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MUSICAL NUNS

           

HOME - COLLECTING NUNS - BOOKS ABOUT NUNS - NUN DOLLS - NUN COLLECTIONS - NUN FIGURALS

Musical Nuns became an enormously popular Catholic collectible thanks to a Dominican of the Fichermont Convent in Belgium, Sister Luc Gabriel, (1933-1985). 

Born Jeanne-Paule Marie Deckers, and later known as Jeanine Deckers, she was well-loved in her convent for her music and was encouraged by the other Sisters to record her work.

In 1963, the album was released and one song, Dominique, dedicated to the founder of her order, Saint Dominic, soared to the top of the charts in the United States Overnight, using the stage name Soeur Souire (Sister Smile in English) she became an international celebrity, performing in concerts.  In 1964 she appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, an appearance that meant one had "arrived."

In 1966, Debbie Reynolds starred in a the title role of a movie called The Singing Nuns a huge box office hit, making the song even more popular -- along with the little nun music boxes that played the tune.

Music from the Soul: The Singing Nun Story CoverMusic from the Soul is the story of the life of the Singing Nun and the difficulties she faced toward the end of her life. Read more

 If you're lucky enough to have a music box that plays the tune Dominique, you might like to sing along. Here are the lyrics in French:

While musical nuns are certainly one of the most popular "nun collectibles", the trio pictured below is without a doubt the one that fetches the highest price across the board.

 

Made by Sankyo in Japan, these generally have a foil Made in Japan sticker on the bottom as well. Measuring 6" wide by 5 1/2" high, there is a large circular hole in the back of the porcelain which is fitted with a wood covered wind up musical works. Generally, the tune offered is Dominique, the song made popular by The Singing Nun, but on occasion you will also find Silent Night.

 

Dominique

(Refrain)
Dominique, nique, nique
S'en allait tout simplement,
Routier pauvre et chantant
En tous chemins, en tous lieux
Il ne parle que du bon Dieu.


(verses)

A l'époque où Jean Sans Terre
D'Angleterre était roi,
Dominique, notre Père,
Combattit les Albigeois.
(Au Refrain)
 

Certain jour un hérétique
Par des ronces le conduit,
Mais notre Père Dominique
Par sa joie le convertit.
 

(Au Refrain)
 

Ni chameau, ni diligence,
Il parcourt l'Europe à pied.
Scandinavie ou Provence
Dans la sainte pauvreté.
 

(Au Refrain)

Enflamma de toute écoles
Filles et garçons pleins d'ardeur,
Et pour semer la Parole
Inventa les Frères Prêcheurs.
 

(Au Refrain)

 

Chez Dominique et Ses Frères
Le pain s'en vint à manquer
Et deux anges se présentèrent,
Portant deux grands pains dorés.
 

(Au Refrain)
 

Dominique vit en rêve
Les prêcheurs du monde entier,
Sous le manteau de la Vierge
En grand nombre rassemblés.
 

(Au Refrain)
 

Dominique, mon bon Père,
Garde-nous simples et gais
Pour annoncer à nos frères
La Vie et La Vérité.
 

(Au Refrain)

Little sound holes are present in the mouths of the Sisters, The three attached Sisters hold choir books that most usually have notes written on them.

The The shoes are usually glazed and the Crosses on their breasts are gilded.  Some versions have glazed white collars, while others are unglazed. The veils and black habits are always unglazed sometimes giving them a rather dull look. The delicately hand painted faces make up for it. They are colorful and engaging without being garish.

The Crucifixes on the rosaries that dangle from their belts are nearly always gilded.

Sankyo also made a set with white veils, and these are much harder to find. The lucky winner of the auction below got both sets for about $52.

 

Pricing - Buying and Selling

Prices really depend on the selling season as well as who's bidding against whom.  During the December 2006 Christmas season, the highest selling price was $70, and the lowest was $15.50. In the 2005 season, we sold one for a little over $150.

If you're buying on eBay, search during July and August for the best prices. If you're buying at an estate sale, try not to pay more than $5-7. You can bargain down if the musical works isn't perfectly functioning. If you're buying at a Church rummage sale, given them whatever they want and then add $5 to the price. Just because you should. Others are listed below with their Christmas season prices.

 

Three Singing Nuns with musical works playing "Dominique." Measures 6" wide by 6" high. This is the classic Singing Nun piece most sought after by collectors. Usually there is a foil Made in Japan sticker and maker's marking for Sankyo,  Selling prices during the 2006 Christmas Season on eBay ranged from $69.99 to $15.01. During the 2005 season we sold one for $150.

With the same standard 6" by 6" measurements, this set plays Silent Night. Made in Japan sticker was present, but the seller did not mention Sankyo. Even with a frozen musical works, it sold for $35.25.

An unusal pair of nuns in their Hollywood habits of gold lame! A rather large set standing 9" tall. Selling price $4.99

 

 

 

The double set shown above including the rare white veiled set with guitar playing nun sold for $52. The Joseph Original music box with sticker measures 9" x 6 1/2" and plays Dominique. It sold for $31.00. A second sold for $4.99 Apco Made in Japan figure plays Dominique and stands 7 1/2" tall. The asking price was $25.00, but it did not sell, despite the nice presentation. See the Apco box below.


This one is my personal favorite and I'm still kicking myself over missing this auction! What a rare treasure.  Also Made in Japan, this is a unique Flying Nun two piece musical works that plays Ave Maria. There is a small wire push switch, typical of the oldest music boxes, that is set into the "on" position when Sister takes her seat. The pipe organ itself is 8" tall and 5" wide. Astoundingly, this one only fetched $20.76. Ouch. This Singing Nun music box also plays Dominique and features three nuns. Stands 6 1/2" tall. Despite the Made in Japan sticker, the seller claimed that it was Lefton. We'll chalk that one up to misinformation rather than guile. The selling price was $23.60. A second one of this type that mentioned that the piece rotates sold for $13.45 and another went for $10.49.

 

 

Another Made in Japan Nun Trio, still playing Dominique. This one features gilded rosaries, white veils and, improbably, Sister is playing a banjo! Selling price $20.50 The Sisters are ready for Christmas with a holly berry decorated musical score of Dominique, which amazingly has the correct notes on it! Also made in Japan. Selling price $14.99. This is another Made in Japan Sankyo which we think is very sweet with the addition of musical instruments. The seller did not mention what tune it played. Selling price was $8.36.

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Also Made in Japan and playing Dominique, this musical nun set is 7 /12" wide and 7" tall. Selling price $7.50 An unusual color version with sticker: Berman & Associates / 175 Fifth Ave New York NY 10000 / Do Not Overwind / Made in Japan. Plastic base is etched: BERMAN & ASSOCIATES INC / JAPAN PAT.P. Seller mentions that it plays a tune that he does not recognize. I think we all know that that tune is... Measures 8" tall. Selling price $6.99 Maker unknown, size unknown,but this one also plays Dominique.Asking price $6.99, but no sale. Maybe it was the photo.

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