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Proper Care and Repair
of Player Piano Music Rolls

by Craig Brougher

Used Player Piano Rolls
(Recent Information - Click Here)

Dealers and Collectors       Questions Dealers Will Ask

Roll Auctions         Wrinkled Rolls

Credits       Care/Repair/Rips

I have attempted to collect as much information about Used Rolls as I could. And while not complete, this page should answer many of the questions that I get asked repeatedly. Since I don't buy or sell used rolls, I'm not the best person to ask about value or rarity. I have located and provided 'mailto' links to the individuals who wrote the letters and articles below.
A website with a Searchable Archive, the Mechanical Music Digest (click credits) has many megabytes of information about used rolls, recut rolls, roll styles, roll manufacturers, dealers of numerous types of rolls, roll history and many other topics. We also provide a listing of roll makers and dealers on the Comprehensive List of Roll Manufacturers and Suppliers Page - click here.

Questions Dealers Will Ask

These are the Basic Questions that Dealers, Collectors and Auctioneers need to have answered BEFORE they can adequately help you determine the value of your rolls. This excellent list was compiled by Paul A. Johnson.

In working with folks over the past years, I've come up with some questions that can help roll sellers understand the value and condition of the rolls they want to sell. Often times sellers feel they need to make a list of all the rolls they have. While this is nice, it's not really necessary and can be quite time consuming (I know because I'm doing this all the time for my roll auction business). What can be more helpful is to have the following questions answered before you contact a potential buyer:

1. How many rolls do you want to sell?
2. What color are the boxes?
3. Do you have a sense of their age?
4. What seem to be the 4 - 5 most prevalent labels/manufacturers. The name of the manufacturer is usually listed at the top of the roll.
5. What are the 4 - 5 most prevalent music types? For example, classical, fox-trots, one steps, waltzes, etc.
6. What condition are they in?
(a) Do they have their original box and label?
(b) Can the box stand up on its own?
(c) Is the correct roll in the box?
(d) Does the roll have an end tab?
(e) What condition are the left and right edges in?

One of the problems with dealing with rolls is that they tend to hide their defects. Here's how you can check for edge condition. As the tab falls over the top of the roll, the flange on the left will usually twist off. Once you've removed it, check the left edge of the paper. Does the edge look clean and crisp or is it ragged and appear torn throughout or in places? Now reverse wind the roll, kind of like you're opening a jar, tilt the right edge up and let the paper fall to the left side (with the left flange still removed). Then check the condition of the right edge. If it looks okay after this inspection the roll is probably okay.

Try to have a sense of what you want for the rolls before contacting a buyer. Many times when I ask a seller what they want for their collection, they will tell me they have no idea. Then when I make an offer and they say "that's not really what I had in mind," it shows they had ideas to their value all along.

Also, beware of relying on antique store prices. Usually antique stores deal with rolls infrequently so the price they put on them can vary widely. Just because an antique store has a certain price on a roll, doesn't mean that that's what they're selling for (they may have been warming that shelf for an awfully long time).


Player-Care has a NEW LISTING for Various Items--- CLICK HERE

Company Name: Ampico Music Rolls
Owner: Ray Smith
Explanation of rolls offered: Used Ampico Music Rolls
Web Address: http://www.ampicorolls.com
Email Address: ray@ampicorolls.com or Ray@NJSurfer.net
Mailing Address: AmpicoRolls c/o Ray Smith
Street: 630 Broad St
City, State: Shrewsbury, New Jersey
Zip Code: 07702
Phone Number: 732-747-7900
FAX Number: 732-747-8885
Catalog Available:  NO (Listings available from website)
Credit Cards Taken:  YES  
Minimum Purchase Requirement:  NO 
Player Piano Rolls by American Piano Company

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Here is some new information that might be of help to those who wish to repair music rolls

Subject: Materials for Repairing Music Rolls
Hi All, Since I service the music roll community, both with interesting recut rolls and the music roll auction, I also stock a variety of materials for repairing music rolls. I carry the mending tissue. I only carry the one size now, but in the past, I did stock various widths. I also stock a variety sizes of flanges, roll tubes, end tabs, and paper for putting on new leaders on rolls. You may visit my web site at http://home.earthlink.net/~rollertunes/id35.htm

Rob DeLand (rdeland@owc.net)

I'm interested in the rolls you mentioned in the 7-23 MMD, especially if they're Duo-Art. I can tell you if they're of any special value if you'll email me with some details, and I do collect rolls so I might be interested in buying. Value typically depends on rarity, roll type, condition, and quantities for sale at once. I live between Chicago and Milwaukee in Grayslake, IL. Drop me a line!

