Looking at the world of antiques with Allan Blackburn...
When Thomas Eddison invented the phonograph, he recognised that it was much more than a gimmick. “It will be used largely for music…it will preserve the voices of our great men”, he had said, but he cannot have known what big business the industry was to become.
Even HMV were sceptical at first – before becoming His Master’s Voice they held on to their original name of the Gramophone and Typewriter Company, just in case gramophones didn’t take off!
The first phonographs originally used brass cylinders covered in tin foil to record and play back, but the needles wore out the tin foil after only two or three plays. These were later replaced by wax cylinders which were cheaper and could be played more frequently. Originally costing a shilling, they are now worth up to £200.
It was 20 years later that the gramophone appeared. It was demonstrated, not by Eddison, but by Emile Berliner. His invention used flat disks (not cylinders), five inches in diameter.
Until 1892, there was still no way of making copies of discs. If an artist wanted to record 100 discs, they had to sing 100 times!
Gramophones, phonographs and accompanying accessories are today collected enthusiastically.
The most important factor to a collector is that they are in working order; although there are some collectors who like broken machines, so that they can enjoy the pleasures of repairing them.
Gramophones are appreciated on two levels. Firstly as an attractive piece of furniture – definitely no ipods here, and secondly, as the only way to really enjoy a 78rpm record!
The two gramophones pictured here are very different and their prices and popularity with collectors reflects this. The first one is almost a piece of furniture in its own right. The actual player is set inside a big, wooden, free standing table. It has the crooked arm so symbolic of old gramophones and is inscribed with “His Masters Voice”. The newer one of the pair was made by Tessler.
It is housed inside a carry box and the speaker is inside the lid of the box. Although it is heavy and looks terribly cumbersome, at one point one would have thought of this as “portable”!