Antique Cash Registers
Antique cash registers are cash registers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Background & Collecting information
Antiquated technology has become increasingly collectible of late and antique cash registers are, unsurprisingly, no exception. Harking back to a time when life was simpler and shopping more manageable and personal; collectors are attracted to the beauty, functionality and nostalgia inherent in antique cash registers.
In reality, the cash register was borne out of suspicion and mistrust.
The very first cash register was patented in 1879 by a saloonkeeper in Ohio who believed that his employees were thieving from him: “Incorruptible Cashier” became the foundation stone for the National Cash Register Company (NCR).
The first cash register was patented in 1879 by a Dayton, Ohio saloonkeeper who was fed up with having his employees steal from him. James Jacob Ritty’s “Incorruptible Cashier” proved to be the foundation for National Cash Register Company, known today as NCR. NCR cash registers are particularly popular among collectors as they have each been marked with an individual serial number, making identification relatively simple.
Machines with numbers below 190,000 are from the 19th century, registers with numbers between 190,000 and 800,000 were made between 1900 and 1910, and so on.
Series numbers are another way to determine an NCR register’s value. Among the most collectible are the large Series 500 machines, which were used by department stores. Sometimes just a single cash-register key makes an antique NCR cash register collectible, such as those with a DR key (for dining room) used by hotels.
NCR was not the only cash-register company, but it might as well have been. Of the 80-plus competitors in business in the late 1800s, only three made it into the 20th century. Ideal produced registers that were highly ornate and used levers instead of keys. And then there was Michigan, which made cash registers that looked the most like NCRs. One of its most popular machines was a bronze beauty that took up just nine inches of counter space and cost only $35.
Antique machines are highly ornamental and generally feature elaborate engravings on their brass, bronze and nickel plated exteriors.
Beautiful antique cash registers in excellent (or fully restored) condition and working order can sell for as much as $500. Between $50 and $150 is more generally what these machines achieve at auction. Bargains can be found: house, shop and factory clearances are particularly good places to look.