Ind. jewelry store still uses century-old cash register

An early National cash register. Image courtesy Archive and Red Baron's Antiques.

An early National cash register. Image courtesy Archive and Red Baron’s Antiques.

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) – Not all the gems at Murray’s Jewelers are attached to rings, necklaces and bracelets.

They leave one gem stuck on a counter, and stuff money into it.

It’s a brass cash register, one built by National Cash Register Co. of Dayton, Ohio, back in 1912. For the severely math-challenged, that makes it a century old this year.

But is it reliable?

“We use it every day,” said James Murray, the fifth generation of jewelers named Murray to operate the Muncie store.

Surrounded by other glittering sights, the cash register often goes unnoticed until a transaction is made. Then, with the pushing of keys and the crank of a side handle, its characteristic ka-ching as the drawer opens draws admiring glances from people who haven’t heard that distinctive sound in decades.

The sight is equally distinctive. Glowing dully in the light from the windows, its ranks of punch keys and levers lend it a well-deserved antique air. The ornate carvings on its front plates and Murray’s sign, however, are downright artistic.

Further evidence of its age is the fact that the top amount it will ring up is $89.99, which must have been all the jewelry they figured anybody needed back in 1912.

So now, say Murray’s sells a really nice ring for $5,089.99. They ring up the $89.99 on the cash register, then make note of the remaining $5,000 on a piece of paper that is placed in the cash drawer.

“That piece of paper is the only thing that can be more low-tech than the register,” James joked.

Another interesting feature of the cash register is the size of the cubicles in the cash drawer. Dollar bills, not to mention tens and twenties, were considerably bigger in 1912 than they are today, and the cubicles reflect that.

Equally interesting is a slotted container in the cash drawer where a merchant who was buying the register on time could put the occasional buck or two aside. Then on his rounds of his company’s cash register customers, the National man would come by and empty that container of another payment.

Originally bought by Muncie’s Opera House Jewelry Store in 1912, this cash register was then bought by James’ great-great-grandfather, also named James, in the 1920s. These days, James’ father and uncle, Todd and Steve, run the store, while his brother, Ryan, and his mother, Jane, also work there.

Asked how long the cash register will be around, James (the young one) said for as long as he can foresee. A customer who is a cash register collector said their regular but moderate use of it should keep the inner springs springy, which is good, and not brittle, which would be bad.


“You get in there every couple decades and re-grease it,” James said.

Meanwhile, the beautiful old machine fits right in with a place that honors the past, and a profession where the hand tools are traceable to ancient days while the jeweler’s benches date to the turn of the last century.

“If it ain’t broke …,” he said, staring at the cash register past the magnifying lenses of the jeweler’s loupe attached to his spectacles.


Information from: The Star Press,

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-07-05-12 1819GMT


An early National cash register. Image courtesy Archive and Red Baron's Antiques.

An early National cash register. Image courtesy Archive and Red Baron’s Antiques.