I've restored quite a few roller organs and organette's that unsuspecting buyers have purchased on eBay or other on-line auctions only to find that the item being advertised "in working condition" is barely, if at all, working when they receive it. Here's a few suggestions that may hopefully keep you from getting burned:
1. Pictures, pictures, and more pictures! "A picture says a thousand words" - ask for as many different photo's as possible. A lot can be determined about the true condition with the right photo's. Ask lots of questions, if unsure of what to ask, contact me - I'd be happy to help. 2. Hear it play! Even today most simple digital camera's can record a short video, ask the seller to send one or have them contact you and play it over the phone.
3. The music! Keep in mind most paper music can be quite deteriorated when it's 100 years old. New re-cut music rolls are still being produced today for almost all organette's at Schmidt's Music Rolls andPipes Of Pan. Cobs, or rollers, used on Roller Organs tend to last much longer due to the wood and metal construction. Make sure to ask about any rusted, bent or missing pins - replacement pins are available if needed. New cobs are still produced today at Honor Rolls for $21 each.