Bob has also written an article on Roll History that is very informative.

Joerg Wendel
e-mail: mmm-gmbh@t-online.de
We run a roll punching machine which can make each roll which is known in the moment.
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When you put together your web page for roll exchange, include us.
We deal almost exclusively in Recordo rolls, both new and used,
and are interested in both buying and selling.

We do buy a few select 88 note and Duo-Art rolls, and occasionally
have some odd other rolls to sell (such as the group of Peruvian Leabarjan rolls
to be played alternately on an AMPICO and ArtEcho).

Right now our primary buying interest is Telelectric (65 note) and Telektra (88 note).
We are also interested in any and all information about the Telelectric company,
as we are in the process of creating another Rollography volume that will include Telelectric.

For those interested in Nickelodeon rolls, contact Don Rand, Telephone 207-354-8033 in Thomaston, Maine.

Miner Mfg. Co., Inc. has one of the world's largest, if not the largest, inventory of 'A' and 'G' rolls and have been in business 13 years. Their extensive inventory is maintained to support their customers who purchase the Tangley Calliaphone calliope. Please contact:

Dave Miner, President
Miner Mfg. Co., Inc.
2208 220th St.
Donnellson, IA 52625
Ph. 319-837-6484, Fax 319-837-6080
www.minermfgco.com email: dminer@minermfg.com


Latest Roll Auction Information

Here's some new information about Roll Auctions:
Ampico, Duo-Art, Welte-Mignon, and regular 88-note rolls

Vendor: Jan Myers
Rag Daddy's Music
6319 Willow Hill Street
San Antonio, TX, 78247-1116
phone (303) 885-5570
email: rollauction@aol.com

We have been doing roll auctions under the same name, continuously, longer than anyone else who is still in business!

We put out lists of 300 or more rolls, several times a year, allowing people to bid on just the rolls they want. People can get on our list by calling, mailing, or emailing their information. We can send printed copies in the mail, or by email.

To download the current listing (03/06/24), go to: Rag Daddy's Roll Auction #96 -click here.

To download the previous listing, go to: Rag Daddy's Roll Auction #95 -click here.

NOTE: Player-Care is in no way involved with this company. So, do not write to or call us for information.

[ See "Roll Mail Auctions" at http://www.mmdigest.com/Links
[ The folks who sell the old rolls must buy them somewhere! -- Robbie


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Solution: Secure the left flange so there is a small amount of free space between the paper and the flange.

One of the most common problems that people run into when attempting to play an old roll occurs during rewind. Quite often the roll rips wildly for no apparent reason. However, there is a very good reason why this happens.

Most player piano owners know that the flange on the right of the roll is permanently secured to the cardboard tube upon which the paper is wound. However, many are not aware of the fact that the left flange is normally NOT secured. It is normally free or 'loose'. Furthermore, upon inspection it will be found that the cardboard tube is not as wide as the paper itself. These two situations, along with the fact that the paper has become brittle with age, are most often responsible for the damage done to the roll when it is rewound.

The problem is compounded by the fact that the mechanism that 'holds' the roll into the spoolbox is spring-loaded on the left side. That spring is always pushing on the left flange. If the flange is loose, the spring will actually push the flange past the left edge of the paper (at the very end of the play cycle) creating a situation where the paper is actually wider than the space between the two flanges. (This can happen because the cardboard tube is almost always narrower than the paper.) The result of this situation seems pretty obvious. The paper won't fit. When the roll starts rewinding, the paper starts curling at the edges and it can rip because it's being forced into an area that is too small.

The simple solution to the problem (as stated at the beginning of this article) is to secure the left flange in such a manner that the paper has a little 'breathing room'.

The easiest way to accomplish this simple task is to take the left flange off before playing the roll, hold the roll upright and knock the right flange on a hard surface (forcing all the paper towards the right flange), take a piece of scotch tape and apply it to the left flange (the part that goes into the cardboard spool) and insert the (slightly fatter) flange back into the spool, leaving about 1/16" of free space. That's it.

If the rolls continue to rip on rewind, that indicates an imbalance problem with the tracking mechanism and a technician should be called in to repair the problem. This is a fairly common problem in Standard players with horizontally mounted tracking bellows. One way to help delay or prevent this problem from occurring in the first place is to LEAVE A ROLL IN THE PIANO AT ALL TIMES.

