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1911 National Cash Register needs metal restoration

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Cash Registers2 of 891951 National Cash Register NCR Cash Register
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    Posted 4 months ago

    (1 item)

    I have a working 1911 National cash register that my grandfather bought used about 1935 as he was starting into business. He passed away in 1991, and when my parents took possession they “cleaned” it using some kind of solvent that has stripped away the brass tones on all the inlaid panels. Curiously, the outer frame areas around the inlays retained their brass patina. Shy of disassembling it to have the parts re-plated, I don’t know where to begin restoring it, or if that’s even possible. I’ve considered carefully applying some kind of tinted lacquer to the affected areas but haven’t yet precipitated anything that’s possibly ruinous and irreversible. Some of the exposed silver grey finish has since oxidized to a dark dull grey. I don’t care about the resale value in my lifetime, but I do care that this family gem be restored properly. Can anyone suggest how I might go about this?

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    1. keramikos, 4 months ago
      Hi, dencentral. :-)

      Beautiful, and you even have some documentation. <3

      It's too bad about the damage. I'm sure your parents meant well. :-(

      There are quite a few businesses that restore vintage cash registers, but it can be prohibitively expensive, e.g.:

      Here is a YouTube video of the restoration of a 1914 NCR register:

      The creator advises:

      "If you have any questions about restoring antique cash registers, drop a comment below. Another excellent resource is the Cash Register Collectors Club ("

      The crcci dot org website:

      It looks like they have a specific area for restoration tips:

      Good luck. :-)
    2. keramikos, 4 months ago
      Hi again, dencentral. :-)

      I did some more looking around, and this site has a lot of good information:

      Unfortunately, that finish letter (A) on the receipt provides some information that isn't altogether good news:


      NCR had 3 distinct finishes. A letter on the paper label under the drawer designates the original finish. Here are what the letters generally stand for:

      Copper Oxidized, CuO2 — Letter A

      These machines can be cast iron or brass and appear as copper color that has tarnished black in the detail. This is the least common finish as is not very well known because people generally mistake it for a really dirty machine and start to polish it and think it is brass.

      CuO2 is often not restored; very few professionals can do it properly. First the original finish is stripped off, then it is polished and cleaned, then it is plated with copper and then oxidized (a chemicals applied with turns the whole case black) finally the smooth parts and some details are polished back to copper. The resulting register has an elegant look, which is unique to ornate registers.


      So it sounds like trying to restore the finish would be a major job best done by a professional. :-(

      The pattern of your register might be rare in that it might be a hybrid of Empire and something else, perhaps some variety of floral (the back panel, and one side of yours looks like Empire, but the other side looks floral):

      Empire was designed by Tiffany.
    3. keramikos, 4 months ago
      FWIW, somebody has photocopies of a 1929 repair manual for the 400/800 series:
    4. keramikos, 4 months ago
      I should have done this earlier, but your register is probably completely normal in terms of its Empire pattern for an NCR register of its generation.

      Here is a drawing of an 1898 NCR Empire pattern register. That scroll work attachment on the left hand side is the printer and you can see the 'Empire' design peeking out from underneath:

      Here's are some 1909 400 class register drawings (but not the 421 unfortunately):

      Now that I look more closely, I can see the Empire pattern peeking through underneath the printer attachment on yours as well.

      Here's an NCR model 442 with the Empire pattern (no date given), and a good view of the printer side:

      So I just misunderstood about the printer attachment.
    5. AnythingObscure AnythingObscure, 4 months ago
      I was gonna kinda suggest the same thing -- that perhaps your machine was actually intended to *not* be fully polished brass. It is wonderful just like it is!!!! :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)
    6. keramikos, 4 months ago
      AnythingObscure, Yes, it sounds like that Copper Oxidized, CuO2 finish wasn't necessarily rare in terms of production, but rather rare in terms of survival. :-(
    7. AnythingObscure AnythingObscure, 4 months ago
      It actually makes me rethink my own 'project' register keramikos...could it have been that finish too? I gotta go dig that heavy box-o-brass out again and look with fresh eyes -- I think I learned something here today...?! :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)
    8. keramikos, 4 months ago
      Here's an old NCR register with a Copper Oxidized, CuO2 finish. It's not the same model (240), or even the same pattern (Fleur De Lis), but the finish looks like it's in good repair:

      So, dencentral, I don't know how to advise you.

      As AnythingObscure points out, your register is still beautiful. You might just want to spray it with some kind of fixative, but before you do anything, it would be better for you to get some advise from people who know more about these things.
    9. dencentral, 4 months ago
      Thanks guys for your comments and helpful info and links, I’ll get this thing figured out :-)
    10. keramikos, 4 months ago
      dencentral, You're welcome. :-)

      You might want to nose around some vintage cash register forums like the one at crcci dot org before you talk to any big money experts.
    11. dencentral, 4 months ago
      Keramikos, It's 110 yearsold and been collecting dust since it was 80. I'll take the time, no rush! :-)
    12. keramikos, 4 months ago
      dencentral, I getcha. };-)

      It's unfortunate that your family heirloom has been damaged through an ill-advised cleaning procedure utilized by your parents, but it sounds like they were far from alone in that.

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