Reproduction Outside Horn Gramophones
by Don Woodrow
The very first time that I saw an outside horn
reproduction gramophone was at a Canadian
Antique Phonograph Society meeting held
sometime around 1987. At that time, CAPS met at a
Community Centre at Trace Manes Park in Leaside
and Basil Ingrouille was the auctioneer. A member
had bought one of these while vacationing in Europe
and had brought it to the meeting.
Bas commented that he did not feel that this fake
gramophone belonged in the auction and said that he
did not want any more of them at future meetings. He
continued pointing out its faults and when bidding
was opened up there was no interest in it at all.
These fake gramophones are made in the Middle East
and south Asia. A motor from a portable is fitted into
a wooden case manufactured on site. The back
bracket is cast with an ornate design. The external
horn is made of brass and is quite attractive. A poorly
fitting elbow made of tin and soldered on a forty-five
degree angle connects the horn to the back bracket.
When you see a His Master's Voice decal on the front
of the cabinet and engraved on the nickel plating of
the reproducer your expectation is that you are
buying a genuine outside horn gramophone.
The rectangular cabinet with pillars in each corner is
the cabinet style that I see most frequently. Recently,
I saw a cabinet that was completely round. It still had
the red mahogany stain and HMV (His Masterís
Voice) decal on the front of the case and on the
reproducer. In photographs, I have seen another style
that has oval glass windows on the sides of the
cabinet presumably so that you can watch the
movement of the motor.
After writing the article on Reproduction Outside
Horn Gramophones (refer to Antique Phonograph
News November/December 1997) I forwarded a copy
to Eric Reiss, author of the Compleat Talking
Machine. I suggested that he add information about
these gramophones as they were becoming quite a
problem in Canada. His update required four pages.
One of the fakes shown in his article has a Columbia
Viva-tonal decal on the front. It is unusual in that the
cabinet is hexagonal and each side has wooden
decorative pieces added.
About nine months later, I received a package in the
mail from Arizona, identifying the contents as a
book.I said to my wife, "I didnít order a book from
the States. Who could possibly be sending me a
book?Ē The author had mailed his updated book to
me along with a short note enclosed thanking me for
all of my help and suggestions.
About two years after the meeting in Trace Manes
Park, a collector brought me a Victrola VIII and IX
for overhaul. The red mahogany cabinets had their
original finish and were in exceptionally nice
condition. He wanted these gramophones to play as
perfectly as possible. The owner was young,
enthusiastic and so very proud of these Victrolas. He
told me that some day he would like to own an
outside horn machine.
During an overhaul, I completely remove both
mainsprings, clean, lubricate and reinstall them. All
gears and spindles are also cleaned and oiled. I also
disassemble the reproducer and if the diaphragm is
damaged or the rubber gaskets have become hard and brittle, I
replace them. This improves the sound quality.
A few months passed when I received a call from him. He
was at an antique shop in the Eglinton, Mount Pleasant,
Bayview area of Toronto and had located an outside horn
gramophone that was not working. The owner had
offered to trade it for his Victrolas VIII and IX. He
made it very clear that when the trade was made there
would be no trading back. Could I repair it? I suggested
that he look at the motor to see if any gears were damaged and
to ensure that the motor was complete. (It is not uncommon
to have repairs brought to me with spring barrels completely
missing). I assured him that my success rate on repairs was
high that I could most likely repair it for him. The trade
must have been a very difficult decision for him.
He arrived at my home shortly afterwards. When he lifted this
gramophone from his car,I said "Oh! Oh!" With a
worried look he asked "What is Oh! Oh!" I told him
that he had just bought a reproduction outside horn
machine. I will never forget the expression on his
face. Although I felt badly, it did not occur to me to
ask questions that I would ask today. Fake
gramophones were not all that common at that time.
When this repair was completed, he advised me that
he no longer had any interest in this gramophone.
Shortly afterwards, he traded it for an Amberola 30 in
average condition. I have since lost track of him and I think it
likely that the experience may have discouraged him from the hobby.
Before submitting this article, I wrote to Robert Baumbach,
author of Look for the Dog. I explained that I would be writing a second
article on fake gramophones and asked permission
to use his drawing. His response was "By all means
and thank you for asking. I enjoyed your article on
reproduction gramophones and am pleased to help your update, in my
Several years ago, while visiting the Antique Flea Market in Pickering, I
was told that a dealer there was selling reproduction outside horn
gramophones. I went to his booth and stood
looking at one priced at $400.00 for a just a few
moments. The dealer wasted no time in coming
over to me. He asked "Are you interested?
I am sure we can make a deal!" Without identifying
myself, I replied "What can you tell me about
this machine?" To his credit, he said, "We think
it might be a reproduction." I replied "You no longer have to think,
it DEFINITELY is a reproduction."
I only visit this flea market occasionally but
when I do, I usually drop by his booth.
