Ristaucrat Collection

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The Ristaucrat Collection

Ristaucrat is not a well known name in phonograph and Jukebox circles.   As these few high-quality, heavy duty-cycle machines survive the years, they will become more collectible and more valuable. There are several varieties of Ristaucrats including specialty models. But there are only three basic types of Ristaucrats that are now often found in phonograph collections, cellars, barns and other antique hideouts.  

Advertising LocationEach of these three types of record players has the unique restacking feature developed and popularized by Ristaucrat that lifts the played stack of 12 records back to the top of the spindle to be replayed repeatedly.  

●  Ristaucrat 45 coin-operated, music box; table top jukebox

This is Ristaucrat's most popular coin-operated juke box.  It plays a stack of 12 45 RPM records, has a powerful amplifier and an impressive, highly-efficient,   6 inch mid-range speaker.

Click the photos for more details.

Business Op Ad 

●  Ristaucrat S●45 Selective coin-operated, table or bar top juke box.

A popular successor to the Ristaucrat 45, but manufacturing and distribution volumes were much lower.  The record selector option added considerable complexity and cost to this over-engineered machine which had a price tag close to the low-end of the then emerging full size 45 RPM juke box which has a much larger selection of music, better amplifier and better speakers.  

Click photos or images for more info.

Ad for Ristaucrat S 45This is a typical Advertisment for Business Opportunity with the Ristaucrat Company.

The 12 Record Selective 45 RPM Phono allowed customers to make a push-button selection of from 1 to 24 45 rpm records.  The brightly colored eye-catching cabinet has a Plexiglass cover so that customers can see their record selection(s) move thru the stack of records.  The mechanicals are enclosed in a hand-finished wooden cabinet.

After the stack of records has been played, they're restacked and subsequently cycled through until the next selection is made. Customers can also choose a cancel button.

The powerful amplifier drives two speakers, with an option for up to 5 wall speaker attachments.

The credit unit counts up to twenty plays. The owner can select 5 cent or 10 cent chutes.  This ad touts the 'simplicity of the mechanism' but my experience is this is perhaps one of the most complex but surprisingly reliable mechanisms made for this purpose. 

To the right is a typical business opportunity advertisment designed to encourageRistaucrat S 45 Ad entrepreneurial prospects to contact Ristaucrat Inc. to join a large network of commissioned sales agents that place the machines in service at a variety of local establishments such as the local soda fountain, bar, night club, laundro-mat and more.

This ad says that over 5000 of these Ristaucrats have been put in service around this country. 

The ad also describes great earnings from the "Highest Commissions Ever" with UPPER BRACKETS earnings by simply installing two per week.  

Clearly Ristaucrat Inc. took some editorial license in describing the great business opportunity and success that independent sales agents and the company were achieving.  Over the horizon, full size, low cost, 45 rpm juke boxes would soon flood the market as manufacturers such as Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, AMI (Automatic Musical Instruments), Seeburg and The Rock-Ola Corporation began to ramp production and aggressively market their jukeboxes.  According to jukebox industry expert Gert J. Almind, by 1954 a total of not less than 200 million 45's were sold in American and in the early 1950's about 60 million record were used annually by jukebox operators.       

In its early development years, Ristaucrat Inc. would pursue new sales channels by advertizing and exhibiting at the annual MOA (Music Operators of America) international trade show.  This was for many years the largest convention of coin-op and jukebox operators, the ideal place for any new product introduction each year.

Typical Ad for MOA Trade Show 

The MOA (Music Operators of America) was formed in January 1948 when "68 jukebox owners from around the country banded together to fight the repeal of the jukebox royalty exemption" which would have dramatically cut into their profits.  One of their strongest arguments against the repeal was the jukebox industry was in fact providing no-cost marketing and promotional activities on behalf of the record producers. 

Today, MOA is known as AMOA, the Amusement & Music Operators Association.    The original MOA and annual trade show lives on and is well attended.  This next convention, the joint 2011 AAMA/AMOA (American Amusement Machine Association and Amusement & Music Operations Association) Amusement Expo will be held in February in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Las Vegas at the Convention Center in February.

