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“It’s All In The Chase”
The Ed and Dianne Moran Collection

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 Centennial College.

Here's Ed sitting next to the beautifully decorated basement fireplace. Some of his numerous
musical 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 project.

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:

  • Clocks
  • 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, German, French
  • Santa Men (more on this later) & Christmas decorations
Brian McAlpine sternly warns that attending auctions can
become very addictive! In the background can be seen a
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.

Recent Acquisitions

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 were reproductions.

Partial overview of Ed and Dianne's basement with Orchestrion. In the bottom of the unit can be seen a drum,
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",
a 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, probate, etc.

He offers the following tips to our readers and those new to attending auctions:

  1. 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.
  2. Buy only quality items. Junk remains junk – it does not improve with age!
  3. 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
  4. 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 it.
  5. 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.