The General Electric Monitor Top refrigerator, when it was first on the market, sold for a steep $300 in 1927. Today, one in good working order can sell between 1,000 and $5,000.
When someone mentions the words “Antique Refrigerator,” it’s usually the General Electric Monitor Top refrigerator that comes to mind. GE first produced these for the residential market in 1927, selling them for the then-huge sum of $300. To get around this hefty purchase price, GE used a brilliant marketing campaign, offering these refrigerators for sale through local utilities, which would add a monthly payment of $10 to the electric bill. The plan worked well, as by June 1929, GE had sold more than a quarter million of these appliances. By 1931, the millionth Monitor Top rolled off the assembly line, appropriately presented to the father of the modern assembly line, Henry Ford. The basic single-door model remained relatively unchanged until late 1936; later models having a square case for the compressor.
According to engineering reports, GE had determined that these early refrigerators would last for at least 25 years of continuous operation. It’s a testament to the design of the Monitor Top that there are some in original condition that are still running more than 80 years later.
In the current market, fully restored 1927-36 Monitor tops can retail for more than $5,000, but one can pick up a Monitor Top that’s had some cosmetic touch ups but is in good running order in the $1,800-$2,400 range. Most un-restored examples—in working condition, but in need of some cosmetic restoration, wiring, seals etc. to make them safe and presentable—sell for less than $1,000.
Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.
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