Antique Japan Music Box Value (Identification & Price Guides) (2022)

Like many other children, I spent my summers at my grandparents’ home in the countryside. On particularly boring days, I would spend hours rummaging through my grandma’s things. While doing that, I often observed her music box and enjoyed the beautiful tune it produced.

Years have gone by, my grandparents are no longer alive, and I spend my summers either working or traveling, but the sound of a music box still awakens something in me. Recently, I decided to learn more about music boxes, and I found out thatvintagespecimens can be quite valuable. I also found many other interesting facts about music boxes, so keep reading to learn more!

Table of Contents

The History of Music Box

The first music boxes as we know them were produced in the 18th century. However, they trace their roots back to the 9th century, when the Banu Musa brothers, three Persian inventors, invented the first mechanical music instrument, a hydraulically powered organ.

Then, in the 13th century, a bell ringer from the Flanders region invented a cylinder with pins that control cams, which then hit the bells and produce the sounds.

In the late 16th century, Flemish clockmaker Nicholas Vallin made a wall clock that could play multiple tuned bells. Two centuries later in France, a sound-producing clock was designed, but it didn’t play bells. Instead, it played tuned steel prongs.

In 1796, Antoine Favre-Salomon replaces the bells and prongs with a comb with multiple pre-tuned metallic notes. This invention could play more complex and varied sounds and it was considered to be one of the first music boxes.

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In 1877, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, an invention that greatly impacted the music box industry. The phonograph later evolved into a gramophone, and it enabled the reproduction of any sound.

This is when the music box production boomed. At first, music boxes were massively produced in Switzerland because Swiss clockmakers had the tools and knowledge necessary for both the clock making and the music box making.

From Switzerland, the music box popularity quickly spread toEuropeand theUSA. That’s when the music boxes became more functional since they gotdrawersand alock, which were used to store jewelry and other valuable items.

It wasn’t until the 20th century that thejewelry music boxspread from West to East, Asia in particular. Japan quickly adopted this technology, and soon, theJapanese jewelry boxbecame the most popular form of music box all around the world.

In 2019, a Taiwan tech companyTevofy Technology Ltd.made the first mechanical music box that can be controlled by an app. Its name is Muro Box, short for“Music Robot in a Box”.

Music boxes continue to evolve even today, but the Japanese music boxes remain the most popular and most valuable, especially for thosecollectorsthat are only interested inbeautiful vintagemusic boxes.

The Manufacturers And Styles of Japan Music Box

SankyoSeiki became the largest manufacturer of music boxes, not only in Japan but also in theUnited Statesand the rest of the world.SankyoSeiki started producing music boxes afterWorld WarII. They also produced individual music box parts and supplied other manufacturers.

This company still exists today, but under a slightly different name, NidecSankyo. It moved from making music boxes to making spindle motors that power the hard drives. However,Sankyostill makes a limited number of “Orpheus” music boxes each year, but they can’t really compare to the oldSankyomusic boxes.

SankyoSeiki made music boxes in several different styles:

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  • Wooden rectangular music boxes– These boxes were Sankyo’s most popular music boxes, often lacquered and painted with simple, yet interesting designs. They could play a lovely Japanese tune or Western music.
  • Porcelain music figurines-Sankyoalso made porcelain figurines that looked like any other regular figurines, but when twisted in a certain way, they would start playing music just like the normal music box.
  • Miniature music boxes– These music boxes were so small that they were worn on a keychain and came in many various designs.
  • Hexagonal music boxes- These music boxes had six sides and were usually made of brass or plated silver. They were often painted to show gentle and romantic motifs.
  • Piano-shaped music boxes-Sankyoalso made piano-shaped music boxes. They were a bit harder to find than the other music boxes and were made from wood and metal.

Another Japanese company,Toyo, made music boxes out of porcelain. They also producedblack lacquerjewelry boxes, music boxes shaped like pianos, Hummel wood music trinket boxes, and many more.

The Value ofAntiqueJapan Music Box

The good news is, that you can easily find avintageJapanese music boxin agood conditionfor $15-$30. They can be found practically anywhere, on Amazon,eBay,Etsy, and many other online and physical stores.

