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Advices to those who want to buy a gramophone

First rule: Avoid junk dealers, if possible, unless you know exactly what you buy. They do not know anything about what they sell and have no qualms... if they can gouge you, they will!

Gramophone or Phonograph
THE PHONOGRAPH The American inventor Thomas Alva Edison patented the first phonograph on 24th December 1877. His device can record sounds through a round ended stylus attached to a metal diaphragm. This stylus records the sounds by embossing a tin foil placed on a cylindrical mandrel on which a groove is already cut. Once the recording completed, it can be read by the stylus which transmits vibrations to the diaphragm which turns them into sounds. Subsequently, tin will be replaced by wax (Alexander Graham Bell's idea) which after engraving will improve the quality of the recording. Around 1901 a new process of molding wax cylinders allows their mass production. In 1912, the cylinders were made of celluloid. The first commercial phonograph application will be the recording of texts to be typed and this as early as 1889, while the marketing of music will come only ten years later. The "Dictaphone" for Columbia, company created by Bell and "Ediphone" for Edison used wax cylinders that could be recorded at least 125 times after shaving. Some companies in North America used the "Dictaphone" wax cylinders until 1969 In continental Europe the competition between the cylinder and the disc will only last a decade (1898-1908), while in North America, thanks to Edison, it will last more than 20 years, Edison releasing his latest new models in 1915. He will manufacture musical cylinders until October 1929 when the stock market crash will lead the Edison phonographs company into bankruptcy. THE GRAMOPHONE The gramophone patented and developed by the German Emile Berliner in 1887 takes the brainchild of Charles Cros deposited at the Academy of Sciences of Paris in April 1877, eight months before the filing of Edison. It is distinguished, not by the shape of the support used, disk instead of a cylinder, but how to engrave. Indeed, if the cylinders are cut vertically, the 78 rpm records are cut laterally. The idea of Charles Cros is based on the inversion of phonautograph patented in 1857 by French Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville who made the first lateral graphics recordings. Constructed to study the sound vibrations and not for to reproduce them, one of his phonautograms dated April, 9 1860, the now famous "Au clair de la lune" was digitized by a team of American researchers in 2008 and made audible through computer. Seen under a microscope, a lateral-cut groove is like the meandering river on a map. If Berliner is responsible for the adoption of this process, you should know that it is not the first to be tested. There is indeed such a disc recorded registered at the Smithsonian Institute in 1881 and made the same year by Charles Sumner Tainter. Berliner began his experiments by getting a waving line on a glass plate of fairly large diameter coated with lampblack which is transferred on a zinc disc by photographic process, as suggested by Charles Cros in April 1877, but soon he adopted a method of obtaining the same line directly on the zinc disc coated with lacquer rather small, as suggested by Charles Cros in October 1877 in the journal "La semaine du clerg". In the two cases, the groove was obtained by etching. The first zinc discs reproduced by pressing in Germany and marketed by Berliner measured 5 inches (12.5 cm diameter) and were made of gutta-percha. They were intended for toy gramophones. Berliner 7 inch (17.5 cm) discs then appeared in the United States in 1895 and consisted of shellac, a material very similar to ebonite. The 25 cm (10 inches) appear in 1901, the first 30 cm (12 inches) appeared in 1903. A gramophone consists at least of three elements: 1- a turntable, where the disk is placed, rotated by means of a crank or later of a spring motor, 2an arm having at one of its ends a reproducing head, itself composed of a needle, similar to a sewing needle and a diaphragm, the arm moving and following the displacement of the head on the disk and 3- an amplification device, usually conical in shape: the horn. By 1910, the portable gramophones appeared like those illustrating this article. The acoustic amplification is carried out, for some, by a conical cavity, inside the housing, whose mouth is between the turntable and the lid. The phonograph engrave and read cylinders. The gramophone reads discs. It has evolved to this day as turntables (electric for 45 rpm and 33 rpm), then to electronic boards and then finally the last little CD player laser. To name a gramophone, "phonograph" or "turntable" is the constant error made by non-experts and especially the junk dealers who sell (very expensive) these antique machines as any objects and hiding themselves behind the sentence: "I do not know anything about ... but I know that it's rare antiques

The best-known brands

The best-known brand in the world is HMV or His Master's Voice, in french speaking countries "La Voix de son Matre". This company later merged with Columbia (USA) circa 1940. Other brands are also well known: Decca (UK) Victor (USA), Paillard, Thorens, Phrynis (Switzerland), Odeon (Germany), Colibri (Belgium). Some smaller brands have also been popular brands such as Alba, Triumphon (Great Britain) etc.