Dark mahogany and Blond Oak cabinets

●  Ristaucrat Dial-O-Matic 45 combination radio and phonograph, for home use    

Having worked on quite a few of these magnificent machines, I can attest that Ristaucrat’s ads are accurate stating these machines are:

® PRECISION ENGINEERED – with the exactness of a watch & strength of a steel bar.  

The Ristau brothers who were mechanical engineers must have had fun ‘over-engineering’ these reliable players. They were designed for use in public places such as local soda-fountain/drug stores, taverns or clubs, so it’s no surprise their mechanical designs assumed a very high duty-cycle.  It’s interesting that the same engineering elegance and reliability was carried forward to the Ristaucrat Dial-O-Matic radio-phonograph combination designed for home use.

Three Ristaucrat Dial-o-maticsIn the Vending Machines Section of the February 7th 1953 issue of The Billboard, a news story described Ristaucrat's plans to open a Chicago Office.  It had to "make the Chicago plunge" because of the increase in business caused by the great demand for the Ristaucrat home phono-radio, the Dial-O-Matic.  "The grand opening of the new quarters will kick off the introduction of the new floor model jukes boxes which Ristaucrat Inc. is launching in the low-price field.  One is a 24-selection box and the other is a 48-selection box.   Both will be 45 rpm mechanisms and will run about $300 and $400 respectively". 

The Dial-O-Matic is a radio-phonograph being produced for the home. It sold for $99.50.  Note that a radio phonograph selling $99. in the early 1950's would cost roughly $800 in today's dollars, an expensive home entertainment appliance for that time. 

"The features of the Dial-O-Matic are new to the home phonograph field.  The machine will automatically restack the records after the last one has been played.  It has a replay button whereby the operator can re-run a disc no mater what the disc is playing.  Another feature of the machine is the automatic radio selector.  If the operator wants to hear only five records (or any given number) he may set the machine to play that amount of records and when completed the radio turns on automatically".        

When restoring these machines, on a few occasions I needed the help of a nearby machine shop to reproduce hard-to-find parts such as a half gear made of hardened steel, soft brass bushing center and two machine screws that hold this gear firmly on the wheel shaft.  This is one of the most common problems I've found working on these machines, the half-gear slips off and falls to the bottom of the cabinet.  Armed only with copies of early patent schematics (as documentation is not generally available) it was fun to watch the reaction at the local machine shop.  Modern day machinists say  “this stuff is high quality, well-engineered, labor-intensive work; we’d be out of business today with this cost of such high quality materials and workmanship”.

US Patent image Ristaucrat

Needless to say, after completing the ‘standard rebuild’ described in the phonograph details section, my Ristaucrat players continue to play with no interruption and will likely outlast me.  As the most critical “likely to fail” mechanical components in these machines are the rubber cam and idler wheels (which I replace with neoprene) and the electrical wax capacitors are replaced and updated to much longer-life modern capacitors, there’s a good chance that my grandchildren (soon) could play these phonographs and optional AM radio when their children (my great grandchildren) are born.

Repair Ristaucrat Spindle and Idler



<-- Click to see instructions to rebuild Ristaucrat







 This section contains info on hard to find Ristaucrats

Several very collectable, hard to find Ristaucrats are presented here:

Ristaucrat record changer●  Ristaucrat Dial-O-Matic 45 record changer attachment.   

Similar in concept to RCA’s 45J and 45J2 stand-alone record changers, this model does not have a built-in amplifier or radio. 

This device would be plugged into a radio, TV or other device that had an amplifier by way of a standard RCA phono jack. Few of these record changers were manufactured, so they are rare and very collectable today.  The record changer's cabinet was made of blonde oak or mahogany veneer finshes. 


●  Ristaucrat Console Model A and Table Model A

Now let’s go back to 1931, when the Ristaucrat Console Model A, and Table Model A version coin-operated, 78 RPM, Automatic Electric (Selective) phonograph were introduced.   

