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Antique Phonograph News
Canadian Antique Phonograph Society

Nov-Dec 2003

Jan-Feb Mar-Apr May-Jun Jul-Aug Sep-Oct Nov-Dec
At The Auction
by Mark Caruana

Three sales made by a seller in Maastricht, Netherlands clearly demonstrate that on Ebay the "good stuff" still attracts big money. The first was an extremely desirable and scarce fully restored Rosenfield coin operated 2-minute phonograph in an oak cabinet. The mechanism in this machine is from a Columbia AZ with an Edison type reproducer. As you can see from the photo, this machine was in perfect condition, which explains its final sale price of $15,975 + $450 shipping (all values in $US).

The next item from this seller was a rare combination music box/phonograph called a Polygraphon, which came with 12 11-inch discs. The horn with this machine was a beautiful 21-inch all brass horn that looked very similar to a Berliner brass horn and although several of the parts were replicas, the machine was particularly nice. The final selling price for this curious piece was a fair $3,500 + $200 shipping.

The final item was an Edison Home phonograph in a Hawthorne and Sheble Cylinder cabinet, which sold for $4,050 + $200 shipping. Not bad for one of these very distinguished cabinets.

Two other items that really caught my interest were a pair of Lambert cylinders. The first one was a scarce 5-inch Pink Lambert Concert cylinder. The last time I saw one of these was at the "Union" phonograph show about 8 years ago and it went for $600 then. Well now they can fetch $3,000 with the original box. The second Lambert cylinder was also a 5-inch one but in the somewhat less desirable black colour. Being less desirable it fetched a modest $1,125 (sarcasm intended).

The final item I thought worth mentioning was one of the most sought after Beatle collectibles: the Beatles first U.S. 45rpm record - Decca #31382, Tony Sheridan & The Beat Brothers "My Bonnie" b/w "The Saints". Note, this is not the later re-released MGM version that is credited to "The Beatles". This record, which was made with Tony Sheridan, has the original drummer Pete Best. The fine print on this version reads "vocal with instrumental accompaniment recorded in Europe by Deutsche Grammophon/Polydor (R) series". A fine piece of memorabilia for $7,789.

45sIs54: Part 1
by Keith Wright

"There are times I could really use Phonoholics Anonymous. It was just a simple purchase - only $45 at a flea market (what a curious price, eh?)... Now I have seven of them and they've brought a whole retinue of other objects previously-foreign to my collection - vintage radios and electric 78 players of all sorts. Yes, when I picked up an RCA 45 player to represent 1957 in my school demonstrations I launched down yet another fascinating avenue in the history of recorded sound".

So begins Part 1 of Keith Wright's fascinating story of "how the heck we got from spring-driven phonographs playing discs made from bug residue to the electric turntable playing plastic discs at more than one speed". Before getting to the 45, he describes several of the hardware and software developments that preceded the rise and fall of this stand-alone format.

Two major hardware developments: the popularity and saturation of radio during the Great Depression precipitated a steep decline in the sale of records. This was finally halted by RCA's introduction of the Duo Jr. player which could be attached to your radio and was sold at cost - $9.95. Released in September 1934, officially it was the RCA Model R-93, an electrically-driven turntable and magnetic pick-up with terminal posts you could use to connect to a radio set via external wires. And Bakelite plastic, "the poor man's wood", invented in the early 20th century, made it possible during the 1930's for everyone to buy a radio for just $10 - instead of $90 or so for a radio with a wooden cabinet. You could stamp out identical enclosures instead of doing custom carpentry.

But, the record player wasn't ALL that was different. The old 78 discs are heavy, noisy and brittle. They are also made from a substance secreted by the Lac beetle and during World War II the U.S. lost its supply of imported shellac when the Japanese took over French Indochina. Vinylite, a Union Carbide product, in conjunction with Formvar, a Canadian-invented polyvinyl resin, was used to make V-Disc records for distribution to American armed forces overseas. By the late 1940's, when the 45rpm disc made its first appearance, "Vinyl's (or more correctly, Vinylite's) time had almost come."

Part two of this article will be in the January-February 2004 issue of Antique Phonograph News.

RCA Model R-93

RCA Model R-93

GE Model JM-3

RCA Model 63-E

45 rpm player from 1943
Letter to the Editor
by Arthur Zimmerman

At the beginning of his presentation to the first CAPS meeting of this season, our guest presenter Lloyd Swackhammer said that he had put together his encyclopedic book of Canadian radio receivers because he perceived a need for such a work, to summarize the history of the contributions that Canadians have made to the field. He opined that there is probably a need for a similar sort of work on the subject of Canadian phonographs and gramophones, and suggested that it would be most appropriate for the knowledgeable members of CAPS to undertake such a magnificent and vital project.

It has been my sad experience to discover that histories of technical and artistic accomplishments by Canadians are most difficult subjects to find. Partly because resources and funding for the basic research are very difficult to come by, and partly because we have some sort of inexplicable inbred distaste for recognizing and recording our own achievements. In my other pet field, I find that the raw material of the early days of Canadian radio broadcasting is scarce because our newspapers failed to seek out and tell about the achievements of Canadians and because our libraries did not collect or preserve the magazines and paper ephemera that told our story. The newspapers preferred to print wire service stories about the achievements and products from the United States, and the few early Canadian radio magazines published are scarce and scattered, so that our unique and significant history has been virtually lost to posterity. Similarly, with Canadian phonographs and gramophones, the stories of the smaller brands and of short-lived innovative companies are becoming all but lost to us.

Lloyd Swackhammer dropped the needle right into the lead-in groove. We have come to the point where it is now almost too late to put together a comprehensive history of Canadian record reproducers, based upon the accumulated knowledge of the oldest surviving generations of collectors and repairmen. The people who hold that knowledge are steadily fading away. Now it's almost past time that we made the effort to capture and preserve what is still left of the business and technical histories of the industry that so fascinates us. Bits of information have been published in magazines like the CAPS Journal, but now it all has to be compiled and improved and made into a definitive book.

It would be a useful and important CAPS club project to undertake the production of a fine book on the history of Canadian record players. This book (or series) would include the very best photographs and technical descriptions (cabinet, motor, horn, sound box) of all of the models that we have found and know about, any patent information that is accessible, factory locations and photos, names of company owners and mangers, production years, production numbers and prices. It's hard to overstate the importance to future generations of collectors and people fascinated with sound reproduction and with the early artifacts themselves. I would like to suggest a format similar to George L. Frow's "The Edison Disc Phonographs", the companies ordered alphabetically and their machines ordered by number, with a page or two devoted to each machine. I'd also suggest that everyone in CAPS could be involved, submitting to the editor(s) standard format articles on equipment that individuals know a great deal about. Articles submitted about the same instrument could be melded by the editor, or the editor could seek further information or commission someone to do research to fill out any lacunae.

It's up to us to produce such an encyclopedic reference book on Canadian phonographs and gramophones. No one else is going to do it. And I think that the time to begin work on it is right now. If it is important to us that this book be brought into existence, we are the ones who will have to give it birth.