"Test Appraisal Response"

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Appraised By: Macquid 1 month ago

Smallest Cartel Music Box in the World?

Hello Terry,

I was very interested to see your chalet music box!

You're very lucky, because it's not only beautiful, but also a very unusual and rare piece.

First of all the music sounds very nice, espececially for such a small music box. In fact it plays two tunes, one after the other. But the name of the second one can no longer be seen on the label underneath because the latter is incomplete.

The little squeaking sound you also hear while it's playing comes from what is called the dampers, and I'll say more about that a little further on.

The most striking technical characteristic about your music box is that it winds from the side rather than from below. Because there are two types of cylinder music boxes, "tabatières" and "cartels".

Tabatière is French for snuff box and "cartel" for a type of clock. That's because small cylinder movements originally came in snuff boxes or snuff box like cases, while the big ones initially were incorporated into bases that went under, and were connected to/controlled by, a clock.

All the music box movements as small as the one in your chalet that I've ever seen before were tabatières. That is, due to small their size, the main spring lies flat and is therefore wound from below.

But in your musical chalet, the main spring is standing up and consequently wound from the side... which makes it a cartel.

So you perhaps own the "Smallest Cartel Music Box in the World"... or at least one of the smallest!

Coming back to the dampers, I'll explain: Music Box 101 is that the music is produced by steel pins planted into a brass cylinder that lift against the various teeth in the comb* as the cylinder rotates and the pins pass by the teeth.

That sets the teeth that are struck by the pins vibrating, which produces musical tones. We hear this as music because the craftsman who made the music box arranged the pins on the cylinder in a correct sequence and at appropriate intervals to produce a "tune"... comparable to a computer's programme.

So, each tooth struck by a pin keeps vibrating for a little while; and if the next pin hits it while it's still vibrating, that causes the little background squeak we hear from your chalet.

To overcome this, each tooth has a small flat spring attached underneath it, serving to "dampen" any on-going vibration as the next pin comes along.

On bigger music boxes, the dampers are mostly made of spring steel, whilst on small ones they are often paper-like papyrus.

With time these dampers tend wear out. break or lose their shape, but can be renewed or replaced by a specialist.

Expofan's dating of the chalet to the Geneva Exposition of 1896 sounds very plausible. I'd just add that the brass bottom plate of the movement suggests the movement may have been produced at an earlier date - perhaps as much as 20 or more years prior - but then remained in stock unused until it finally found "a home" in your chalet. Because by the end of the 19th century base plates often already were made of cast alloy.

That's not all that uncommon; and in the related Swiss watch-making industry movements are known to have been stocked a lot longer than that before they finally were cased and sold as watches!

Interestingly, there's a very big Swiss chalet music box - with a clock built in - at the Frères Baud Music Box Museum in St. Croix, Switzerland whose wooden case appears to have been crafted by the same hand as yours.

However, unlike yours, it's quite giant and has a big cartel musical movement inside. They call it their "mystery" music box and have been researching information about it since several years.

Terry, you also asked about what your musical chalet might be worth. Ironically, precisely because it's so rare, that's a very difficult question to answer. There aren't past auction results to consult and with which to compare. Forgive my "cop out" in saying it entirely depends on how badly a piece like yours is missing from somebody's collection, and how much they therefore are willing to pay in order to "fill that empty space".

Therefore, I'd say - and it could be worth much more - at least $2500 -$3000 as an indication.

I hope I've answered your questions. But, if you have any others that come to mind, you can always contact me by sending an e-mail message over @Quid.

*some collectors say it's more "elegant" to call it the keyboard rather than the comb

Appraised By: Nicolefreres 1 month ago

Chalet Music Box - 1896

Hi Thery!

That’s a beautiful music box you have.

I think I can help you pinpoint the date it was made. Perhaps somebody else can help you satisfy your curiosity about the Chalet’s value and technical aspects…

Officially, every 25 years, Switzerland organizes a sort of “Swiss World’s Fair” Exposition, called the Exposition Nationale; although, on the ground, this 25 year benchmark seldom was met! So far there have been six official expositions: 1883 in Zurich, 1896 Geneva, 1939 Zurich again, 1964 Lausanne and 2002 Neuchatel.

From the look of it, I'm guessing that your music box was produced within the context of the 1896 Geneva Exposition.

Indeed, one of the highlights of the 1896 Geneva event was a theme park named “The Swiss village” (Village Suisse), for which ancient Chalets from throughout Switzerland were disassembled and reassembled in Geneva as a sort of animated “house museum” where all the rural trades and lifestyles of the past (and also the then present) were portrayed.

The Village Suisse was a big crowd pleaser, and famous Geneva photographer F. Boissonnas produced a successful souvenir album with sepia tone photos, some of which I will attaching here in addition to other related documents.

Again, congratulations on your beautiful Antique Chalet Music Box, which I believe is a little piece of history from the city where you live!

Appraised By: Expofan 1 month ago

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Date: 24th Dec 08

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By: Expofan Expofan


1 month ago

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@Nicolefreres: Your Qunol about "Classification of Music boxes" is very interesting.