Featured Antique: Victorian Cylinder Music Box


C1880 cylinder Music box – open the lid to see the bells

I’m always amazed at the kinds of antiques that I get to see here in our city when I do appraisals. After all, we’re a land-locked city in central Alberta, not a particularly large one by the standards of the world. We’re more known for oil and gas than almost anything else – although that’s changing.

Most of my appraisals deal with objects that represent the majority of people’s more modest lifestyles but every once in a while I see something that is definitely not commonly seen – such as the Swiss – made cylinder player shown in the image above.

The wood case itself is beautiful as it is inlaid with contrasting bands of exotic woods and decorative inlay on the lid. It measures 11 x 23 inches wide and 9 1/2 inches high so it’s quite large. So far so good – but you have to see the insides to really appreciate this piece.


The lid has a paper label that lists the eight tunes that are played on this cylinder. It also identifies (in French) what type of music it is such as waltz, quadrille, or fox trot. In my research I found out that single cylinder music boxes are fairly common.  Some music boxes had multiple cylinders which is apparently more desirable to collectors. But there the difference ends. What made this box a standout was the 9 bells you can see in the photo above. This is called a music box with “Bells in Sight”.

How does it work? The music box is cranked with the handle which sets the cylinder spinning. As it spins, the little picks that stick out of the cylinder hit the “comb” you see above. Each tooth of the comb has been calibrated to have a different sound. On this music box, however, the cylinder also sets into motion a series of “hammers” in the shape of swallows and they hit the beautifully etched metal bells producing a clear, vibrant sound. That made it much more collectible and valuable.

A truly wonderful music box!



2 responses to “Featured Antique: Victorian Cylinder Music Box

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