International Music Company Ukelin
Appraised Value: $50 (1998)
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Period / Style: 1920s
Value Range: $50
Appraisal Video: (2:03)
Vice President & Department Head, Musical Instruments
GUEST: It originally belonged to the lady who baby-sat for me when I was a child.
APPRAISER: Have you ever tried to play this musical instrument?
GUEST: Uh, I looked through the directions booklet and tried a little bit, but without the bow, I had a difficult time with it.
APPRAISER: Well, that difficult time of playing this is part of the story of this instrument. Um, it's...over the three years we've been traveling around on the Roadshow, I've seen these in just about every city we've gone to, and that's also part of the story. These instruments, sold under the name of "ukelin" sometimes "harp violin," were made by the International Music Company, based in two places: Hoboken, New Jersey, and Jersey City. And they were sold by mail order or door-to-door. And when they were new in 1925, they cost $35. That's a lot of money then. What the salesman would do, would say to you, is, "You know, you need music in your house. You need culture, you need to get your kids off the street. Learn to play this instrument, Cindy, and you'll gather the family around the fireplace every night." You'd say, "$35 is a lot of money. I'll pay less." And they'll say, "Okay, one dollar-- start off at one dollar." And then it would be a monthly payment of a dollar after that. After you've had it for a couple of months, you'd realize you can't play it. And, in fact, you'd stop payment on them, no longer sending in the money. This one's a great one because it's all here: the bow, the music directions and the key to keep it all in tune, and even the music stand. It's a great piece. Though not an item of great, great value, it is an item of great music-merchandising history here in America. Value today: $50 at best, so a little bit better than the $35 it might have cost day one.
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