Those Misloved Wax Cylinders
by Jean-Paul Agnard
On one hand, cylinders such as North
American, Columbia 6” long 20th century,
Bettini, Celeste, Concert, Inter size, Caruso,
Leo the XIIIth, are very attractive for collectors due
to their rarity and good investment value. On the
other hand, among the many wax cylinders
manufactured, dictating ones (Ediphone,
Dictaphone, etc.) are rarely praised by collectors.
Even though the dictating cylinders themselves are of
no great interest (although they do have special
grooving: 150/inch, compared to the common 100
and 200, etc.) collecting their boxes can be quite
interesting, and through my 32 years of collecting, I
have amassed a collection of 29 different ones.
The most exciting one, for a Canadian collector living
in Quebec, was found recently at an auction taking
place near Montreal. It is a Stenophone, the address
of which is: 494 Lagauchetiere St. W., Montreal.
It also reads on the box: "Dictating cylinders,
Registered, Made in Canada". The interesting thing is
that it was found in its original square mailing
package, complete with the destination address:
"Electric Motor & Machinery Co., 652 Craig St. W.
Montreal, Que." The George VI, 5-cent stamp gives a
clue to the date (after 1936) and in fact, the faint
obliteration reads "193? OCT. 20". As for me,it is the
only Canadian dictating cylinder I have ever seen, or
even ever heard of, in my 32 years of collecting.
Recently, on eBay-France, two French dictating
cylinders were for sale before I was registered.
The light brown crocodile-like cardboard one with
metallic staples was typically Pathé, but nobody,
among well known French collectors I contacted, had
ever seen one before, not even as an advertisement in
a newspaper. My efforts to contact the seller and the
buyer never succeeded.
It is the same lack of information that makes the huge
one-foot tall by 5-inch diameter (approx).
"Recordaphone” wax cylinders such a mystery.
In this case, the cylinders are known and have been
identified as having different boxes: round and
square, and different labels: English, German. The
machines themselves have become completely mythic
in a sense that apparently nobody has ever seen one,
again not even in the form of an advertisement.
I see this as proof that even for these misloved wax
cylinders, ones that many collectors consider too
common to be collectible, there are still some more
exciting discoveries to be made.