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  1. #1

    Back to the beginning - Antique Phonograph Society Show this weekend

    Having reviewed audio equipment for nearly twenty years I have developed a strong interest in all types of music playback systems and in doing so have researched the predecessors to the systems we use today. About a year ago I discovered the Antique Phonograph Society which focuses on some of the earliest playback systems. While most of us are familiar with the iconic antique Victrolas, there are many more systems. Many of these devices feature exquisite craftsmanship and are truly works of art in addition to their musical capabilities. At a prior event I had the opportunity to listen to some of these devices and the automated instrument models are capable of remarkable sound quality.

    Below please find some information regarding the society's annual show which is coming up this weekend, August 13th in Buena Park. If you have an interest in music playback devices and are in the area, it would be worth your time to check it out.

    Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, but the invention he was most proud of was the phonograph. Conceived in the 1870’s, it was the first time the human voice could be recorded at one time, and heard at a later time. Refined in the 1890s – 1920s by not only Edison’s National Phonograph Company but also by the Victor Talking Machine Company, phonographs and gramophones revolutionized the world. They brought entertainment to the home, in big cities, small towns and even on the farm throughout the world. It was the forerunner of today’s music, television and even computer industries. No wonder the phonograph is considered one of the world’s greatest inventions.

    The Antique Phonograph Society will be holding its Annual Expo Sunday, August 13 in Buena Park. 65+ dealers from all over North America will be displaying a wide variety of items like phonographs, gramophones, old recordings, music boxes, radios and other antique mechanical music players.
    Edison Home Phonograph, 1905

    Cylinder records were the first commonly used records, introduced in the 1890s. They are approximately the shape of a soda can, are made of a fragile soft wax or celluloid, and the recording surface is on the exterior. Cylinder phonographs that being offered at the Expo were manufactured by the National Phonograph Company, founded by Thomas Edison, and by the Columbia Graphophone Company, founded by the family of Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone. Depending on the specific model, and type of horn, cylinder phonographs can range in price from $400 to $3,000. Records themselves are typically priced $5 - $20 each, depending on the specific content and style. Extremely rare examples of both phonographs and records can sell for many times those in the normal range.

    Disc records replaced the cylinder format, with the transition occurring in the 1900 – 1915 period. The Victor Talking Machine Company, later known as RCA, was the leader in disc gramophones. So popular were their machines, Victor became one of the largest companies in the world during this era. The gramophone style remains popular today – it is the symbol of the music industry’s highest award – the Grammy. Most Victor Gramophones, with horns, range from $1,000 - $5,000, with the price depending on the rarity of the model and the style of the horn.

    In the mid-1910s through the 1920s, the gramophones with horns gave way to the “new and improved” versions with horns hidden inside the cabinet. Victors became Victrolas, and Columbia’s Graphophones became Grafonolas. These cabinet models generally came in oak and mahogany, and many are examples of beautiful period furniture. Table model Victrolas generally are priced under $500, and the floor model Victrolas range from $500 - $2,500. Lesser known manufacturers sold similar products; these were not as well made, and today are valued less than Victrolas.

    The 1920’s brought further improvement, with the “orthophonic” sound system. An early version of high fidelity, they brought professional level sound quality to the consumer.

    With the start of the Great Depression in the late 1920s and the early 1930s, and the advent of radios, the gramophone faded from popular use.

    The quality of sound reproduction from the Edison Phonographs and Victors / Victrolas often surprise people, because the machines can look primitive with horns, steel needles, thick records or in the case of Edisons, with the cylinders. Yet they are remarkably clear, with excellent fidelity and clarity.

    The Antique Phonograph Society Expo will be held Sunday August 13 at the UFCW Union Hall in Buena Park, 8530 Stanton Ave, at the corner of Crescent Ave., one block from Knott's Berry Farm's main entrance. The show is open from 10 am to 3 pm. Visit for more information, or e-mail Free Sunday admission if you mention China World Journal.

  2. #2
    WOW, that would be a great way to spend the day. Too bad I'm about 2200 miles away.

    Thanks for posting about it, Brian. Please post some photos if you go.


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