"Lineco Transparent Mending Tissue" as the best available product in the USA for repairing rolls. It comes in two sizes which can be easily cut into narrow strips. It is a bit tricky to use but it is acid free, can be removed if needed, does not pucker, and is so thin it does not add bulk to the paper to unbalance rolls once re-spooled. (from Adam Aceto 10/15/20)



Here's a few quick words about roll care that come from QRS Music Rolls. The following is written in the top half of every new QRS music roll and concerns what's known simply as "Knocking The Roll", "FOR PERFECT TRACKING: First, see that the music roll is loosely wound on the spool, then hold the roll in your hand with the SLOTTED end facing DOWN. Let the roll drop lightly two or three times against a hard surface, thus throwing the entire music sheet against the right flange. The roll is now ready to be played. DO NOT TIGHTEN THE ROLL!" Also, as a player piano technician, I always suggest that owners "Pump The Bar" at least every Eight Playing Hours. This process is explained in detail on the web page called "Using the Trackerbar Pump: The 'Kissing' Technique"

Tips on replacing an End Tab (Picture One) - (Picture Two)

For new information (Jan 17, 2006) about Repairing Ripped Rolls - Click Here!!

For information about replacing missing roll labels - click here!

Music Roll Repair Method by John Taber - click here!

For Roll Repair Supplies, write to Larry Norman at: rollertunes@earthlink.net
Or visit his site at: http://home.earthlink.net/~rollertunes

Storing Music Rolls
By Spencer Chase

I was one of the lucky ones to get some of the rolls from the Tushinsky music collection sold by Butterfield & Butterfield recently. A friend attended the second day of the auction after hearing of the low bids of the first day and succeeded at getting about 700 of the Duo-Art rolls.

The Ampico rolls were almost given away. I am now neglecting other responsibilities to listen to the 171 Duo-Art rolls that I got. There is some rare and wonderful stuff. I wish I had been there to at least see the other rolls and maybe mortgage my house to buy them. Some of them should be showing up on the auction lists soon.

The only problem with the rolls is that they were stored for a long time with rubber bands applied. The rubber turned to gum and stuck to the leaders. I am posting this as a warning to others to not repeat this mistake. It is a good idea to exclude air from the roll paper, but something other than cheap rubber bands must be used.

Does anyone have an idea as to what would be a long lasting and non-reactive elastic for this purpose? Would butyl rubber from bicycle inner tubes be safe? What about pure latex from the very expensive racing bicycle inner tubes?

Spencer Chase
E-mail to:spencer@mcn.org

[ I wrap a cuff of good bond paper around the music roll, to protect
[ it from the two rubber bands I slip on. -- Robbie

If you're fixing old rolls and want them to last, I suggest you invest in a wonderful tape I got from a catalog called "Light Impressions." Their tag line is "The Leading Resource for Archival Supplies." I bought a roll of tape two years ago or more and it's wonderful, but a bit tricky to use. The name of the tape is "Filmoplast P." I'll type the English description off the box, because they say it better than I can:

Self-adhesive, extremely thin, transparent special paper for invisible mending of torn pages and documents. Produced according to the newest principles of the preservation of cellulose fibers...pH 8.7, aged: pH 8.4.

It is extremely thin and has a paper backing that you peel off. It is somewhat repositionable, but it also stretches due to its thinness. I find it is a wonderful substitute for Scotch tape and (egad!! what my parents used to use) adhesive tape! As Light Impressions is an archival house, I believe my repairs will last longer with this tape.

It isn't cheap; 3/4" tape is $19.85 and 1-9/16" is $28.70 per roll. Call toll-free at 800-828-6216, or e-mail is www.lightimpressionsdirect.com.

Thanks for the tip about the glass, Dave Fogle. I have a lot of my grandparents' original 1923 rolls that need repair and I think your idea will help immensely!

Margaret Bell

Jon Page
Harwich Port, Cape Cod, Mass. (jonpage2001@pop.ne.mediaone.net)

I've been contemplating a Velcro strap. I just haven't gotten the motivation to put one together.

Adam Green
E-mail to:agreend@cix.compulink.co.uk

As an archivist I'd be doubtful about having any elastic compound in contact with paper for a long time. I would prefer to use unbleached cotton tape to tie round rolls with the minimum risk of contamination.

Jackie in Indiana writes:

How do you care for the storage of music rolls? What about dampness? bugs?

Hi Jackie,

In a nutshell, keep them in a moderate environment where they aren't exposed to sunlight or changes in temperature and humidity. The best place in the average home is a closet in the central part of the house -away from outside walls and doors.

That said, any excess in heat, humidity, cold, etc., is bad for paper. And, if you have bugs, call an exterminator!


