An extremely rare 1940 Gabel Kuro jukebox – nicknamed “the last jukebox” and one of only six known – sold for $120,750 at the sale of the world-famous jukebox and advertising collection of the late John Gurrech of Houston, Tex., held Oct. 3 by Hal Hunt Auctions. It was a new world record price for a jukebox at auction and the top earner in a sale that featured 550 lots.
The Gabel Kuro had been lovingly and painstakingly restored over a period of several years by Mr. Gurrech, who personally restored nearly every jukebox offered that day. The machine, which plays 78 rpm records, is in the Art Deco style – exactly what the buyer, a gentleman from South Carolina, was looking for. He purchased the jukebox to install in his multi-million dollar, Art Deco-themed residence.
Another auction record was also set at the sale – the highest price paid to date for a Wurlitzer jukebox. It was an unrestored 1936 Model 35, a prototype of a jukebox that never even went into production and one of only three known. Mr. Gurrech passed away before he could work his magic on it but the example still sold for $77,625, a new auction record. The buyer was a gentleman from Austria.
Other Wurlitzers that also did well included a Model 950, made in 1942 ($48,875); Model 850 Peacock, made in 1941 ($41,400); a Model 800, made in 1940 ($14,375); a Model 1015, made in 1946 and probably the most recognized of all the early Wurlitzers ($14,950); and a Model 71 table-top jukebox ($12,075).
“I guess when you make two new world auction records in the same day, you’d have to say the sale was a success,” said Hal Hunt of Hal Hunt Auctions. “But beside that, I must say this was one of the most exciting sales I’ve done in my twenty-five years in the business. The excitement in the room was palpable. It was one of those sales where you just didn’t know from lot to lot what an item would bring.”
Mr. Hunt said Mr. Gurrech’s keen eye for the best jukeboxes in the world, plus his uncanny ability to take a machine in poor condition and restore it to “Mercedes Benz showroom like-new condition, inside and out,” contributed to the sale’s success. “Usually when you see old examples like this, they’re in deplorable condition,” he said, “plus there are only a few truly good restorers out there.”
About 350 people packed the Hal Hunt Auctions showroom, located at 5925 Highway 43 in Northport. They poured in literally from around the world, from countries like Belgium, Austria, France and Canada. Mr. Hunt also estimated about half the fifty states in the country were represented. “The audience was full of energy and excitement for the entire duration of the sale, all seven hours,” he said.
Additional highlights from the sale follow. All prices quoted include a 15 percent buyer’s premium.
Wurlitzer is a name practically synonymous with jukeboxes, and many other finely restored examples changed hands that day. Top achievers included a Model 1100, made in 1948 ($13,800); a colorful Victory Cabinet machine, made sometime during World War II ($10,350); a colorful Model 1050, manufactured circa 1973-74 ($6,325); and a stately looking Model 24, made in 1938 ($5,175).
Rock-Olas also did well. The same bidder who scored the 1940 Gabel Kuro also purchased a tall and handsome Rock-Ola Spectrovox, made in 1941, for $34,500. Also, 10-12 Rock-Ola “woodies” (so-named because of their rich, wood-grain cabinets) included a Model RM-16, made in 1937; a Model B, made in 1936; and a Model RK-12 “Rhythm King,” made in 1937. These brought $2,875-$8,625 each.
A Rock-Ola Model 1428, the “Christmas Tree” model, made in 1948, climbed to $6,612, while a Rock-Ola Model 1422, made in 1946, coasted to $7,475. Three Seeburg “trash cans” (named for their shape – Models 146 from 1946, 147 from 1947 and 148 from 1948) – garnered $2,070-$3,450 each. Also, a Seeburg Model V-200, made in 1950 and with a 200-disc storage capacity, hit $5,462, a record.
A Seeburg Model W-100, the first jukebox with a light-up pilaster made of fiberglass, demanded $6,900; a John Gabel “Rainbow” model, made in 1938, changed hands for $18,975; a Capehart machine made in 1935 realized $4,025; an AMI “Top Flight” model, made circa 1936-37, brought $8,050 (other AMI jukeboxes ranged from $1,725-$2,875 each); and 85 wall box jukeboxes made $175-$3,450 each.
One of the more curious items in the sale was a “Strike Up the Band” band-box, a clever plug-in novelty item that sits atop a jukebox. When the music begins to play, the curtain to the band-box opens, revealing a Lawrence Welk-style band that appears to be playing along with the music. Then, when the song ends, the musicians stop playing, too, and the curtain is drawn closed. The novelty sold for $6,325.
Among the many rare music machines that changed hands, a rare 1961-62 Scopitone model, the first unit to project movies or music videos, reached $4,025; an unrestored 1939 Seeburg Play Boy (also known as a “Stroller” because it could be wheeled from room to room) garnered $6,038; a Penny Phono brought $6,038; a Filben (Micrfo-CLE Music) fetched $5,175; and a Maestro Music soared to $5,750.
Antique music boxes included a 27-inch mahogany Regina changer ($17,250); a 15 ½-inch Regina bowfront changer, in a rare oak case ($19,550); a 25-inch mahogany floor model Regina disc player ($10,925); a singing bird cage with pedestal ($4,255); a Cremona oak player piano with stained glass ($1,840); and a band organ with great sound ($1,955). Also, a Maestro Music speaker hit $4,600.
Mr. Gurrech’s advertising collection was nearly as impressive as his jukeboxes. A rare Rebel Gas sign breezed to $3,565; a Mobil gas winged horse sign fetched $2,875; a Derby Oils sign brought $1,610; three gas pumps averaged around $1,150 each; eight gas globes made about $345-$920 each; and about 30 other signs (including Southern Select Beer and Grand Prize Beer) hit $115-$1,725 each.
Rounding out the top lots: a Johnny Cash Sun record signed by the singer drew $748; records by country legend Hank Williams went for $115-$175 each; boxes of records realized $30-$300 each; an antique Philco TV set reached $2,875; a 1954 calendar featuring a nude Marilyn Monroe made $748; a restored oak Koken barber chair with leather upholstery brought $2,875; a Koken porcelain barber chair sold for $3,162; and a monumental pair of mahogany winged griffin carved arm chairs fetched $6,612.