|ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Kenny Lindsay’s American Eagle Auction & Appraisal Company landed an auction of a lifetime by being chosen to sell AMI Entertainment private Jukebox Museum that resided for several decades at the old manufacturing plant in Grand Rapids, Mich.
AMI is the lone survivor of the Big Four commercial jukebox manufacturers in the 20th century. AMI began in 1909 as the National Automatic Music Co., making automatic player pianos. Having designed a mechanism which allowed music rolls to be selected, this was adapted for use in jukeboxes, the first of which was produced in 1927. The mechanism used was the first that could play both sides of 10 records, allowing 20 selections. Aside from modifications to extend the number of selections, this mechanism was used for the next 30 years. The company was renamed to the Automatic Musical Instrument Company (AMI) after World War II. They moved their operations to Grand Rapids in 1922. During the 1950s licensed manufacturing agreements created BAL-AMI (England), IMA-AMI - Jensen (Denmark) and EDEN-AMI (France). The Automatic Canteen Company bought AMI in 1962, merging it with its subsidiary ROWE AC Services, a manufacturer of coin operated vending machines. In 2009, AMI-ROWE closed down their Grand Rapids plant. Rowe International is still manufacturing jukeboxes today.
Prior to the jukebox being invented, music was played to the masses with the coin operated ’nickel in the slot’ phonograph that was invented by Louis Glass and William Arnold in 1889. The concept was wildly successful and the phonograph was constantly being perfected with innovative ideas in a short period of time.
In 1937, the phonograph started to be called jukeboxes which was inspired from juke joints or barrelhouse which was essentially taverns.
Initially, the jukebox was simply a wooden box. But as their popularity grew after the Great Depression, they became immensely popular and more artistic and colorful in design. Bright and colorful lights out of a machine that played music was a focal point at taverns, dance halls and dining establishments. No sooner did the jukebox become the ’hip’ thing then World War II began and production came to a screaming halt from 1942-1946. However, immediately after the war, the jukebox picked up where it left off and the invention of “Rock and Roll” music hit the world by storm which attracted a brand new and younger audience.
For many years, AMI would hold onto one of each jukebox models they produced. In the mid-1980s, when AMI expanded into a larger manufacturing facility in Grand Rapids, they set up an impressive museum, lining up all of the jukeboxes they produced in a large room in the old plant. The museum was not open to the public and viewing was exclusive to customers, vendors and other dignitaries.
When the old Grand Rapids plant closed in 2010, all of the museum jukeboxes were custom crated and put into an off-site storage area. Among jukebox aficionados, very few collectors had the privilege to see the AMI jukebox museum but all knew about it and none knew the whereabouts of this pristine collection. For nearly a decade, collectors were left scratching their heads as it appeared this museum simply vanished.
“When I received the initial phone call, I was not too enthusiastic about it. The details came to me from a third party who didn’t know all of the specifics other than he has a family member that will be contacting me about selling some jukeboxes,” said auctioneer, Kenny Lindsay, President of American Eagle Auction & Appraisal Company. “A couple days later, I got the full scoop directly from an executive at Rowe International. I immediately embraced the importance of this historically significant collection and what it would mean to collectors world-wide.” Lindsay said. “He was particularly impressed that The Super Auction (which is held every February and August of each year) is a well-established event that is designed for such collections.”
“It was logistically challenging making arrangements to have these properly transported from Grand Rapids to Ann Arbor but it went off without a hitch.” Lindsay said. “In addition to our live audience, we had bidders from all around the world and our biggest buyer was from Austria.”
The live auction took place at the Washtenaw Farm Council Fairgrounds where Lindsay orked with his friend, colleague and Michigan Auctioneers Association, Hall of Fame auctioneer, Tim Narhi to work with him at The Super Auction.
Bidding was spirited and the top seller was a 1934 AMI Model F that saw a final hammer price of $12,000. Next was a 1957 AMI Music Model H Pink jukebox that realized $6,380. A 1934 Whiskey Sour Remote Controller saw $5,775. A 1956 AMI Model K Jukebox sold for $3,300. 1941 AMI Singing Tower Jukebox realized $3,020.
Also at the top of bidding was a rare 1948 AMI Model B Jukebox — only approximately 8,425 were ever made — that sold for $3,400. In addition, a 1956 AMI Model G-200 sold for $2,000 and a 1993 AMI CD-RN Laserstar Nostalgia crossed the auction block for $3,200.
In all, there were 120 different lots that included various coin operated games, promotional banners, plaques and crates loaded with vintage jukebox parts and accessories. All the remaining jukeboxes sold between $300-$1,200 each.
“We’ve been really fortunate over the past two decades selling some incredible once-in-a-lifetime collections and museums. Our client was thrilled with the end results which is the most important thing. We love what we do and I think it shows in our body of work through the marketing and promotion process. However, 99 percent of the credit goes to the auction itself as live auctions are the white heat of selling,” Lindsay said.
Contact: American Eagle Auction & Appraisal Company at www.MichiganAuctionCompany.com or call (734) 223-3277.