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Antique cash registers ring up fun for new Folsom resident

By: Laura Newell, Features Editor
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The saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” registers a different tune with Folsom’s Ken Konet.

Konet, 70, who owns his own consulting company, moved to Folsom nine months ago from upstate New York with his wife, two German Shepherds and his rare collection of antique cash registers.

“We traveled with our dogs in our station wagon, with our furnishings and about 75 old cash registers in the moving van not far behind,” Konet said.

So, how does someone start collecting rare antique cash registers? Konet said it just took one and he was hooked.

“About 40 years ago I purchased a broken one from an antique shop in Syracuse, N.Y. It was in really bad shape so I figured I would take it all apart and try to revive it – which I did,” he said. “Then I had the outside case which is made of bronze polished. I put it back together and it looked like and functioned like new. I got hooked and have had over 500 during my 40 years of restoring and collecting.”

He said another big hook for his collection was the fact that he already liked antiques and mechanical things.

“I was a salesperson at the time and this hobby got me away on the weekends in my basement working on these things compared to talking and selling the other five days,” he said.

Konet said the processes of buying and restoring his registers was half the fun.

He explained, depending on the condition and size of the antique cash register, a small one in good shape would take about 3 to 5 hours of work disassembling it and putting it back together again.

“Some of the very big ones could take me weeks or more, especially if it required new parts,” he said. “If it does, many times I will need two or three weeks to make a new looking and functioning machine again.”

He uses “pickers” to help him find the resisters throughout the country. Pickers are people who travel around looking for things for other people. They are usually paid either a commission.

“I have many pickers looking all over the US and Canada for me,” he said. “I also find registers at flea markets, garage sales and antique shops. I have a professional mover who picks them up for me throughout North America too.”

Today, Konet has more than 70 antique registers in total.

“I now focus on the extremely rare and hard to find ones with the cases made form exotic woods with various inlay designs including flowers, sea shells and birds,” he said. “I have about 25 in the rare collection and about 70 in storage that I use for parts. The rarest one I have is one of the first ones made by NCR in 1886. I purchased from a friend and it is as if it came right out of the factory today – mint condition.”

Where does he keep such a large collection? Well, Konet has dedicated an entire room within his Folsom home to house his collection.

“Having a hobby other than your profession is very important. It gets you away from your normal routine and it becomes very enjoyable, therapeutic and rewarding,” Konet said. “All it takes is buying one and liking mechanical antiques. That sets the hook. These are great to collect, refurbish and learn about our history – and a great company, NCR. I also redo them for people who want one for their home bar or whatever, so it can have some profit related to it too.”

Konet said he has no plans to sell his collection. He just plans to keep restoring and enjoying his rare collection.