Selborne, Hampshire, auctioneer Hannams produced a YouTube video to promote the presence of this very early key-wind musical box by Nicole Frères in their inaugural sale.
Rather like the medium by which it was marketed, the box had
represented the cutting edge of entertainment when made around
1828. It thus ranks among the first instruments created by the
celebrated Geneva firm and one of only a few of this period in
Although the box, consigned by a local vendor for the sale on
July 10, entered the catalogue with an estimate of around £1000,
something close to ten times that sum was anticipated after huge
pre-sale interest. Perhaps 30 times, one of the fours airs was
played over the phone to worldwide callers during viewing, with
other European bidders flying in to view and hear the box in
It was thought that it had originally formed part of the base of
a clock with the 13in (33cm) mahogany and giltwood case largely
original save the addition of the scrolling lockplate. These early
cylinder musical boxes are typically very plain, lack serial
numbers and have combs cut from a single steel plate - this example
with exceptionally fine teeth was stamped F. Nicole.
After competition from six phone lines and a large commission
bid, it was knocked down to a European collector at £22,000 (plus
20% buyer's premium).
Two other very early musical box have appeared in the regions in
recent memory. Back in June 2008, Cirencester auctioneers
Moore Allen & Innocent sold a box c.1825 by
François Nicole (only a very distant relative of the
brothers Nicole) for £54,000.
Meanwhile, a useful price comparison is provided by a similar
Nicole Frères box sold for £23,000 by Gildings of Market Harborough in Leicestershire
in December last year.
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