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Antique 1908 National Cash Register

Updated on March 9, 2011
Class 300
Class 300 | Source
Class 400
Class 400 | Source
Class 500
Class 500 | Source

Recently, I stumbled on a National Cash Register from 1908. I immediately thought wow, what a beautiful machine. It is remarkable that something can be 103 years old and look so amazing. I noticed it was for sale and the price was only $750.00. I thought that had to be inexpensive for such a beautiful, timeless, piece of history. The more I thought about it, the more fascinated I became so I thought I would do a little research to learn a little more about it.

I found that the 2nd generation of cast metal cash registers began in 1908, they were a little more decorative, and had a more updated numbering system, the 1st generation being simpler, less decorative, and ranging from the early 1890's until 1908. From 1908 to 1918 National built more than 1 million registers, nearly double of what they produced during the 1st generation. This 2nd generation of new cash registers were made of stamped cast metal and were made in 3 various types of metals; oxidized copper, red brass, or nickel plate. These finishes can all be cleaned, stripped, buffed, and polished and are of personal preference and don't affect the value. However, the brass cash register was the most common and were between the years 1908 and 1920.

The new numbering system that was developed in this 2nd generation of machines allowed the different cash registers to be divided into various classes based on their function and construction. From what I could find, there seemed to be 3 main class categories, the Class 300, 400, and 500. Each class had its own models with its own model numbers, most commonly used for designating its size and options.

After doing some research I believe that the cash register that I'm interested in is a Class 400. This class was capable of keeping track of different sales types; cash, credit, and no sales. It was most commonly found in stores that had a large volume of business such as department stores, drug stores, and florists. The cost of this register new in 1908 ranged between $75.00 and $400.00 and could go higher depending on the options. All Class 400 registers are total adding machines and are operated by pressing the keys and turning the handle. They are equipped with a special counter that shows how many times the register was operated. These registers have special keys such as accounts received, charge, and paid out, along with another counter to show how many records of each kind were made. The counter can be reset to zero at any time when the lid covering them is unlocked and opened. The total amount of cash recorded is shown by an adding counter and can be seen at any time by unlocking a lock, allowing you to know quickly and accurately how much money should be in the cash drawer, then you could just reset the total adding counter by unlocking the lock and inserting a counter resetting key. It also came equipped with a counting mechanism that could not be reset, therefore, showing a record at all times of how many times the adding counter was turned to zero, making it impossible to reset the total adding counter without detection, thus helping to keep people honest.

Even though the brass cash registers haven't been manufactured since 1915, they were refurbished and sold as used registers for the next 30 years and can still be found being used today in some establishments. The quality of these registers and timeless beauty of their ornate, highly detailed cases make it easy to understand why these once common business machines are a desirable and highly sought after antique.

Antiques are collected for many reasons; beauty, uniqueness, usefulness, and investment. These ornate registers would provide a functional addition to the d├ęcor of any business or home. They can be a conversation piece, provide beauty, and even be a unique place to store jewelry, coins, and other small collectible items.

As an investment, antique cash registers only appreciate in value, are generally priced according to scarcity and demand, and the prices of the antique cash registers are usually consistent throughout the country. Through my research about this particular National cash register, I found that $750.00 is a remarkable deal and that the current market value is ranging between $1500.00 - $2500.00. At this time, however, I have nowhere to display it and no need for it.

So, remember if you are thinking of purchasing an antique cash register or any other type of antique, keep in mind not only the purchase price but also your needs as well as the value of your own enjoyment!


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    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I have seen a few of these in various places and they are indeed beautiful. I consider them to be pieces of art. Thanks for telling us background information about these antique cash registers. Up and interesting votes.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I would be inclined to buy something like that for it's historical value.

    • ThunderKeys profile image

      ThunderKeys 6 years ago

      Wow, what a great find and a cool profit also! I think I've seen these kind of registers in use when traveling and stopping in stores along the country side. I wonder if the owners/operators of these machines know their value?

      To think that these were high tech and relatively expensive then!

      I'd love to learn more about how to start collecting antiques, strategies for the beginner. Great Hub; - thank you!