“It’s All In The Chase”
The Ed and Dianne Moran Collection
by Mike DiCecco
Ed and Dianne Moran
It was in early January 2016 that I first had the pleasure
of being invited to Ed and Dianne Moran’s house
for a belated Christmas visit (along with my wife Kathi,
plus Brian and Trish McAlpine). Needless to say, it was
a thoroughly enjoyable evening that I will never forget.
Brian had pre-warned me to ‘be prepared to say “wow”
and “that’s incredible” the whole evening’, so I brought
my camera to capture some of the treasures. I must
say that I was totally awestruck and have tried to document
to some degree Ed and Dianne’s collection with
the pictures attached to this article (though they do not
do it justice!). Our hosts were extremely kind and gracious
to us, as we were treated to a wonderful meal
and an evening full of laughs and merriment.
Ed is a regular attendee at our meetings in Scarborough
and will often fill in as auctioneer. Ed became
a member in January 1984. His good friend, the late
Arthur Richardson, joined at the same time after Arthur
located some information about the club. Ed enjoyed
CAPS so much that he became President in July 1992,
and served as Past-President from 1995-1999. He was
also the CAPS Auction Manager from 1995-2005.
Ed was instrumental in the vision and building of
S.C.A.S. (Scarborough Centre for Alternative Studies)
and was its first Principal. S.C.A.S. was located first on
Highbrook Drive and then, from 1995, at its permanent
location on Progress Court. CAPS held its meetings at
S.C.A.S. from 1990 -1998 when it was acquired by
Here's Ed sitting next to the beautifully decorated basement fireplace. Some of his numerous
instruments can be seen in the background hanging on the wall (on right).
I asked Ed how he first became interested in antiques
and phonographs. He explained that it all started at the
Stouffville Flea Market in 1975. There was also an auction
connected with it, and this greatly got him interested
in the whole auction process. Sadly, this flea market
closed its doors earlier this year, making way for a development
Once Ed had the antiquing bug in him, his passion and
interest in items that made mechanical music grew
greatly. He was soon making several trips a year to various
areas of Europe to hunt down band-organs, orchestrions
and other rarities. Some interesting purchases
were made over the next several years.
Ed proudly stands by his Victor VI.
In 1927, Ed's father and grandfather purchased a tract
of land in the very rural township of Whitchurch. A five
acre section was severed in 1966 and given to Ed and
Dianne as a wedding present. The newlyweds spent
the following 10 years custom-designing and building
their present residence themselves. It was a great
place to raise their two sons, who have also done very
well for themselves over the years (but who, unfortunately,
do not share their parents' passion for collecting).
The Morans have been happily married for over
50 years, with Ed enjoying his retirement from a school
principal’s position for the past 19 years. This allows
him to be a regular figure at local auctions, attending,
on average, three per week in the surrounding area,
where he will both buy and sell all sorts of items. Ed
will travel as far as the United States to attend an interesting
auction or conference, attending them
in Sarasota, FL, Newport, RI., Charlotte, MI., Baltimore
MD. Chicago Il. New York NY. Philadelphia PA.
Words cannot fully describe the enormousness, diversity,
and scope of this collection, which has been
amassed over the past 40+ years. There are all kinds
of things of interest, but I did notice some general
themes in his collection, such as:
- Music boxes
- Automatons of all shapes and sizes (from caged,
singing birds to fully orchestrated pianos)
- Fireman’s equipment & paraphernalia
- Musical instruments, some being: Mason Hamlin player grand, Orchestrion in Gustav Stickley case, many violins, banjos, mandolins, juke boxes, Heintzman Welte-Mignon
- Phonographs (of course!)
- Art/pictures/period ads
- Lamps: Mostly early electric: Tiffany, Handel, Pairpoint,
Bradley & Hubbard, Miller, Chicago mosaic,
- Santa Men (more on this later) & Christmas decorations
Brian McAlpine sternly warns that attending auctions
become very addictive! In the background can be
Cameraphone and a Lamp Phonograph.
These wonderful pieces of antiquity are tastefully
spread throughout their residence, but in such a manner
as to not look overly cluttered. The collection has
grown so large that there is not enough space in the
house, so some storage trailers are used for the overflow.
Ed is proud of two purchases he’s made from the Ottawa
area recently. Both are Berliner machines – one, a
Trademark, was found in the attic of a house, the machine
being covered with insulation (and therefore in
very good condition). The other came from an estate
sale. Both purchases were a result of Ed’s extensive
contacts that have been made over his lifetime.
