Finding an Example from Great-Granddad’s Phonograph Company
By Tom Carrier
EDITOR’S NOTE: Brimfield, Mass., is a small New England town with a population of about 5,000 or so. Settled in 1706, it shows its traditional New England quaintness rather well. It has its large, steepled church, and with the leaves of autumn or the snow of winter, looks the part in any Norman Rockwell painting. And then for one week every spring, fall, and summer, the population doubles with 5,000 antique dealers converging on Brimfield to create the “Antique Capital of the United States.”
I had the most unique opportunity to go antique hunting with Will Seippel, CEO and founder of WorthPoint.com to learn about furniture and other things that caught his eye. Will is quite the collector himself and he finds the most fascinating items.
We wandered to the original show that started it all back in 1959; J&J Promotions. There are 20 different shows now at Brimfield, and Will was glad to be back to the place where he himself was a dealer about 20 years ago.
The first stop was the RCA, Edison Electric booth. We were greeted by an oversized Nipper, the original RCA Victor logo and mascot—you remember, the perplexed black and white dog looking into the new fangled Victrola that played the original 78 rpm records. Will found quite a stack of original Edison wax cylinders used for the original phonograph or gramophone. “The thing you have to be careful for is that they don’t end up with a mold on them. When that happens, no more sound.” Will says. These cylinders are very plentiful and the WorthPoint Worthopedia has many auctions where similar cylinders sold on average of $3 to $5 each.
Interestingly, Will walked into a trailer displaying early phonograph cabinets and noticed one from the Sonora Phonograph Company of New York, N.Y.
“It actually belonged to my great-grandfather and that was his record company,” Will says. The company produced phonographs from about 1907 and later also distributed radios until the company closed in 1930. Will tells the story of his grandfather locking the plant after a union strike which bankrupted the firm, all while his father, the true owner of the company, was on vacation. Still, a well preserved Sonora phonograph has been sold at auction for $200 to $300.
I pulled a surprise on Will that day. As the Worthologist recruiter for WorthPoint then, I passed a box full of old license plates and informed Will that we just brought on our own Worthologist for license plates, a very collectible item these days. We found plates for Massachusetts 1966, California 1974, New Hampshire, Kentucky 1970, and Michigan 1976 still in its wrappers.
“I always like to see the ones from Washington, D.C. with ‘No Taxation Without Representation,’” Will says. To get a good idea as to the value of any early license plates visit WorthPoint’s Worthologist Andy Bernstein. Some very early license plates have values into the thousands if you know what to look for.
As always, antiquing with Will Seippel is a great educational experience. Will’s stories, knowledge and the practiced eye made me a better collector. Everyone should go antiquing with Will at least once. It was a great treat.
To watch a video of Will Seippel’s tour of Brimfield, click here.
To see an example of an Editon gramaphone, click here.
To see an example of an Sonora phonograph, click here.
To visit Andy Bernstein’s Worthologist home page, click here.
Tom Carrier is a general Worthologist, with an expertise in a wide variety of subjects, including vexillology, or the study of flags.
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