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Canadian Antique Phonograph Society
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Know what you're buying before you buy it!
Bill Tarling, 1989

After almost 20 years experience buying, selling and repairing phonographs, I would like to make a few suggestions which may be of interest to new collectors. First, I must thank Bas Ingrouille, who got me started in repair work. I learned more than Bas thought I did when he was repairing phonographs for me in the early 70's. I never knew him to be stuck for a solution to a thorny problem.

When buying machines, especially when it involves a large amount of money, take your time. Inspect the mechanical parts, and if it is a machine with which you are not familiar, take a photo, and try and have someone knowledgeable look at it. Don't be high-pressured or rushed, especially if you are buying from an antique dealer. A favourite tactic of some is to indicate that another party is hot after it, so he will urge you to buy it immediately.

I am reminded of a recent purchase I made of a beautiful mahogany cabinet. When I opened the door I saw that all the shelves were filled with cylinders - placed with such mathematical precision that they appeared to be on pegs. I thought the cabinet (which was unlike any cylinder cabinet I had seen) was well worth having. After paying for it, I found to my dismay that it had no pegs for cylinders and was meant for 78 rpm records. I later sold it at a loss at one of our auctions for $180. A proper cylinder cabinet with swing-out shelves is worth about $700. I rather admired the ingenious way I had been fooled. Obviously, I should have inspected it more carefully.

Another time I bought an upright Pathe machine from the widow of a Toronto police officer and had not opened up the back. While taking it down the stairs, we heard a thump. Opening the back we found a police revolver which the officer had hidden there. I returned it to the widow.

Sometimes when you buy a phonograph from someone they will ask for first chance to buy it back if you decide to recommend that you do not tie a string to any purchase or sale.

I made a deal via transatlantic telephone to sell a scarce Edison phonograph to my friend Howard Hope, who at that time had a shop in London. I promised that I would deliver it to him at Union, Illinois in June. As I was flying down with some other CAPS members, Steve Barr, who was driving down, kindly agreed to take it.

When Steve arrived at Union we went out to the parking lot, lifted out the machine and placed it on the bonnet of the truck. Seconds later a fellow came running up and offered me a price which was $1000 more than Howard Hope was going to pay me. Howard had already arrived from England and was waiting in the building. I explained to this fellow from Oregon that I had made a deal and could not go back on it.

Most phonograph collectors are very honest and would have done the same. It is wise to remember that "a deal Is a deal". Your long term reputation is worth much more than an easy monetary gain.