Christmas is a special time for the Morans and Dianne,
in particular, spends much of her creative time and
talent making “Santa Men”. Every area of the house
has these little handmade dolls, approximately three
feet in height keeping a watchful eye, as well as bringing
the display to its full majesty and glory. Dianne’s
Santa men typically have long white beards and are
dressed in a variety of seasonal costumes and royal
garb (since they are all made by hand, each is uniquely
different). There are many winter scenes throughout,
multiple Christmas trees everywhere, each with its own
Santa (or two or three) to add to the atmosphere.
The display is so large that Dianne
must start decorating in October in order to be ready by
Christmas! (Dismantling usually begins in January and
is finished by March.)
Dianne’s talents can be seen in other items in addition
to the Santa Men – there are many old-fashioned
lamps that had deteriorated shades, replaced with new
vintage-looking ones. They were so skillfully done that
it was impossible to tell which were originals and which
Partial overview of Ed and Dianne's basement with
Orchestrion. In the bottom of the unit can be seen a
cymbal and accordion. The top has a
tambourine, triangle, and player piano. A Victor 0 and
two Nippers are on top.
Three of Dianne's "men" can
be seen to the right, as well as three lamps with
shades that she made.
A Victrola provides support for
a small Christmas tree.
When pressed as to which piece in his collection would
be his favourite (should he be “stranded on a desert
island”) it was clearly Ed’s circa 1920 Orchestrion. This
appears to be an upright piano at first but, with the
flick of a remote control switch, it comes alive to be
much more than a player piano - it has drums, cymbals,
lights and all sorts of mechanized internal movements
(refer to photo). Truly a rare piece of mechanized
art that is still a marvel to watch!
Ed’s Secret and Advice
Ed says that his success in auctions is due to the network
of contacts he’s made throughout North America
over his life. Having such contacts is the best way to
expand your collection. The art of buying is finding a
piece that has uniqueness, quality and rarity. You must
know what is the “best of the best”, but, at the same
time, like what you are buying.
Trish McAlpine, Mike & Kathi Dicecco are surrounded by Dianne's handiwork. Note the hand made little "men",
multitude of old style lamps, phonographs and festive decorations. An awesome showpiece!
Ed often gives lectures on successful auction bidding
and enjoys mentoring younger buyers who are new to
the hobby. Some of his topics include presentations
about auctions, disposing of a collection, auction protocol,
He offers the following tips to our readers and those
new to attending auctions:
- If you are going to purchase from an auction, go to
a dozen or more before you purchase anything.
That way you’ll get a better idea of how it all works
as well as values.
- Buy only quality items. Junk remains junk – it does
not improve with age!
- If you plan on spending big dollars for an item, be
sure that you are in love with it (i.e. don’t just buy
as an investment). Anyone can pay top dollar. If you
don’t get the item for a good price, you are not in
- Before bidding, examine the potential purchase
carefully (are there cracks, repairs, or other defects
that could diminish the value?). If the bidding is not
going high on an item, there is usually a reason for
- Don’t get into a “bun fight”, or bidding war. You’ll
end up paying far more than the item is worth. Auctions
are very jealous places. Auctioneers know this
and fuel the bidders accordingly.
Ed often fills in as auctioneer at our CAPS meetings.
(Photo courtesy of Arthur Zimmerman)
It’s All In the Chase
As we walked from room to room, Ed and Dianne would
usually have a story or tale that was associated with
each piece. But while hearing of the various acquisitions,
I noticed Ed’s eyes light up telling of his excitement
when he made the actual purchase (usually at
auction), and the final purchase price. His motto is “It’s
all in the chase!”. Ed explains that he enjoys locating
and bidding at auctions as much as he enjoys the
uniqueness of the article itself. The effort required to
acquire is as much fun as the ultimate ownership.
Ed told me that in spite of all the things he’s brought
home over the years, Dianne has never once asked
him how much he has spent on them. Dianne is obviously
a gem of a wife!
Every time I run into Ed, he has a tale of another new
acquisition (with a big grin on his face). At times Ed will
say “it’s a sickness”, but it’s probably one that most
CAPS members have to some degree or another. The
difference with Ed is that he’s turned his passion of
collecting into a full-time hobby, a lifetime of material
achievement with an enviable, outstanding collection.
There are few other collections like it in this world!
I want to personally thank Ed and Dianne for opening
their home; providing a wonderful evening of great
food, fun and discussion among good friends; and for
sharing their amazing collection with us as well as with
our fellow CAPS members. May you have many more
fulfilling years of enjoying the chase!
All photographs by Mike DiCecco except where noted.