The horn gramophones and the portables

The first gramophones appeared on the market at the beginning of the century were horn gramophones. They had a little the form of phonograph their direct ancestor. Only circa the1910s and especially during the first World War came the first portable gramophone (trenches gramophones). And after WWI, appeared those that we know to this day from 1920 to 1955. They were called picnic gramophones that the rise of the automobile and family outings on Sundays has helped greatly. We could distinguish between picnic gramophones (like a briefcase) and travel gramophones like a camera of this time. Into homes, there were big decorated horn gramophones (very beautiful) and cabinet gramophones (often with a doors hidden cabinet to store records) The phonograph became a museum and collector piece. But we have to give credit to Edison, the inventor, because its principle of reproduction (recording) of the human voice has subsequently changing in tape recorders, dictating machines and modern microchip tape recorders today.

False (fake) gramophones. How to recognize them?

How not to be gouged when wanting to buy a genuine antique gramophone? Here's an edifying text of Isidore Ledoux - For the benefit of my readers who are not necessarily experts in phonographs (sorry, here our friend Isidore errs by confusing Phonographs and gramophones, but he is forgiven - Editor's note), here are the minor details, almost imperceptible, which is recognized (after many studies and years of practice) a fake gramophone (or crapophone) made recently by Indians or Pakistanis whose work underpaid in these countries.


The hexagonal or round box is a typical of made in India fake gramophone. No real manufacturer of phonographs ever made such ridiculous boxes. It is common white wood smeared with a thick paint brush and cannot be confused with the beautiful French or British polish and decorations of antique phonographs. The inside of the box is topped with black paint to hide the white wood.


The horn, coarse style, is very bright brass plate. The original horns are always painted metal of various colors, often in matching tones with golden threads.


The stem is coarse and rough cast, while the former were generally polished and nickel plated. Note the screws with their heads in chrome plated steel! The horn elbow is a sharp angle (easier to do) while the real antiques horn elbows are completely original curves. The arm is an arm S-shaped recovered from an old portable gramophone. Note its attachment to the stem using a threaded rod, forming a deplorable joint that often gets stuck! The turntable also recovered a suitcase phonograph (portable gramophone), has a slanted edge when it should be straight. More, it is often turning wrong because the central hole does not always correspond to the diameter or motor shaft profile. The sound box (reproducer), despite the inclusion His Master's Voice, is a recent fabrication, impossible to dismantle in case of malfunction. The crank, brand new, is too long, not allowing an ergonomic winding!

4. 5.





The decal with the HMV dog Nipper is a poor reproduction (note the coarse pattern) of the famous logo that does not appeared elsewhere on the horn phonographs of the trademark.

10. The inside mechanism, also comes from a portable gramophone cannibalized. It can work fairly well for some time, or not work more
than a week. Anyway, there is no guarantee!

In other words, we recognize a fake gramophone a mile-graphic, even in fog! Only a patsy can be gouged. If you really want to purchase a device like this, (quite knowingly) I cannot dissuade you. You can find one in all the flea markets for 50 . Do not put a rupee more, because these devices have no value to collectors and serious amateur does not redeem you if you want to get rid of it someday. A true vintage gramophone in working with all its original parts is trading much more expensive (at least ten times more) ... when you have the chance to find one! But that's another story ..." As a complement of this enlightening text, I would add that it is essential to be wary of junk dealers that you try to pass this "machine" for an antique gramophone. Right now, some of the dirt can be found in sale on Ebay for $ 300 or 300 Euros and more junk dealers talk, their quackery is often a carrier vehicle to play the honest people (they have no customers, but only patsies). Buy a gramophone only to collectors and specialty stores. I included some places where you can buy at the end of this article. On Ebay and other shopping sites, as well as flea markets, these schemers abound. If you are in doubt, go to my site:
Contact me. And after I have answered, I will ask you photos and the price requested.

