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Consuming Passions: Collecting In A Small Way

Of course, as collectors of old records and antique phonographs, we all have magnificent obsessions - the pursuit of an unrestored, undamaged and complete Trademark machine, perhaps an undelivered still-wrapped and boxed carton of Bettini cylinders - but as you have read in this series of articles, we all may become prone to lesser obsessions. So, while still believing that there is really an end of the rainbow, where, guided by the echo of Judy Garland's younger voice, we may be greeted by a smiling miniature John McCormack dressed in Paddy green, who will lead us happily to great phonographic treasures....meanwhile we indulge in assorted esoteric collecting.

Typical of these diversions is the acquisition of miniature phonographs. These little models often bear a reasonable resemblance to their full-scale prototype, are usually outside horn machines, and may be made from wood, plastics, metal or some ceramic materials. Cost is not generally excessive ranging from a few dollars to, say, $35 for music boxes.

Easiest to find are cast metal pencil sharpeners; Xmas tree ornaments in wood or plastic; and music boxes in plastic cases. Souvenir shops are the best source...so called 'antique' dealers often inflate the prices of these articles which are hardly old enough to be considered antique.

Most are small enough so that they can be comfortably displayed on the family mantle piece, bookcase or whatnot. The china type are the most attractive though unfortunately scarce. These once were to be found almost everywhere, especially in England, but were easily broken. These may well be antiques. About thirty years ago the London Society newsletter reported a sale at Sotheby's of several miniatures which went for a hundred pounds or so. By the way none have been made in the Royal Doulton series but many potteries made some for wholesalers supplying the souvenir trade.

One of the frustrating challenges of collecting these miniatures is that there appears to be nothing available in the way of literature, catalogues or other source material to aid in identifying, dating or evaluating. In fact, determining where or by whom any item was made is virtually impossible.

I wonder where all the working (with mini records too!) 1/3 size replicas of the Trademark machine put out by TRIANG, the British toy firm, in the sixties have gone?

Now, in a small way, that's the pot of gold at the end of my rainbow!