John A Tuttle

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Repairing Wrinkled Rolls

By John Phillips

"Repairing Wrinkled Rolls" -- what a fine example of alliteration that is, Jim Canavan; it rolls off the tongue beautifully! And I'm pleased that someone has brought the problem up.

It's really disappointing to acquire a desirable roll in apparently excellent condition but which plays a few unwanted notes in the treble or bass. This usually happens right at the end of the roll, just as you are letting out the breath that you've been holding all through the roll's first playing. Sometimes the extra notes (ciphers?) occur right at the start of the roll. Then you are disappointed immediately.

I think that the problem occurs because the roll paper has been stretched on the side where the ciphers are. My guess is that the damage is caused by the roll not being wound up properly, and left that way for many years. In my limited experience, ironing a roll improves creases and wrinkles considerably, but won't help fix problems due to stretched paper.

I spent a lot of time on one classical roll with some ciphers at the start that I badly wanted to cure. I ironed the roll, hung a heavy weight on the tag for some days to try to stretch the rest of the paper, and tried cutting a tiny wedge-shaped piece of paper out of the middle of the stretched section of the roll before drawing the cut edges together again with repair tape. (Rather like taking in a seam in a garment, I suppose.)

None of this helped. In desperation I cut the stretched sections out and replaced them with paper salvaged from another roll, but by now the section of music had been so abused that the ciphers _still_ sounded.

So far, it's all bad news, but I don't think the situation is hopeless. I've been mulling 'round the following scenario in my mind for a long time; maybe Jim's note will be the necessary spur to get it started. I would try this:

1) Let the section of roll with stretched edges hang vertically, and clamp it firmly at the top.

2) Clamp a heavy weight to the roll at the bottom of the stretched section. I envisage two pieces of wood with felt glued to them that clamp right across the width of the roll. This should produce a uniform tension in the roll paper everywhere except where the roll is stretched. The tension there should be close to zero.

3) Increase the humidity until the roll paper begins to relax and stretch. It should stretch permanently where the tension is high but not where there is no tension. You might end up with a slightly longer roll but one with no ciphers in it.

No doubt everybody can see boundless possibilities for disasters here, like ripping the roll apart. Obviously the tension would have to be chosen carefully, probably after a few accidents. The hanging weight would need to have supports a few millimeters below it to stop the paper stretching too far.

Several years ago I exchanged letters with a paper conservator and I got the impression from her that one could actually wet the roll paper without permanent damage; I think she suggested spraying it with an atomiser. This sounded so alarming that I wasn't game to try it. But I'll get back to her.

I must make it absolutely clear that I'm not suggesting that anybody else tries the above idea before I do; it is very much untried! But if anybody has got any comments or thinks it's just crazy I'd be glad to hear from them.

John Phillips
E-mail to:john.phillips@utas.edu.au

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Robbie Rhodes

Paper buckles, not when moistened, but when the moistened area has dried again. Why? It's as though moistening the paper releases internal forces, allowing the surface area to grow. Then it bulges slightly, and causes ciphers at the tracker bar.

I've used a steam-iron cautiously to "tame the music", and it seemed to help, perhaps because the water vapor permeates the region equally, bad and good areas alike. I've not ironed the dampened paper with a dry iron, but this seems logical to try, too. A surfactant, such as Kodak "Photo Flo", might aid even-penetration of the moisture.

John Phillips proposes applying tension to the hanging web of paper, to force it to become flat again. That seems a good idea; more than 50 pounds tension should be possible without rupture if the edges are good. Try introducing the moisture with the steam iron, too. Don't worry about overall-stretch in the roll.

Robbie Rhodes

. Here is a link to a listing of companies and individuals who sell new, used, and re-cut rolls. Those who sell used rolls have to get them someplace. So, you might want to contact those concerns before using eBay or CraigsList to sell your rolls. While they might not offer you as much as you could possibly make, it would certainly save you a lot of time. Here's the link.


Recently Player-Care started listing various Player Piano Roll Makers (click here), and some of them will occasionally express a desire to find a particular old roll. It probably wouldn't hurt to write to some of them and send them a list of all your old rolls. They just might be interested..... JT


Old piano rolls nowadays typically sell at 3 to 5 dollars at mail auctions. Check also at eBay: http://pages.ebay.com/index.html Search for "piano rolls". The best marketplace is eBay. Look for "music rolls". Sell them in sets of no greater than five (5) rolls. Provide a picture that shows the first foot or so of the rolls, so people can see their condition. Have an opening bid of $0.99. Ship them via USPS MEDIA MAIL (within the US only.

