Every shop has a cash register, regardless of the type of retail. And, while the vast majority of registers look the same or remarkably similar, it’s worth mentioning that they’ve gone through some serious evolution since the time they have first been invented. Given their appearance differed based on when they’ve been manufactured and who their manufacturer was, their timeless appeal is exactly what attracts many collectors to collect as many cash registers as possible and sell them for a high price to other collectors.
You’ll agree that compared to the printing machine and some other revolutionary inventions that we still use, in some different forms, the cash registers are a relatively new invention. That didn’t stop them from being made in what’s considered gorgeous antique and vintage designs that are still appealing to collectors, but also retail sellers with a long history in the business.
The best part about national cash register and cash registers from vintage and antique eras are that they didn’t get way too many improvements until today, and the best part is that most of them is still functional and works. Such variations are what attracts collectors the most if you check recent listings on eBay and other online shops that sell antique items.
The low-quality brass and nickel cash registers can be sold for $125-$300. However, if your cash register has ornaments, is rated at a mint condition, and made before 1915, you’ll be able to make up to $5,000 with it, and sometimes, even more.
If you dug out a national cash register, or some other cash register at the time, you’re probably wondering how much it’s worth. In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about cash registers, how much they’re worth, how to evaluate their worth, and everything else about them.
If you’re looking to purchase an antique ancient cash register, this article will help you learn more about its history and value, as well as inform you about some notable manufacturers and tips on how to evaluate the most valuable cash registers. Continue reading to learn more.
About the National Cash Register
Before we get down to the National Cash Register (NCR) and the evolution of its signature cash registers which took over the world, let’s first talk about how cash registers came to exist in the first place. James and John Ritty are the fathers of the first mechanical cash register, which kickstarted their evolution and further development into devices we know now in every retail shop.
The mechanical cash register by the Ritty brothers was first patented in 1879, to simplify calculations of bigger purchases, which made it more efficient for workers and they could serve a greater number of customers without wasting too much time calculating the big purchases.
However, it wasn’t the most significant purpose of the cash register. In rural areas and towns with high crime rates, cash registers would stop dishonest buyers and prevent theft. More educated customers often took advantage of less educated sellers who were slower at counting and calculating prices and could easily convince them that the final price of their purchase was way cheaper than it should be.
Additionally, it stopped employees from stealing money from their employers and giving in less cash than it was made that day, often creating an inconsistency between products that were being sold and the money that was made during that day.
James was a saloonkeeper so he had the perfect idea of how a perfect cash register would look like to prevent theft. They patented several cash register options, but “Incorruptible Cashier” was the winning patent that brought them success.
The cashier was pretty complex and was equipped with firm metal taps that allowed the employees to make input the amount of the sale. There was also an adder that made the amount of all key presses for the entire day of selling. In addition to that, there is a distinguishable bell that would ring whenever a sale was made.
This is the first story of the cash registers, and although there were several more cash register patents throughout the next five years, they were bought when John H. Patterson bought the “National Manufacturing Company” and turned it into the “National Cash Register Company” which we know as NCR today.
This acquisition further enhanced the development of the original cash register. Now it was enhanced to include a paper roll whenever a sale was recorded. At the beginning of the 20th century, many “modern” cash registers had electric motors to further enhance and speed up the sale recording.
The National Cash register produced many practical cash registers for every type of retail that existed at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. However, something that makes the NCR registers so recognizable is that they are all manufactured with a special visual appeal, which made them attractive to both sellers and buyers.
It couldn’t only prevent theft from dishonest employees, but it also had floral and other details that made them look stylish, and that style grew as the years passed. That’s the selling point for many collectors today, who want to find both functional and visually appealing cash registers.
A combination of a stylish and modern look, anti-theft management, and other modern features, allowed The National Cash Register Company to grow and become more successful. Patterson’s successful management of the company led to it selling more than two million cash registers by 1920.
More importantly, his company surpassed most of the competition, becoming the top seller in the USA. The antique registers made by Patterson’s National Cash Register Company pretty have, have circular keys and often resemble typewriters. Many of them boasted a special unique design which made them more authentic.
Although the National Cash Register Company made gorgeous cashiers, history was moving forward and developing more advanced systems than cash registers, approaching what we have today. As the 1950s passed and entered the 1960s, the National Cash Register Company started manufacturing computer systems.
And, as the culture inevitably changed, the company renamed itself NCR Corporation in 1974. In 1991, the company was acquired by AT&T technologies but decided to end control of the corporation just 6 years later in 1997.
Today, NCR Corporation is one of the leading software and consulting companies around the world. It boasts various services and several tech-related products for other tech companies.
Is the National Cash Register Worth Anything?
Although cash registers today can offer a plethora of different services, features, and functionalities, the antique and vintage cash registers manufactured by the National Cash Register Company carry great value. Surprisingly, some of the rarest antique national cash registers can be sold for thousands of dollars, but more about that will be said in the further paragraphs.
The National Cash Register antique and vintage products can be found laying around old antique markets, along with other cash registers from that time. Nevertheless, some yard sales and flea markets can have a valuable find now and then.
