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Antique Phonograph News
Canadian Antique Phonograph Society


Jul-Aug 2004

Jan-Feb Mar-Apr May-Jun Jul-Aug Sep-Oct Nov-Dec
Bettini Cylinder Boxes: The Unreal, Real and Related
by Robert Feinstein

The purported Bettini cylinder box pictured and described in the May-June issue of Antique Phonograph News was of more than passing interest to me. In more than thirty years of writing articles about Lieutenant Bettini, I have never seen another one and my sympathy goes out to the bidder who paid $169.50 for it, if that collector thought what was being auctioned was anything other than a fascinating, but spurious Bettini carton...a counterfeit put together by someone with a lot of imagination and little respect for history.

When I first saw it on Ebay several months ago, I had been tempted to bid, in the hope of getting an original color cover of Gianni Bettiniís April, 1900 U.S. catalog. I have the 1965 Stanford Archive of Recorded Soundís black and white reprint of Catalog No. 10, "A True Mirror of Sound", as the lieutenant dubbed his cylinder brochure for that month and year, and thought that a genuine, richly-hued cover, would be great to keep within it. Ultimately, I decided against buying, in part because I did not want to reward the possible dishonesty of the seller and out of fear that I would only be vying for a photocopy, made either from an original Bettini No. 10 cover or a depiction of it.

I have no doubt that one of those two possibilities has been converted into a fake label. Full-color, easily photocopied specimens of the cover appear on P. 46 of Tim Fabrizio and George Paulís excellent book, "Antique Phonograph Gadgets, Gizmos & Gimmicks" and my "A Tribute to Gianni Bettini" website. It would have been an ironic and unpleasant experience for me to have won the item only to find out, on closer examination, that it was a carton around which was wrapped a colorized Xerox made from the precise illustration which appears on my own website! As this has not been the only spurious Bettini box to have been sold, prospective buyers should be informed and wary...and particularly so because authentic Bettiniana commands such high prices.

CAPS New President

CAPS New President Bob Nix from Sarnia Ontario, has already become somewhat of a celebrity as the Gramophone Doctor, having been prominently featured in several newspaper articles. Bobís interest began as a hobby when he decided to restore his grandfatherís Canadian Berliner Gram-O-Phone some years ago. After retiring from DOW Chemical where he worked for 30 years, Bob began working full time repairing and selling phonographs for the past 8 years from his home based business. Surprisingly, most of his customers never get to see his shop, as he sells and repairs phonographs for people throughout Canada and the US. Those who come to our meetings regularly have been able to witness his growing passion as he shared his expertise with members on several occasions giving well-received demonstrations of cabinet and reproducer repairs. CAPS couldnít have a better supporter who tirelessly promotes our group to the people he comes in contact with and on his trips to phonograph shows in the Unites States. His reputation as an honest and meticulous repairman makes him a fine representative for our group. As for his Grandfatherís Gram-O-Phone (shown in the photo), it enjoys a prominent place in his living room and he plans to pass it on to his son one day.

Appointments or consultations can be made with the doctor through his Website at www.gramophonedoctor.com

At The Auction
by Mark Caruana

This past month or two the rarest of the rare seems to have been showing up on Ebay. Prices for these machines have risen quite steadily over the last few years and show no signs of slowing as numerous bidders pushed the prices up to new records.

A great deal of spirited bidding took place over an 1899 Columbia Toy Graphophone and bidders did not seem discouraged by the missing horn and needle on this tiny hand driven talking machine. The records used for this near mint machine were vertical cut, centre start and made out of the same material as the early wax cylinders. The winning bidder won this item for $10,422.00 (all prices in $US).

A more substantial machine, a rare circa 1890 Edison North American Class M (electric) phonograph with special decorations in a mahogany case, was the recipient of 40 bids. Although the bedplate had been refinished, the quality of the work was first rate and the overall appearance of the machine was near mint resulting in a winning bid of $30,000.00.

Edison North American Class M (electric) Phonograph 1890

Another of the more sought after rare Edisonís was also available in the past month with an Edisons Idealia Model E phonograph up for sale. These machines were the premier Edison external horn phonographs until the introduction of the Opera in 1911. From the description given by the seller, this machine had been rebuilt and may have had several parts replaced. Again, bidders were not deterred as the machine sold for $11,000.00 after 55 bids.

Without a doubt the most exciting phonograph to ever appear on Ebay was the recently sold circa 1878 Edison Parlor Tinfoil Phonograph, manufactured by Brehmer Brothers of Philadelphia, which was sold as part of a live Ebay auction. After 75 bids this treasure was sold to a bidder who was at the live auction for $43,500.00 plus 15% buyers premium (roughly $49,000.00).

Edison Parlor Tinfoil Phonograph circa 1878

One of my favorite items of the past few months was a mahogany cased special order flowered Edison Gem. One wonders why someone would have spent the extra money back then to upgrade this simple machine with both these extras which surely would have made it more expensive than an Edison Standard. Itís no surprise then that this one-of-a-kind machine rocketed to $9,300.00. Unfortunately the reserve was not met and reports are that the reserve was substantially higher.

Edison Gem

Columbia Toy Graphophone 1899

Edison North American Class M (electric) Phonograph 1890

Edison Idelia Model E Phonograph

Edison Parlor Tinfoil Phonograph circa 1878

Edison Gem
Book Review:
The Victor Data Book

by Mark Caruana

Robert W. Baumbachís new book, "The Victor Data Book", is a very welcome addition to my phonograph library and contains a treasure trove of information. This 8 Ĺ by 11 inch 335 page soft cover work has hundreds of mostly black and white illustrations. The first third of the book covers the early history of the Victor Talking Machine Company and is liberally illustrated with rare photos of ephemera, unusual machines, original photos, documents and parts. I found this a very interesting and engaging read. The later two-thirds of the book is devoted to a comprehensive cataloguing of each model of Victor Talking Machine. Data on each model includes shipments, serial numbers, modifications and revisions plus details on every important aspect of each machine. Well-respected author Robert W. Baumbach wrote the first illustrated guide to Victor Talking Machines in 1982 and has now successfully completed the most comprehensive document on this important companyís history and products.

$29.95 US. Published by Mulholland Press, Inc. which specializes in reference books for collectors of talking machines.