He advised me that he had two stores and
imports these gramophones from the
Middle East. They arrive with other
furniture in a cargo ship container and he
sells quite a few of them. He confided to
me that he had twenty-five of them
stored in the basement of his home
and could give me a great price if I
was interested in buying a quantity of
them. (I wasnít!) He now tells potential customers
that he purchased the gramophone at an auction and
knows very little about it. During one visit, he
showed me a cabinet that had been dropped. The soft
wood made of pine had splintered into several pieces.
At the time, I remember thinking about wood for a
About 1990, an advertisement appeared in the
Toronto Star. It read: HMV GRAMOPHONE,
LARGE HORN. Upon reading the ad, I immediately
suspected a reproduction, an assumption that proved
to be correct. I advised him that I repaired should he
ever need my service. When he arrived, he
had seven of them in the back of his station
wagon. He inquired "These arenít ALL
reproductions are they?" To which I
replied "Yes. All of them." He
admitted that he had imported
them from India. I learned
afterwards that at least two of our
members had driven to his home in
Mississauga and upon seeing what he
had for sale, immediately left. He dropped
off one gramophone for repair. The crank angled
from the top of the cabinet confirming that a
motor from a fairly common portable had been
Over the years, I have repaired at least a dozen of
these gramophones. Perhaps the reason why I
donít particularly enjoy working on them is
because I know that they are not authentic.
Recent repairs I have worked on had the
mainspring kinked. Most likely needle nose pliers
were used in an attempt to form the spring
around the centre shaft. Worse still, the spring
had no lubricant whatsoever! Springs should be
lubricated with a heavy duty wheel bearing
grease. Oil should not be used as it is too
light and will not stay on the spring
surface. Many of the motors installed are
Thorens (made in Switzerland) and have
a very uncommon spring width. My
supply of .026" x 7/8" mainsprings is
My last repair of one of these gramophones was
brought to me last summer. The cabinet and matching
stand were the most ornate that I have ever seen! The
cabinet had decorative columns painted gold added
between each of the six sides. There was no decal.
Decorative gold metal plating had been added to both
the cabinet and the stand to enhance the appearance.
The owner had bought it on e-bay for $1,000 U.S.
dollars while in Florida. When he crossed the border,
he had to pay duty as well. Although it occurred to
him that he might have bought a fake, he did not
realize that it had mechanical problems until he
arrived home. Nevertheless, he seemed very pleased
with his purchase.
To avoid buying a reproduction gramophone, talk to
or buy from experienced collectors or dealers and
become knowledgeable by reading about and
studying the pictures of external horn machines.
For information on Victor Talking machines, I
suggest "Look for the Dog" by Robert W. Baumbach.
(8-1/2 x 5-1/2 326 pages). IBSN 0-9606466-0-4.
Current Canadian price is $39.50. Published by
Mulholland Press, 14332 Mulholland Dr., Los
Angeles, CA 90077.
Columbia disc machines are illustrated in the
Columbia Phonograph Companion, Volume II.
ISBN 0-9606466-2-0. The author of this book
is also Robert Baumbach.
Current Canadian price
is $37.50. Same
publisher as above.
Another publication that I would recommend is "The
Compleat Talking Machine" by Eric Reiss (Third Edition)
(8-172" x 11" 236
pages). Note Old English spelling of Compleat.
Current Canadian Price $47.50. Published by
Sonoran Publishing, LLC Chandler, Arizona.
Hopefully, this article may spare others the despair of
buying an outside horn gramophone only to learn that
their purchase is a poor copy. They are showing up
with increasing frequency in antique stores, auctions,
flea markets and e-bay.
Comparison of Original and Fake Gramophone
Original Victor Outside Horn Gramophone
(Models 0 through VI)
Victor Talking Machines used a metal
serial plate. The plate shows
V or Vic followed by the Model
(0, I, IL, IIT, IV, V or VI) and
then the serial number.
Made of cast steel painted black with ornate
Many different styles. Steel, steel and brass, wood (oak
and mahogany). Horns were nicely designed.
Cast (nickel plated). Nicely curved design.
Nickel plated. Beautifully tapered. Nice design.
Concert or Exhibition. Mica diaphragm.
Hardwood (oak or mahogany).
(Made in Middle East and south Asia)
HMV decal reproduced
from portables sold
in the United Kingdom.
Grainy (not sharp) image
No model or serial number.
Ornate back bracket cast (silver coloured)
The morning glory style horn (brass with ten
panels) is the only style that I have
encountered. Well constructed.
Most likely there are others.
Tin that has been soldered at a 45 degree angle.
Very poorly made. If cast, pitted; if brass, crudely soldered. Often out of round where the reproducer is
attached to the U-tube on the tone arm.
"His Masters Voice" (fake) and
SOUNDBOX engraved on the nickel plated
outer case of the reproducer.
Duralium (tinfoil) diaphragm.
Soft wood (pine)
Eric Reiss advises that there is ONE exception. The Model 32 is an AUTHENTIC outside horn gramophone and has a HMV decal. It was manufactured in 1927 and has a four spring motor. This is a very late production date for an outside horn gramophone. It is a very rare gramophone. Fake machines always have a small lightweight one or two spring motor.