Both of these models use the Smyth mechanism.


The Console Model A was a full size upright coin-op juke box, weighing in at 143 pounds, 49½ inches high, 20½ inches depth and 37½ inches wide.  Cabinets were made of diamond matched butt walnut panels with mahogany overlay doors giving it a nice two-tone polished finish.

Targeting these machines for hotel lobbies, night clubs and other public places, the Model A was marketed as a player that challenged all earlier records for earnings power.
The literature feature/benefits include: 


® DIRECT DRIVE – smooth, Failure-proof operation, record changed separately
® SUPER POWERED AMPLIFIER – superb tone, no distortion, clarity, naturalness
® HIGH STANDARDS OF QUALITY – improved pick-up & dynamic speaker

The Ristaucrat Table Model version introduced in 1931 dimensions: 20½ inches high, 20½ inches depth, 37½ inches wide. 

Finally, click here for the reverse side of the Table & Console Datasheets.

Please contact me if you have one of these models. 

●  Ristaucrat Model 200M

My most recent addition to the Ristaucrat Family is this Model 200M what some friends might call a real juke box as all my other machines are small table top models. I don't own any large jukeboxes.

Weighing in at 148 pounds, 36 inches high, 31½ inches wide and 17½  depth.   The machine built for the dance studio can play both sides (100 selections) of 50 records that are played on a ferris wheel configuration.

There are nine recording segments, eight of the nine play five records (ten selections) and the ninth segment plays ten records (twenty selections).  These segments could be genre’s or filled with the variety of the dances (Waltz, Fox Trot, Polka, Rumba, Swing, Somba Mombo, Rock & Roll, Tango, Mixed Dance) indicated on the button selectors. 

It's reported only fifty of these machines were manufactured by Atlas Manufacturing Company under contract to Ristaucrat.  Literature comments:

® FINGERTIP SELECTION –nine styles of music, plays continuously until next selection
® 50 RECORDS 100 SELECTIONS, - cancel any section instantly, simplicity of design


●  Ristaucrat Prototype

The one that got away.  This machine was a one-of-a-kind prototype home version.  It has two S·45 record changers, each of which can count 18 free credits and play a 12 record stack, repeating from 1 (12 plays) to 18 (216 plays) cycles before the alternative changer takes over and plays its cycle in sequence.   This is the machine that got away; it came up for bid on eBay.  Unfortunately, I was outbid.   

The photos show two standard S·45 record changers with custom red and green dial selectors.  All other S 45 Ristaucrats use black dials with white letters.  No doubt these prototypes have some custom wiring and switching. 

This prototype is housed in what looks like a modified RCA Victor floor model similar to an 811K.

This is the last production Ristaucrat "Melodie Vendor" machine.

On February 17, 1966 Alfred and Arnold Ristau filed patent 3,369,086 for a record selector mechanism that is used to “control the actuation of the coin and dispersing (sic) mechanism used in a dispensing machine. 

On December 1, 1966 Arnold and Alfred Ristau filed their last patent, 3,374,925 for an Automatic Record Dispenser to be marketed by Melodie Vendor Corporation, essentially a vending machine that would play 45 rpm records and automatically dispense the record to a buyer in an unsupervised situation. 

The concept was Try before you Buy, where a customer could make one or more selections, earn credit each time he tried a selection by inserting a coin and then apply the try-credits to the suggested $1.00 buy-price of the 45 rpm record.  I have seen photos and advertising for the Try before you Buy machine which has an integrated record changer/player but have yet to see one of these in any collection.  Please let me know if you have one. Melodie Vendor Dual Thus far, the only models reported is the record dispenser version shown above.  I have seen only this photo of a dual cabinet version of the above machine which is capable of dispensing up to 450 45 rpm records.  

Advertisement for the Melodie Record Vender Dispenser.


To learn more about the Ristaucrat Family and Business please click the logo below:

Click this image  


Boston, MA  USA