It’s worth mentioning that professional online and offline auctions can feature much rarer and more valuable cash registers for sale. As mentioned earlier, some of them can be sold for hundreds of dollars, as well as thousands of dollars. More authentic options, as well as those more antique, have a higher selling point.
It’d be always a good idea to inspect your National cash register with a professional appraiser or consult with someone else, but more about that later.
The National Cash Register Value
Now that we talked about the history of the National Cash Register Company and what became of it in the present times, and declared that cash registers from the late 19th century and early 20th century have great value, it’s time to discuss that value to help you see the greater picture.
Before you ask how much your own National Cash Register is worth, you should determine its condition, whether it’s still working and functional, and whether there’s some deeper value tied up to it. Still, there’ll be more about it later.
It’s no secret that antique cash registers are of pretty complex constructions, and some have working electro-motors means that they can easily break at any point and not have a lifespan that would reach present times. Nevertheless, some NCR-made cash registers are future-proofed and resistant to malfunctions.
Cash registers consist of different complex mechanisms which often require thorough maintenance and control. If you just recently found a cash register in the attic or the basement, chances are that it’ll be in really poor condition and won’t work, and collectors generally don’t like that.
The machinery that is in poor or non-working condition usually doesn’t have a high value and will be in the range of $50 to $150 for a cash register. There are also brass machines which are the most basic form of the cash register at that time.
Most of them can be found on the flea market and old antique stores for $200, but on some online auctions, they can be found as much as for $250, and sometimes, even higher. Keep in mind that the value of antique collectibles always varies. What once cost $125 may be worth over $300 now.
Now, let’s talk about NCR-made machines. Some can be found for a few hundred dollars, while those in exquisite condition can have a price tag of up to several thousand dollars. Collectors usually aren’t too interested in other brands, and will mostly focus on NCR-made machines, which are in mint or near-mint state.
This online auction saw an NCR-made machine from the early 20th century go for $4,200. If your cash register is in a mint condition, it will have even greater value. This antique brass machine has also been seen to go for over $1,800 just because it was in mint condition. Keep in mind that you have to make an account to view the exact value on auction sites.
Editor’s notes: There are a few things that will contribute to an NCR machine going down in value. Devaluation comes from restoration so that the machine would continue looking mint while also being functional.
Still, it’s better to have a slight drop in value because you restored it to look like new. After all, leaving it to rust and decline in quality would lead to an even greater loss in value.
How to Evaluate a National Cash Register Cashier?
Whether you’re new to collecting, or selling collectibles from your grandparents’ house, or not, evaluating different collectibles can be quite difficult at times.
Although you can always consult a professional appraiser, or post to different antique forums, the best thing you can do is learn how to evaluate antique and vintage collectibles on your own. Let’s go!
Date & Serial Number
Antique cash registers from the late 19th century may be more attractive to collectors than those made after the 1920s which have more vintage than antique touch to them. You will be able to determine the year and model based on the specifications that are usually located at the front top of the cash register, at least with the older models.
Another simple way to determine the date and model of the NCR cash register is the material. The cash registers made of brass, wood, and another material combo will be more valuable on the market than those that are made out of steel.
That doesn’t mean that all 1800s cash registers will make more than the vintage ones. It all comes to the condition and additional features they boast.
Condition plays a great role in what value you can get out of an antique cash register. They need to be in mint or near-mint condition, with a pristine look that has either been maintained for a very long time or minor restorations on the pieces. The poorer the cashier looks, the less value you can get out of it.
In addition to that, anything with damaged pieces like opening, drawer or damaged marking will lead to value dipping completely. Restored options already decrease the value but not drastically.
Options that were made using special design techniques will be more appealing to the collectors. We mentioned earlier that NCR did a great deal of effort to make the cash registers look good, using special surface details like ornaments to add up to the appeal. Engraved decorations, curvatures, and floral decorations on the cash register will attract every collector. Some options may even sell for thousands of dollars.
If the cash register was released in great amounts, likely, this particular model won’t be as valuable.
Once you find the serial number, you can research it and see whether your option was manufactured in vast quantities. Collectors hold a special emphasis on rarer models, which is why again, the 1800s models are rarer, and thus more attractive to collectors.
The vast majority of NCR machines were covered in brass or wood, especially on the exterior of the construction. Some options had nickel plating which often obstructed details and additional features that a cash register may have.
The options with additional details like dust covers, lid counters, bill weight, and cabinet locks will be more valuable on the market, especially if they have been well-maintained.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re looking for a valuable NCR collectible, check some questions from the FAQ section.
What Other Companies Made Cash Register?
Although the National Cash Register is the most popular company specializing in what we today know as antique and vintage cash registers, some other companies specialized in this. Some of them are:
Where to Buy or Sell National Cash Register?
One of the easiest ways to sell a National Cash Register is to do so at flea markets, and some general and antique stores. In that case, we suggest you hire an appraiser that will professionally evaluate your cash register. What may be even easier is selling it on an online auction.
If you go with the latter methodology, you can easily sell National Cash Register on Etsy and eBay. Those places are known for selling old cash registers, and some of them can go up for thousands of dollars. Alternatively, there are some smaller marketplaces for selling online, but negotiating can be painful, so there’s also good to have a professional evaluate your cash register so no one will scam you.