There was a time – long before the advent of credit cards – that sales transactions were accompanied by the reassuring ding of a bell as a wooden cash register drawer opened to receive money, signaling the completion of the sale.
These ornate machines, manufactured from the late 1890s, have long since been replaced by computerized ones that keep a lot of records for the retailer, but lack the physical appeal and romance of the older ones.
Al Carter has devoted much of his retirement to restoring and collecting such machines. Throughout his home in Providence Plantation, vintage cash registers – some of inlaid wood, some of ornate brass – dot the décor. By scouring flea markets and ads and attending swap meets, he has amassed a huge collection. It is a passion that has grown over the years.
Downstairs in his home are shelves housing the more than 130 machines he has found and/or refurbished. Some he collects; some he sells.
Carefully moving his hands across the body of a register, Al explains the unique features of each. One is a bar machine with two drawers designated for “beverages” and “food.” One of the oldest, manufactured by Kruz, a company in New York, is distinguished with a dial that has amounts on it, facilitating the opening of the cash drawer. Another has a clock on the side enabling the employer to know when employees arrived.
Some are small; others are large with many drawers and features. Some are brass; some are of nickle-plated brass. A few have logos of soft drink companies such as Pepsi or Coca Cola on them.
Carter gets the old machines, painstakingly takes them apart, refurbishing what he can, replacing old parts when necessary, and buffing them to a shiny countenance. The excitement, he says, “is to see what the finished product looks like from what you start with.”
Sometimes the search for parts takes time, but almost everything is available somewhere.
He has a collection of parts that he sells to others in the same work.
Al has catalogued every machine on cards and referenced to a catalog.
He belongs to a national cash registers collectors club. Based in Dayton, Ohio, where National Cash Register, the largest manufacturer of cash registers, was located, three times a year the members, who come from all over the country and some foreign countries, meet to share and swap.
For further information about his collection or to locate a register or part, Al Carter can be contacted at 704-589-8284 or online at aljoy@carolina .rr.com.