Collecting Phonographs & Records In Nova Scotia
by Fred Isenor
Ernest D. M. Yeaw's Bayhead Radio Museum
Buying phonographs and records in Nova
Scotia has definite pluses and minuses. The
plus is that on prices we are in a buyerís
market. The minus is that with our small
population, the selection is not as great as one
would like. Phonographs are still quite common at
estate auctions and though prices have risen in the
last few years, they still usually go well below
prices listed in books. The Antique Roadshow on
PBS has probably caused prices to increase a
certain amount. Regarding Edison cylinder
machines, the bidders donít seem to distinguish
between models. They seem to go in the $300.00
bracket whether you find a Standard or a Fireside,
although some of the antique shops have inflated
prices on phonographs but will negotiate.
I have even bought machines for half the asking price.
I was in a shop in Halifax recently that had a very
ordinary mail order type of floor model priced at
$750.00 that would definitely not sell at that price.
I find the best time to deal at antique shops is in
the fall after the American tourist rush is over.
Let me clarify that I'm not knocking antique dealers.
They have to make a profit and probably price
high to allow room for negotiations.
Anyone traveling in Nova Scotia should stop at
Ernest Yeawís Radio Museum in Bayhead near
Tatamagouche on the #6 Highway between
Amberst and Pictou to see Ernestís collection of
phonographs. He has over 400 radios and several
phonographs and also likes to show off his 1953
Hudson Hornet and license plate collection.
Since Ernest is frequently at auction or yard sales it is
best to phone ahead.
When it comes to collecting 78ís my main interest
is hillbilly or country from the 1930ís and 40ís.
I still call it hillbilly as when they started calling it
country, it wasnít really country anymore (I
jokingly refer to todayís country as third rate rock).
I also collect pop from the 1920ís to about 1950
and novelty artists. Fellow collector, Bill Fisher
and I appear as guests once a month on CBC
Weekend Morning, where they have us play
records that are mostly nonsense and then discuss
the artists. Bill collects mainly early 1900ís to
1920ís but our collections overlap on novelty
artists such as Frank Crumit, Billy Murray, George
Formby and Spike Jones. Hillbilly records are the
most sought after in Nova Scotia and I presume
they sold quite well as they still show up quite
often. In the late 1930ís RCA Victor in Canada
had five hillbilly or "cowboy" singers on their
Bluebird label and three, Wilf Carter, Tex
Cochrane and Hank The Yodeling Ranger (Snow)
were from Nova Scotia. Carter and Snow 78ís are
plentiful, but still sell very well. Pop 78ís are also
plentiful as well as classical and even though most
of the used record stores have stopped handling
78ís they still turn up at antique stores, yard sales,
flea markets and ads in the Bargain Hunter. Prices
in the shops are usually $1.00 to $2.00 while some
shops have higher prices but they donít sell as they
have the same records this summer as they had last
I was in a shop in Tatamagouche that had a price
tag of $25 on an average condition copy of
"Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer" by Gene
Autry. I have been given and have given away
several copies of the multi-million seller so he may
as well frame it and hang it on the wall. Pop 78ís
(big bands and crooners) are slow sellers as they
are so plentiful but for the right price they seem to
sell. Classical records appear to have practically no
market here as the same records are in the shops
forever regardless of price. The only records here
that go extremely high are rockabilly from the
1950ís, which are almost exclusively sold to
American collectors. I have no idea about a fair
price on cylinder records as I donít have any
machines. In the shops Iíve found prices range
from $2.00 to $15.00 per cylinder while normally
they go cheaper at estate auctions.
Saturday auctions are always advertised in the
Halifax papers on Thursday and there were
recently several in the nearby towns loaded with
antiques, which I thought would attract the high
rollers and antique dealers. However, there was
one in Westfield, Queens County, about as far in
the country as one can get so I suggested to my
wife that we hit the road. There was a Victrola on
the list but one can never be sure, as Iíve seen
Eatonís portables incorrectly listed as Victrolas
(much as referring to all snowmobiles as Skidoos
and all amphilphonic guitars as Dobros, which
I do myself). To my delight, it turned out to be the real
thing, a Victor Granada in pretty good condition
and working. For some strange reason nobody was
bidding on it and I won this machine for $25.00
plus tax (15%in NS, total $28.75). There was also
a box of 121, 78ís in excellent condition that
attracted one other bidder which I eventually won
for $65.00 ($74.75). What turned out to be a
surprise was a box of 32 Edison cylinders that
went for $130.00 ($149.50) or $4.67 each.
This was probably a good deal for the buyer but its the
highest Iíve ever seen them sell for at auction.