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Those Misloved Wax Cylinders

On one hand, cylinders such as North American, Columbia 6” long 20th century, Bettini, Celeste, Concert, Inter size, Caruso, Leo the XIIIth, are very attractive for collectors due to their rarity and good investment value. On the other hand, among the many wax cylinders manufactured, dictating ones (Ediphone, Dictaphone, etc.) are rarely praised by collectors.

Even though the dictating cylinders themselves are of no great interest (although they do have special grooving: 150/inch, compared to the common 100 and 200, etc.) collecting their boxes can be quite interesting, and through my 32 years of collecting, I have amassed a collection of 29 different ones.

The most exciting one, for a Canadian collector living in Quebec, was found recently at an auction taking place near Montreal. It is a Stenophone, the address of which is: 494 Lagauchetiere St. W., Montreal. It also reads on the box: "Dictating cylinders, Registered, Made in Canada". The interesting thing is that it was found in its original square mailing package, complete with the destination address: "Electric Motor & Machinery Co., 652 Craig St. W. Montreal, Que." The George VI, 5-cent stamp gives a clue to the date (after 1936) and in fact, the faint obliteration reads "193? OCT. 20". As for me,it is the only Canadian dictating cylinder I have ever seen, or even ever heard of, in my 32 years of collecting.

Recently, on eBay-France, two French dictating cylinders were for sale before I was registered. The light brown crocodile-like cardboard one with metallic staples was typically Pathé, but nobody, among well known French collectors I contacted, had ever seen one before, not even as an advertisement in a newspaper. My efforts to contact the seller and the buyer never succeeded.

It is the same lack of information that makes the huge one-foot tall by 5-inch diameter (approx). "Recordaphone” wax cylinders such a mystery.

In this case, the cylinders are known and have been identified as having different boxes: round and square, and different labels: English, German. The machines themselves have become completely mythic in a sense that apparently nobody has ever seen one, again not even in the form of an advertisement. I see this as proof that even for these misloved wax cylinders, ones that many collectors consider too common to be collectible, there are still some more exciting discoveries to be made.