Buying a Seeburg Jukebox

Buying a 1965 Seeburg Discotheque Jukebox

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

This past weekend I purchased a 1965 Seeburg Discotheque jukebox from a woman in the Twin Cities.

Over the past few years I have accumulated many new 45rpm records from various locations. My favorite is an amazing red, white, and blue pressing of Stephen Colbert’s song, “Charlene” that he did with the Black Belles. Currently they are selling on Ebay for $200. I framed mine and won’t touch or play it as that would destroy its value.

Jack White was promoting the record in New York City for Colbert. He was using his Rolling Record Store to sell that and other releases he has done through his Third Man Records. The rolling store was basically a modified van painted yellow and black with speakers blaring out the songs they were selling. White has used this vehicle to create a new buzz for his record company and to sell his wares outside of TMR’s permanent location in Nashville, Tennessee.

White also has a special “Vault” package through TMR that is $60 a quarter and often contains a tri-colored record and a 45rpm single. The 45s typically include jukebox strips, which previous to owning a jukebox, I didn’t much care about.

I’ve purchased a few vault packages; it follows the Sub-Pop label and other distributors who have released colored records in the past. The problem I’ve had is that when you play a record you get your fingerprints on it and dust collects like a static cling. This made me begin to look casually at jukeboxes a few months ago to play the records.

My search began on Ebay (as most searches do) and while browsing I learned about the major brands of jukeboxes. There is the Wurlitzer brand, best known for their iconic 1015 bubbler box from 1946. However, because I write for free and can’t afford that one I had to look at the other jukebox companies and their boxes that came out back then.

I searched an area on Ebay that stretched from Duluth to Michigan. I found a few nice ones, but then the question of seeing the records or not seeing them entered into the fray. I decided I wanted to see the record actually play, but I didn’t really have room in my home for some of the behemoths that were created in the late 1950-early 1960s.

Then I looked on Craigslist and was amazed at what was available right here in Minnesota. I finally settled on an early 1960s Seeburg that was sitting at the Ridgedale Mall in Minnetonka. I had to drive down to that area for Christmas anyways to visit family, so I decided I would check it out.

After talking with the seller over the phone and internet for a week, I finally made it to the mall. However, the jukebox I was interested in was not there. When I contacted the seller he told me that a couple from “up on the range” had driven down on Christmas Eve and purchased it. I was scooped by a ranger, oh my!

There was another jukebox available with a price-tag around $2000, but it wasn’t very pretty and the price made it far less appealing. So I left the Cities without my box and decided I would look around more.

On Craigslist up here I found the same Seeburg jukebox I was initially interested in for sale out in IronRiver with an asking price of $650. It was very appealing, but the seller said that he had never tried it and was selling it as a non-working jukebox. While I do know how to read a schematic, I didn’t feel comfortable restoring a jukebox. The seller also had other jukeboxes in the background of his photo, so I was kind of scared of buying something from someone who knows what they are doing, but aren’t doing it themself.

While looking at jukeboxes it was nice that I could go on Craigslist, find a jukebox, and then go on and watch it in action. The lights and sounds of the jukes sucked me in and finally a few weeks ago there were two on Craigslist down in the Twin Cities that looked very appealing.

The first was a Wurlitzer that you could see the records play for $900 and the other was a very strange 1965 jukebox from Seeburg called the Discotheque that had the records hidden. I started to research and found out that in the mid-1960s jukeboxes stopped showing the records and moved to a consul style. A few still had small windows where you could still see the record play, but by the end of the 1960s the records were hidden for all brands. Seeburgs were used in the show Happy Days and were known for having reliable mechanics.

The Wurlitzer was much more expensive than the Seeburg Discotheque and someone was planning on looking at it before I could get down there. My parents live down in the cities so I asked my dad if he could check out the Discotheque as it was about 15 minutes from his home.

Selling my father on the idea of me spending a lot of money on an old jukebox was difficult. He reluctantly agreed to check it out for me and report back on its condition. I then set up a time for him to see it and he went for me.

Later in the afternoon that he looked at it he called me and told me he offered the woman $375 and she accepted. Someone was coming later in the day to look at it and he knew that my wife preferred this one over others I had tried to convince her we should buy.

So I bought my first jukebox sight unseen. My next stop was to check it out on YouTube and see what this thing looked like in action.

The first video I watched was of a Seeburg Discotheque playing in the dark with all of the lights on. I was impressed by the artwork painted on the machine and the way that it lit up a room. The next video I watched was made by a fan of the jukebox who said that originally people back in the 1960s called it the “Disc-The-Que” as they had no idea what a discotheque was.

This weekend the jukebox is making its way to Duluth via my brother, sister and brother-in-law. It weighs a hefty 370 pounds so it will not be a simple task to unload it and move it in.

To prepare for the box I went to the Electric Fetus downtown last weekend to pick up a 45rpm record that has been sitting for a few months in their used record section. Luckily it was still there for me to purchase. So I will be loading the box with one of my favorite local songs by The Little Black Books titled, “They’re Never Wrong.” Even better news is that the B-side is “Whiskey So Soft,” another one of my LBB favorites.

I’m looking for more 7 inch records out there, but this should be a fun little toy to own. I’ve heard from a few friends that there are other jukebox owners up here so if you have any ideas or tips please feel free to email me.