MADISON, Ohio — John Soulsby doesn't understand why visitors are so surprised at his collection of jukeboxes.
"Many say, 'Wow! You got so many jukeboxes.' And I usually say, 'Hey! How many stamps does a stamp collector have--one?' It's just like stamp collecting--you can't have just one."
Soulsby and David Reed, both of Madison Township, have jointly collected 135 of the bulky phonographs that can weigh 300 pounds and more.
The collection is stored in a barn. In their spare time, Soulsby and Reed restore some of them. Others, they will use for parts or sell or trade with other collectors.
The two men say people collect jukeboxes for many reasons, including buying boxes as an investment. Reed, for example, bought his first Rock-Ola for $300, restored it, and sold it for $800.
The oldest jukebox in the collection is a six-foot 1928 model. It resembles a late Victorian dining room cabinet, with doors that expose a Ferris-wheel disc holder. That's the mechanism that played the popular hits over and over. Back in 1928, listeners had only to drop a nickel into one of these jukeboxes to play some of their favorites.
In the 1940s, the jukebox symbolized the beginnings of audio art. The Wurlitzer Co. designed jukeboxes with colorful floral and peacock glass centerpieces, as well as intricate wood carvings.
Soulsby and Reed jointly own a 1946 Wurlitzer 1015 model, which is considered to be the classic jukebox of all time and is valued at more than $8,000. The post-World War II jukebox is in Soulsby's play room.
Because of its brilliant colors, the 1015 commands attention. Multicolored plastic tubes that slowly change from red to purple to yellow, green and orange, surround the Wurlitzer's oak frame. Sandwiched between the colored cylinders are thin tubes that hold water and create bubbles, adding a sensation of musical movement.
In 1951, the J.P. Seeburg Corp. began making 45 rpm records that were cheaper and easier to manufacture than the 78 rpm records in the old Wurlitzers. The 45s enabled Seeburg to produce its Model A jukebox designed to play 100 selections--76 more than the Wurlitzer, which was becoming obsolete.