However, somesellersvalue their Japanese music boxes at more than $1000. They are usually inexcellent condition, rare to find, come with theiroriginal key, and maybe even havesecret compartments.

ManyJapanese blacklacquer music boxes were beautifully ornated and specifically made for the rich individuals, and even for the members of theroyalfamily. Such music boxes will normally cost much more than the regularSankyomusic box.

A vast majority ofantiqueJapanese music boxes for sale come with a working mechanism, but it is possible to find these music boxes that lack their mechanism, and their price is significantly lower.

Valuable Japan Music Boxes

Here are the most valuable and notable Japanese music boxes:

1. VintageMusic Box Playing Waltz

Antique Japan Music Box Value (Identification & Price Guides) (1)

This wooden rectangular music box made bySankyocomes ingreat condition, and it was estimated to be produced in theearly 1950s. It can play 3 tunes: Grand Waltz by F.F. Chopin, Dream of Love by F. Liszt, and Waltz by J. Brahms. Its price is$1,295.00.

2. Rare Crude Oil Pump Music Box

Antique Japan Music Box Value (Identification & Price Guides) (2)


Also made bySankyo, this unusual wooden music box has a gold crude oil pump model on thelid. It was made sometime during the 1960s and it is in anice condition. Its price is$695.00.

3. Enamel Butterfly Music Box

Antique Japan Music Box Value (Identification & Price Guides) (3)

Thisbeautiful jewelry boxcomes inexcellent condition. It has a butterfly made of true fired enamel, and it is lined with beautiful blue velvet. Its price is$450.00.

4. DisneySankyoSnow White & Dopey Music Box

Antique Japan Music Box Value (Identification & Price Guides) (4)

ThisJapanese wind-up music box is a perfect example of porcelain music figurines. It looks like a regular porcelain figurine of Snow White and Dopey, but it actually plays the “Whistle While We Work” tune. Its price is$299.44.

5. Japanese Mid-Century Nishijin SilkSankyoMusic Box

Antique Japan Music Box Value (Identification & Price Guides) (5)

Thislovely jewelry boxis embellished with Nishijin silk, a fabric of the highest quality. Inside, this music box is lined with purple velvet. The overall condition of the music box is good, with some minor damages to the fabric, which is expected for an item of that age. The price is$65.35.

6. Metal Baby Grand Piano Music Box

Antique Japan Music Box Value (Identification & Price Guides) (6)

This piano-shaped music box is made of cast metal and it has a small Cupid angel on itslid. It plays the “More” song, and its inside is lined with fine red velvet. Its price is a mere$49.00.

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7. Japan LacquerJewelry Music BoxWithBallerinaAnd Mirrors

Antique Japan Music Box Value (Identification & Price Guides) (7)

This wooden rectangular music box contains aballerinaspinning around as the music plays. It is lined with red velvet and three mirrors. Its price is$189.00.

8. VintageFuji(Pre-Sankyo) Music Box Keychain

Antique Japan Music Box Value (Identification & Price Guides) (8)

This miniature keychain music box comes in its original box and it plays the “Raindrops Keep” tune. It is extremely old, as it was made by aFujibrand, which was beforeSankyostarted manufacturing its music boxes. The price of this keychain music box is$20.00.

How do You Clean an Old Music Box?

Every music-boxcollectorwants to keep their collection well-maintained, and there are some tips on how to clean old music boxes without damaging them. The music box should be cleaned with warm (not hot) water and a mild dish detergent.

Always use a soft cloth to clean old music boxes. For spaces that are hardly reachable, use a toothbrush with soft bristles.

Don’t overdo it – it is enough to thoroughly clean your music box once a year. You can gently clean the dust with a damp cloth in between the annual cleanings.


Music boxes have a fascinating history. They are more than just some olddecorations. Music boxes were used to store jewelry, important documents, and similar items. They were a prime example of true craftsmanship and ingenuity.

AntiqueJapanese music boxes aren’t as rare or expensive as some otherantiqueitems, but they are still highly valued bycollectors. Their value will only go up as time goes by, and there are already somevintageJapanese music boxes that sell for well over $1.000.

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Make sure to buy one of these music boxes while they are still widely available and affordable, and if you have any questions regardingantiqueJapanese music boxes, feel free to leave a comment below!


