In a huge exposition center filled with dozens of dealers of premier specialty antiques, one unique item stopped almost every visitor who strolled down its aisle.
It took 10 years for Paul Baker to restore his 107-year-old Multiphone coin-operated phonograph. It was a showstopper Sunday at the Chicagoland Antique Advertising, Slot-Machine & Jukebox Show at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles.
"He didn't respect it, I guess," Baker said of the phonograph's previous owner. "I found it in a dirt-floor shed."
Once in his Buffalo, N.Y., workshop, Baker treated the 7-foot tall mahogany machine with so much respect, it now carries a price tag of $135,000.
"Don't ask me what I paid for it," said the collector as he fed the giant, soulful machine nickels to entertain the constant crowd around his booth.
The Multiphone Operating company built 1,000 of the music machines and put them in prestigious locations, just to collect the nickels. The company was out of business in three years, said Baker, who has restored three of the primitive jukeboxes.
The semiannual show is the largest of its kind in the world, boasting dealers from around the world with high-quality jukeboxes, advertising, arcade games and cash registers.