Eric Drost and his wife Maria opened their ﬁrst chocolate, ice cream and antique shop together in 1976 in Michigan. Their interest in old fashioned brass cash registers began at that time. They purchased a 1912 National cash register and have used it continuously in their businesses.
“We keep over 100 antique working registers on display in our museum area,” Eric said. These, along with a lot of other unique antique items, have added depth to their collection.
Cash registers were invented in 1879. The public was slow in acceptance. Not many were sold in the ﬁrst 10 years. The ornate brass registers were manufactured from 1880 to 1916. Brass was taken for the war effort during WWI. Manufacturing that followed took on a more modern look with steel construction painted to resemble grained wood.
Some early registers do not have cent keys (.01 through .09) as there was no sales tax back then. The merchants would charge exactly what their business required.
Lower cabinets are made of mahogany, oak, or cherry. A receipt listing the buyer, the seller, where and when sold was glued to the bottom of the main, or “A” drawer. Usually this receipt is still in place and establishes early history of each.
Eric has registers with multi drawer cabinets, but has never seen any with a “C”, “I”, or “J” drawer. Does anyone know why? He would welcome an answer to this puzzling question.
Registers are made of cast iron on the inside, steel, brass or bronze housings, nickel plated to slow oxidation. Intricate relief designs, found on the front, sides, and back were very popular. Often the company or store owner’s name was included in the design. Tiffany (jewelers) designed three molds for castings that were produced for National Cash Register Co. Several examples are in Drost’s collection. Every piece of brass is stamped with a security code number making it possible to trace if stolen.
Most of the registers were accumulated one at a time from garage sales, auctions, ﬂea markets, attics, basements, wherever found. Some extras were purchased for replacement parts. Occasionally he has had to have parts made.
The focus of Eric’s hobby is on the inside of the machines. In his spare time, he thoroughly enjoys working on them, repairing, cleaning and polishing each one, retuning each to original condition.
Registers are displayed in a museum setting with antiques from the same era. Framed cash register advertisements from the 1900s showing prices and features are hung on one wall. Most anything nostalgic interests the Drost’s. File cabinets, keg spouts, ice cream dippers, signage, wall telephones, scales, a display of old keys, another of hinges, post ofﬁce boxes and ﬁxtures, and numerous other items can be seen.
Eric eagerly talks with visitors, sharing stories. He repairs registers for others, has a large number of keys and can duplicate lost register keys on one of his three key cutting machines.
The Drost’s intention has been to provide a free exhibit of a bygone era for families to visit and enjoy at their leisure.
They have lived in Colorado for many years and ﬁnally made this move to Eckert in the fall of 2006.
The shop sells a wide variety of candy made fresh on site. Old fashioned sundaes, sodas or malts, or other ice cream specialties can be purchased while seated at tables in an ice cream parlor setting.
The Drosts are extremely interested in any historical photos or information about former businesses at the location of the building (12991 Highway 65, Eckert). They invite you to stop by and share your knowledge.