How do you date a music box? ›

According to Mr. Weiner, the method of winding is a clue to the date of a music box: if a key is used, the piece was made between 1840 and 1850; if an outside crank, between 1865 and 1870, and if a ratchet, after 1870.

How do I identify a music box? ›

Most manufacturers of music mechanisms link the name of the tune used to a number inscribed on the cylinder roll. Both Reuge and Sankyo do. Reuge also stencils the number on the comb. The cylinder (with the comb) determines what tune is played.

What is the name of the old music box? ›

The popular device best known today as a "music box" developed from musical snuff boxes of the 18th century and were originally called carillons à musique (French for "chimes of music").

How do you clean an old music box? ›

Use a toothbrush (is harsher) or cotton swabs (softer) to get hard-to-reach parts. Vendors I know swear by the use of WD-40 to clean porcelain or stoneware of dirt. Just spritz it on and let sit for some time, wash with warm water afterwards.

What can you do with old music boxes? ›

You can sell your music box by using online auction sites such as eBay or Go Antiques, or by finding classified ads in your local newspaper. You can list the features, age, manufacturer, condition, and price of your music box under headings such as antique musical equipment, collectible items, and rare items.

How many notes are in a music box? ›

Three common types include 15-note, 20-note and 30-note. Each of these box types uses a their own punch-paper, sized to fit the box and the notes it supports.

What is the most popular music box tune? ›

Music Box Waltzes and Popular Tunes
  • 11 Edelweiss.
  • 12 The Music Box Dancer.
  • 13 Lara's Theme.
  • 14 A Time For Us.
  • 15 Over The Rainbow.
  • 16 You Light Up My Life.
  • 17 Send In The Clowns.
  • 18 Don't Cry For Me Argentina.

How long can a music box play for? ›

How Long Can a Music Box Song Be? Generally speaking, the music box can play a tune for up to 2 – 3 minutes. However, if you're buying a modern one (without a crank mechanism), it can play the entire song for 5 to 6 minutes. Choose carefully before you make your purchases.

When was the ballerina music box invented? ›

The phenomenon of the music box ballerina is so iconic that it has made its way into music history. In 1979, Canadian musician Frank Mills released an instrumental piece entitled “Music Box Dancer” that became an international sensation.

What's the oldest music box? ›

1796: Antoine Favre-Salomon, a clock maker from Genève, Switzerland, patented the first cylinder musical box that utilizes a metal comb with tuned teeth to produce the music.

What country is famous for music boxes? ›

But one system invented some 200 years ago lives on. In the mountains of western Switzerland, one company still makes automatic music boxes for enthusiasts around the world.

How old is the music box? ›

The music box was probably invented about 1770 in Switzerland. The earliest music boxes were small enough to be enclosed in a pocket watch, but they were gradually built in larger sizes and housed in rectangular wooden boxes.

Can you Overwind a music box? ›

Introduction. The extensive use of a music box and winding the main spring excessively will lead it to fail. This failure is caused because the music box mechanism gets jammed, and then, you are no longer able to enjoy its beautiful tunes.

Can old music boxes be repaired? ›

Cases can be repaired by any competent local woodworker. Because your music box is at heart a fine musical instrument, the integrity of the case is directly related to the volume.

How do you lube a music box? ›

Feed the bushings and moving parts a heavy weight clock oil like castor oil. Use a stem grease on the governor worm. WD40 and 3-in-1 oil are contraindicated: stay away from them. The pins on your cylinder will digest the notes more easily if you lubricate them, too.

How do I find musicians to date? ›

The Top Musician Dating Apps of the Year
  1. Elite Singles – Best Overall Dating App for Musicians.
  2. Zoosk – Best for Up and Comers.
  3. eHarmony – Best for Established Musicians.
  4. Christian Mingle – Best for Faith-Based Musicians.

Do girls fall in love with musicians? ›

According to a new study by researchers at the University of Sussex, women, at least those in their most fertile phase of life, really are more attracted to men who can produce music.

How do you know if a musician likes you? ›

What You Think Dating a Musician Will Be Like:
  • They'll write songs about you and sing them to you while you fall asleep.
  • They know everyone in the local industry.
  • They spend their day songwriting, then gigging at night.
  • Their friends are super cool and you've gained an awesome new group of friends.
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