A Brief History of NCR

Invented in 1880, Jack Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier forever changed the way retail establishments would conduct everyday business. The first machines were sold not only for their functional ability, but also on their beauty – a fixture which every store owner would be proud to display in his establishment. The first cash registers were housed in elegant cabinets of polished wood. In 1888 ornate cases of brass and cast iron were produced. These fancy cases on cash registers ceased in 1915 due to demand for brass during World War I. Less expensive sheet metal versions were then produced and the era of the brass cash register ended after only 27 years.

Even though brass cash registers have not been manufactured since 1915, they were refurbished and sold as used registers for the next three decades. In some cases, they can even be found in use today. The quality of the mechanisms in these machines, as well as the timeless beauty of their ornate cases, make it easy to understand why these one-time common business machines have become such a sought-after and coveted antique.

Examples of early registers

Model Number

The model is the key to what your register is.  The model number and serial number are usually located on a tag on the front of the machine.  Before 1909, registers were either a one- or two-digit model number, for example, model 2, 50, 92.  If your register is a push-key register and was made before 1909, the model number is usually located on an oval tag to the right of the register directly under the glass (it may say “size”).  If your register has a crank on the right side, the model number is usually located on a badge between the push buttons. After 1909, National switched to a class system, and the model numbers changed.  For example, a model 72 changed to a model 442 after 1909.

If your register was made after 1909, it is located on a plate dead center of your register directly under the glass.  It should look like this:

The top number is your serial number.  The bottom number is your model number.  The top tag represents a model 572 that has an electric motor (EL) and has 9 drawers.  So, this tag is for a floor model.  The other letters you may find are:

G – which is the kind of autographic printer that is on your register

L – Lights on your register

C – A fairly large register with more than one drawer that sits on a cabinet

F – A floor model register

If this tag is missing, the information might be found on a paper tag on the bottom of the cash drawer.  Please refer to our parts section, we do have the capabilities to make tags. The bottom number is the model number.  This model number is very important when trying to establish what kind of register you have.


Serial Number

The below table is a guide to tell you what year your National Cash Register was shipped from the factory.  Registers were numbered sequentially, and not according to what model they were.  The serial number is the above number on the tag on the front of your machine.


Serial Number


Serial Number

1889 10,000 – 20,000 1903 310,000 – 370,000
1890 20,000 – 30,000 1904 370,000 – 430,000
1891 30,000 – 40,000 1905 430,000 – 490,000
1892 40,000 – 60,000 1906 490,000 – 550,000
1893 60,000 – 70,000 1907 550,000 – 610,000
1894 70,000 – 90,000 1908 610,000 – 690,000
1895 90,000 – 100,000 1909 690,000 – 800,000
1896 100,000 – 120,000 1910 800,000 – 940,000
1897 120,000 – 140,000 1911 940,000 – 1,080,000
1898 140,000 – 160,000 1912 1,080,000 – 1,220,000
1899 160,000 – 200,000 1913 1,220,000 – 1,370,000
1900 200,000 – 230,000 1914 1,370,000 – 1,470,000
1901 230,000 – 270,000 1913 1,220,000 – 1,370,000
1902 270,000 – 310,000 1914 1,370,000 – 1,470,000


If your register has a serial number that begins with an “S”, this means that at some point your register was sent back to the factory to either be repaired or resold.  It may have endcaps that don’t have holes in them to accommodate a top sign.  While it is impossible to tell when the register was originally sold from the factory, the S machines were numbered as follows:


S-1 January 1880 S-1000 April 1893
S-3000 September 1894 S-5000 August 1896
S-7000 February 1898 S-9000 April 1899
S-11000 February 1900 S-13000 October 1900
S-15000 July 1901 S-17000 February 1902
S-19000 September 1902 S-21000 May 1903
S-23000 November 1903 S-25000 April 1904
S-27000 July 1904 S-29000 January 1905
S-31000 July 1905 S-33000 December 1905
S-35000 March 1906 S-37000 June 1906
S-39000 October 1906 S-41000 December 1906
S-43000 March 1907 S-45000 May 1907
S-47000 July 1907 S-49000 September 1907
S-51000 October 1907 S-53000 December 1907
S-55000 February 1908 S-57000 May 1908
S-59000 August 1908 S-61000 October 1908
S-63000 January 1909 S-65000 March 1909
S-67000 May 1909 S-69000 September 1909
S-71000 December 1909 S-73000 May 1910
S-75000 November 1910 S-77000 June, 1911
S-79000 January 1912 S-81000 October 1912
S-83000 June 1913 S-85000 January 1914
S-87000 August 1914 S-89000 January 1915
S-91000 March 1915


Case Design

National cash registers were made in red brass, nickel plate, and copper oxidized.  If your register looks to be in different colors of brass, this is because at some point somebody has stripped off the old nickel plate.  If your register was originally nickel plate, then most likely your drawer front is solid nickel, because this is the piece of the register that was touched most often, and National put solid nickel drawer fronts on the register so the nickel plate wouldn’t wear off.   It is highly unlikely that if your register is a nickel plated register, that it will be completely one color under the nickel plate.  This is because when National was putting their registers together, when they got a batch from the foundry that was different colors, National nickel plated the register.

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