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Collecting Phonographs & Records In Nova Scotia
Ernest D. M. Yeaw's Bayhead Radio Museum

Buying phonographs and records in Nova Scotia has definite pluses and minuses. The plus is that on prices we are in a buyerís market. The minus is that with our small population, the selection is not as great as one would like. Phonographs are still quite common at estate auctions and though prices have risen in the last few years, they still usually go well below prices listed in books. The Antique Roadshow on PBS has probably caused prices to increase a certain amount. Regarding Edison cylinder machines, the bidders donít seem to distinguish between models. They seem to go in the $300.00 bracket whether you find a Standard or a Fireside, although some of the antique shops have inflated prices on phonographs but will negotiate. I have even bought machines for half the asking price. I was in a shop in Halifax recently that had a very ordinary mail order type of floor model priced at $750.00 that would definitely not sell at that price. I find the best time to deal at antique shops is in the fall after the American tourist rush is over. Let me clarify that I'm not knocking antique dealers. They have to make a profit and probably price high to allow room for negotiations.

Anyone traveling in Nova Scotia should stop at Ernest Yeawís Radio Museum in Bayhead near Tatamagouche on the #6 Highway between Amberst and Pictou to see Ernestís collection of phonographs. He has over 400 radios and several phonographs and also likes to show off his 1953 Hudson Hornet and license plate collection. Since Ernest is frequently at auction or yard sales it is best to phone ahead.

When it comes to collecting 78ís my main interest is hillbilly or country from the 1930ís and 40ís. I still call it hillbilly as when they started calling it country, it wasnít really country anymore (I jokingly refer to todayís country as third rate rock). I also collect pop from the 1920ís to about 1950 and novelty artists. Fellow collector, Bill Fisher and I appear as guests once a month on CBC Weekend Morning, where they have us play records that are mostly nonsense and then discuss the artists. Bill collects mainly early 1900ís to 1920ís but our collections overlap on novelty artists such as Frank Crumit, Billy Murray, George Formby and Spike Jones. Hillbilly records are the most sought after in Nova Scotia and I presume they sold quite well as they still show up quite often. In the late 1930ís RCA Victor in Canada had five hillbilly or "cowboy" singers on their Bluebird label and three, Wilf Carter, Tex Cochrane and Hank The Yodeling Ranger (Snow) were from Nova Scotia. Carter and Snow 78ís are plentiful, but still sell very well. Pop 78ís are also plentiful as well as classical and even though most of the used record stores have stopped handling 78ís they still turn up at antique stores, yard sales, flea markets and ads in the Bargain Hunter. Prices in the shops are usually $1.00 to $2.00 while some shops have higher prices but they donít sell as they have the same records this summer as they had last year.

I was in a shop in Tatamagouche that had a price tag of $25 on an average condition copy of "Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer" by Gene Autry. I have been given and have given away several copies of the multi-million seller so he may as well frame it and hang it on the wall. Pop 78ís (big bands and crooners) are slow sellers as they are so plentiful but for the right price they seem to sell. Classical records appear to have practically no market here as the same records are in the shops forever regardless of price. The only records here that go extremely high are rockabilly from the 1950ís, which are almost exclusively sold to American collectors. I have no idea about a fair price on cylinder records as I donít have any machines. In the shops Iíve found prices range from $2.00 to $15.00 per cylinder while normally they go cheaper at estate auctions.

Saturday auctions are always advertised in the Halifax papers on Thursday and there were recently several in the nearby towns loaded with antiques, which I thought would attract the high rollers and antique dealers. However, there was one in Westfield, Queens County, about as far in the country as one can get so I suggested to my wife that we hit the road. There was a Victrola on the list but one can never be sure, as Iíve seen Eatonís portables incorrectly listed as Victrolas (much as referring to all snowmobiles as Skidoos and all amphilphonic guitars as Dobros, which I do myself). To my delight, it turned out to be the real thing, a Victor Granada in pretty good condition and working. For some strange reason nobody was bidding on it and I won this machine for $25.00 plus tax (15%in NS, total $28.75). There was also a box of 121, 78ís in excellent condition that attracted one other bidder which I eventually won for $65.00 ($74.75). What turned out to be a surprise was a box of 32 Edison cylinders that went for $130.00 ($149.50) or $4.67 each. This was probably a good deal for the buyer but its the highest Iíve ever seen them sell for at auction.