jukebox collectors?

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"I like Seeburg jukeboxes the most as they were basically the king of the `50s, and that’s the era of machines I remember," Miner says. "Parts are more plentiful for them and to me, they are easier to restore.

"The sound quality out of a Seeburg is superior to other models I have," he says. "I especially like the machines from 1950 to 1962 as you can see the record being played in them."

"I love the Wurlitzer classics from the `40s," Close says. "I also find the Seeburgs from the`50s desirable, and any jukebox with classic lines, colors, light and visible mechanism."

Buying a restored jukebox can be expensive. You’re not only paying for parts but also hours of hard work. When buying a jukebox, Miner says to look at the cosmetic condition first.

"Re-chroming a machine is expensive and something I can’t do myself, so I like the metal work to be in good condition," he says.

Memories associated with jukeboxes also appeal to many collectors. As Miner points out, most jukebox collectors are baby boomers who remember machines from the '50s and '60s.

There are several books on the market for people looking to learn more about jukeboxes and jukebox collecting. Miner says the main monthly publication for jukebox collectors is called Always Jukin ."

"Vintage Jukeboxes" by Christopher Pearce and "Jukebox Saturday Nights" by J. Krivine are also valuable resources. 

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"I strongly suggest doing your homework before buying," Miner says. "Know who you’re dealing with and make sure to ask a lot of questions."

If you find a jukebox you're interested in, Miner recommends getting a good chrome polish along with window cleaner for the glass.

"Once your jukebox is cleaned and working," Close add, "I recommend frequent use. Jukeboxes love to be played."

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