You can find a list of firms who deal in old music rolls at http://www.mmdigest.com/Links

Also Bennett Leedy, dba "Piano Roll Center":

Bennet Leedy
The Piano Roll Center
4660 Hagar Shore Road
Coloma MI 49038-9337
Phone 269-468-5986
email: leedyrolls@pianorollcenter.com

Replacing Missing Roll Labels

Other links:

Vintage Piano Roll Label Exchange Group (San Diego, Calif.)


From: hutweb@tranquility.net.geentroep (Tom Hutchinson)
Date: Wed, 12 Oct 2005 23:53:30 -0500

Subject: Piano Roll Identification & Label Service

[ Ref. 051011 MMDigest, Universal Medley Roll 303477

MMDers, I have an answer for Earl Hennagir. The Universal Themodist medley roll no. 303477 is

"Greenwich Village Follies, Selection"
A. Baldwin Sloan, $1.00.

This is the complete listing in a copy of the Universal Music-Rolls Catalog in my collection. I was not so lucky with John Phillips' request for the identity of the Perfection Roll.

I possess an extensive collection of research materials concerning piano rolls consisting of the Billings Rollographies, the "Complete Ampico Catalog" by Obenchain and photocopies of virtually every piano roll catalog from the early 1900's to the present. Secondly, I have the piano roll box label making program by John Miller.

I would like to offer a service to MMD members. If you have an unknown roll for example with the leader and box label missing, if you can supply the number which is often stenciled at the end of the roll or occasionally right in the beginning and pick out the title from the words we can usually figure out what company made it and produce a correct label for your box and or for the leader. Of course the more information supplied the more likely we will be to come up with a correct label. Ideally if you can send box ends or leader labels we can produce new totally authentic labels.

The offer: You supply the most information you are able, the height and width you wish your label to be and for $2.50 we will attempt to identify your roll and produce three (3) authentic labels, one for each end of the box and one for the leader. We will mail these back to you in a first class envelope. If you want more than one set of labels reduce the price to $2.00 for each set. I can accept PayPal at hutweb@tranquility.net or you may mail me the funds and the info to Tom Hutchinson, 15361 Hopper Rd, Sturgeon MO, 65284.

Tom Hutchinson
Sturgeon, Missouri

Subject: Collectors Seek Favorite Old Piano Rolls

Hi MMD, It has been pointed out that the more bedraggled an old roll looks, it is probably a good indication that it was played a lot. I have been restoring piano rolls and selling them on eBay for several years. I've usually stayed with the more recent rolls because I felt there would be more interest in them and they took less effort and time to restore. However I've recently noted there have been a significant number of sales to collector type individuals and most of these have been quite old rolls.

I have a couple boxes containing over 500+ rolls of this type, i.e., no boxes, torn leaders, etc. I've started restoring these and putting them on eBay at the rate of about 10 or 12 per day. There are some great titles showing up. Since I don't collect 88-note rolls these are all going on eBay. If you want to see what I've been restoring look for user ID 9653819. I usually have from 40 to 60 listings on eBay most of the time.

Thanks for looking,
Tom Hutchinson

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Some of the Information above came straight from the pages of the
Mechanical Music Digest (visit them)
They are the Source for Information about Mechanical Musical Devices
And maintain an Extensive Archive of Related Information
The Articles from the Mechanical Music Digest are Copyrighted
And may not be used commercially without the Express permission of
the Editor, Jody Kravitz or Associate Editor, Robbie Rhodes.

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This page was last revised on November 11, 2023 by John A. Tuttle.

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If you wish to have your contact information removed, please contact me immediately via this special link here.
That way I'll notice it as soon as I open my E-mail program.
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Since "Player-Care" is an internet business, I prefer that we correspond via E-Mail (click here to fill out the 'Request Form'). However, if I'm not in the middle of some other activity, you can reach me at 732-840-8787. But please understand that during the hours from 8AM-5PM EST (Mon-Sat), I'm generally quite busy. So, I probably won't answer the phone. If you get the answering machine, please leave a detailed message stating the reason for your call. Also, repeat your name and phone number clearly and distinctly. By necessity, I prioritize everything in my life. And, if you call and just leave your name and number, and ask me to call you back, it might be a day or two before I return your call. Why? Because I don't know why you want me to call and I might not be prepared to assist you in an effective and efficient manner. If you leave me an E-Mail address (which I prefer), spell it out phonetically. The more you do to help me, the more I can help you in return. Don't rush. You have four minutes to record your message.

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