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Buying A Phonograph

Over the past year or more, many phonographs "are bought at auctions or flea markets by collectors, members of our society. A lot of these machines are bought in as is condition, not working or missing parts. Some of these machines are of early 1900 vintage with all brass gears which wear badly. When the purchasers bought these machines at usually $175 to $200 and took them home and opened them up, they often found that a lot of the parts were either worn out or missing - such as broken springs or governors, or missing spring box, main springs, gears, shafts, etc.

Several machines have been brought to me recently for repair in such condition. One I will describe as a sample. It was missing the whole spring box, including the spring, box cover with attached gear, ratchet gear with winding gear, all but one small part of governor, brake, speed control, crank, case decal and felt. As well, the reproducer needed new gaskets and the case needed cleaning up. After spending 9 or 10 hours locating all the parts, assembling them in the motor, lubricating the motor, adjusting, installing a new decal and new gaskets in the reproducer, and freeing up the horn elbow the machine ran and played beautifully. The charge for all the parts was only $60 and $10 for labour as I give our members special consideration.

Besides this machine, another member brought me two similar machines with most of the above parts missing also. Fortunately I was able to sup- ply and repair these two also. I was happy to be able to supply the necessary parts for these machines, but my supply of parts for machines of this vintage is rapidly being depleted, making it necessary to purchase such parts from part dealers in the United States. I priced all the parts I supplied in the machine mentioned above for $60 in a parts catalogue from a dealer in the States. The parts came to $125 in US funds, adding $38 to the rice to $163. Canadian Customs would add 24% or $41 bringing the price to 204 plus postage of $7 or $8 for a total of $212. Then add the labour to install all these parts, lubricate and adjust machine and pray that it works.

The reason for this explanation is that I advise collectors to be more cautious of machines they are buying. Do they run? If so, they obviously have most of their parts and possibly require only lubricating, adjusting and cleaning up. But machines like the ones I've described above, not running and missing vital parts, the purchaser should have opened the case - in this case the machine had a hinged top board that could easily be opened - and at a glance the purchaser could have seen that the machine was missing a lot of parts, parts that may or may not be available.

My point is when buying a phonograph at an auction or flea market or garage sale, if it is not running ask to see the inside of the machine. Be cautious. Check the motor to see if most of the parts are intact. If so, possibly it only needs a new spring, or governor weights and springs or a small part and the machine can be easily and reasonably repaired. The motto is: BUYER BEWARE!