The portable gramophones

For portables it is quite otherwise.


It is very difficult or impossible to make copies of a portable gramophone, because the vintage material (rexine, chromium, reproducers, engine, turntable ... are very expensive and to mount one that is not recognizable to the naked eye as a false, as there are genuine on the market would be inconceivable. Moreover, the price would be more prohibitive for a fake one than a true one! What to watch first of all is that the model parts are mounted from another model. In this case, you must know what you're really buying by looking for model documentation on the Internet and specialized sites, I would give you some addresses at the end of this article:

2. 3.

The sound box (reproducer) is often the replaced part. When the original part is broken, as very fragile, especially the owners and the antique shops and more the junk dealers supposedly antique dealers replace this part with one of another model. I even saw a nice laptop with a poor Indian or Pakistani manufactured sound box for sale at very a prohibitive price. This action is a pure scam. Warning! a. The second part that is replaced by another coming from a wreck for example, is the engine. Usually, when an engine is broken, it can be easily restored by specialists. These parts are solid and should live hundreds of years. Each manufacturer has manufactured its very specific engine models (HMV 271B or Garrard No. 50 ...) for example. Again by buying a portable gramophone, check the documentation and watch which engine is present inside. The other parts that are often replaced are the crank, screws, metal parts, brackets ...etc. A true restoration must be made by a specialist using the same original spare parts that were mounted on the original machine in the manufactory! And that, junk dealers who (supposedly) "know nothing ..." do not care desperately and will try to put their "object" at a higher price in the basket of a patsy.

b. c.

Specialty shops, hobbyists, collectors, experts versus Junk dealers ... the big difference
Again, before to buy a gramophone to a junk dealer, check with a specialist. The best way to avoid getting ripped off and should become a rule: NEVER BUY A GRAMOPHONE FROM A JUNK DEALER! (Definition of junk dealer: selling anything, clocks, pictures, piece of metal, books etc .... And incidentally a rotten gramophone overvalued ...) There are enough specialists, collectors, and individuals who sell honestly!



2 very nice portable gramophones of my collection (Cost: purchased around 200 )

The cost ?
In this area, prices are always based on supply and demand. However, we usually did discern some clues. For an authentic horn gramophone recognized as such by a specialist, negotiation may be in the range of 200 Euros to 1500 Euros, depending on the brand, rarity and condition. A specialist should help you determine one price for one gramophone. However, there are rare machines that trade above. And here, you have to be appraised. (See below specialists who can determine a real cost)


For a portable gramophone recognized as such by a specialist as totally authentic in its components, restored or not, the negotiation can be done in a range of 1 Euros (wreck) to 400 Euros (for a good one revised and clean), and always according to its brand, its rarity and condition. A specialist should help you determine one real cost for one gramophone. However, there are rare machines that could be traded at high cost. And also here, you have to be appraised. (See below specialists who can determine a real cost)

Where to find? With whom to buy?

Here's where to buy from the experts. 1. Ebay (search for members below) a. b. 2. Atomick-mac (Peter Mack, UK) Los Pelicanos (Terry Culdicutt, UK)

Shopping on site, or shops a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h. (Howard Hope) - sales and restoration (UK) (Ken Priestley) - Sales, parts and restoration (UK) (Christopher Baker) - Sales and restoration (UK) (Pascal Frioud) - Collector, advices (Switzerland) (Ian Calderbank) - Sales, consulting, parts (UK) (Marie-Claude Steger) - Sales, restoration (France) (Dave Cooper) Collector, advices (UK) (Christian Fonck) Collector, advices (Switzerland) See also the links on these sites to other serious sites.

In conclusion: To buy a gramophone, to restore it or to purchase parts, it is absolutely necessary to know the specialists worldwide. I have
mentioned in some of the more serious here, but there are others. Unfortunately, they do know not everything and cannot do everything. So check out their website, contact them, ask them questions and see the links on their site to contact other specialists. They will redirect you if necessary to other serious people. If you're not an expert, forget flea markets and junk dealers. These people sell everything to make money, in front of a non-expert they often behave in crook. Let the experts to approach them (and sometimes to catch them!).

Some examples found on Ebay

Bad cond. expensive Nice antique, nice price

Nice antique, nice price

Fake and dirty, very expensive