Frequently Asked Questions

About Edison Phonographs and Records.


Q: I have an Edison Victrola.  Can you tell me about it?

A: Edison did not sell "Victrolas."  A Victrola is an inside horn talking machine manufactured by the Victor Talking Machine Company.  Victor was a very strong competitor of Edison.  Like Victor, Edison made disc phonographs, but they were known as "Diamond Disc" phonographs.  If you did not know anything about old phonographs and you looked at a Victor Victrola sitting next to an Edison Diamond Disc phonograph, you would probably think they looked pretty much the same.  Upon close examination, you would see that they are not!  Here's a comparison:

Feature Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph Victor Victrola
Record Speed 80 Revolutions Per Minute 78 Revolutions Per Minute
Recording Format Hill-And-Dale Lateral
Disc Records Thick, With Very Fine Grooves Thin, With Coarse Grooves
Reproducer Permanent Diamond Stylus Replaceable Steel Needles
Horn Moves on Pivot, Driven by Motor Bolted to Cabinet, Does Not Move
Volume Control Felt Mute Ball in Horn Wooden Doors

In my opinion, Edison disc phonographs are better than Victrolas because there are no steel needles to replace and the records play longer.  This makes them easier to listen to when you are busy working.  By the way, if you have a Victrola, make sure you replace the steel needle after playing every two recordings.  If you don't, you will damage your records.

Q: I have an Edison phonograph.  How much is it worth?

A: What ever someone is willing to pay for it!  Pricing is dependant on condition, type of model that you have, and where you are located. Generally, If your machine is beat up, dirty, worn out, and missing parts, then it's not worth that much. If it is a rare model, then it might be worth a lot of money, even if it looks bad.  Your geographical location can play a big role in value as well.  Expect to pay much more for a phonograph on the Northeast and West than you would in the Midwest or South.  I recommend that you get a hold of the book: The Compleat Talking Machine, by Eric Reiss,  4th ed.  This has a price guide in the back. 

Q: My dear late aunt Penelope left me some Edison records in her will.  Would you be willing to buy them from me?

A:  I can't tell you how many people email me to ask how much their Edison records are worth and whether I would be willing to buy them.  Apparently quite a few people out there think that anything with "Edison" imprinted on it can be unloaded for tons of cash.  I never hear from them again when I give them the cold, hard truth: Edison manufactured millions of records from the 1890s until 1929. The majority of those records are not hard to find and they are only worth a few dollars each at best.  Some are not worth anything at all!

Give me the record format (cylinder or disc), the record numbers, the titles, and condition.   I may be willing to purchase some from you at a fair price (but probably for not as much as you might expect).  

Q: I have a bunch of Edison disc records.  I don't have any interest in them.  I'll give them to you for free.  Are you willing to pay the postage?

A:  Yes, but only if they are in good shape and playable.  Let me know what kind of condition they are in.  Edison Diamond Discs are really heavy and I'd hate to waste your time and spend a lot on postage if the records are all chipped up, warped, scratched, cracked, broken, and/or worn out.  

Q: How do I ship the Edison records?

A:  I have a lot of luck with US Postal Service Media Mail.  It is a cut-rate, specifically for shipping printed matter and recordings.  Surprisingly, it is fast and I have not had any damage.  Ask the postal clerk for this rate.  They will ask you what is in the box.  Simply reply, phonograph records.

For Diamond Discs, put a sheet of newspaper between each record, and a sheet of cardboard on the top and bottom of the stack.  Wrap the stack in bubble wrap with packing tape.  Fill the box with peanuts, bubble wrap or wadded up newspaper and bury the stack of records inside.  Make sure there is enough cushion between the stack of records and the top, bottom and sides of the box.  Make sure each stack is light enough so they don't sink to the bottom.

Boxed cylinders are a bit easier to ship.  Wrap bubble wrap around the round storage box and lid and tape it, then place the cylinder in the shipping box with peanuts, bubble wrap, or wadded newspaper.  Make sure there is enough cushion between the cylinder and the sides of the shipping box. 

Unboxed celluloid Blue Amberol cylinders can be wrapped in newspaper.  Never tuck the ends of the newspaper into the cylinder, fold them over and tape.  Make sure the shipping box has plenty of  peanuts, bubble wrap or wadded up newspaper to provide cushion. Never ship wax cylinders (e.g Gold Moulded and Amberol)  without their round storage boxes and lids.  They will get damaged.  

Q: I have a bunch of Edison cylinder records.  How much are they worth?

A: The value of the records depends on condition and the title of the recording.  Wax cylinders are virtually worthless if they have cracks and extensive mold and fungus damage on the record grooves. Blue Amberol cylinders are worthless if they are badly split, dented in the groove area, or there is a lot of plaster missing from the core. Hawaiian tunes, religious music, bird chirping, marimba music, and waltzes are generally not worth much.  Well-known tunes are worth more. 

Generally speaking, a common Blue Amberol cylinder, in very good to excellent condition, without a box or lid is worth about $2 to $4.  If it has a box in good condition add another $1 or $2 to that. If it has the original lid, then add about another $1 or $2.  For more interesting titles or 5000-series electrically recorded dubs you get considerably more.

Wax cylinders are worth more than the Blue Amberols, especially the 2-Minute wax records, simply because they are harder to find. Expect to pay about $10 to $20 or more for a common 2-Minute wax cylinder. Before you play a wax cylinder record, make sure you have the correct reproducer on your phonograph to play it!  Refer to the book,  Edison Cylinder Phonograph Companion, 1877-1929, by George Frow to find out what kind of reproducer you need for your phonograph and the type of records you want to play.

Q: I love your phonographs!  Where can I buy one?

A: You can buy Edison phonographs and records at flea markets, antique stores, phonograph shows, or over the internet.   Edison machines seem to be more plentiful in rural areas.  This is because people in the cities tended to like Victor and Columbia disc machines.

Before you go shopping, I recommend that you learn as much as you can about the phonograph model(s) that you like and get a good feel for current prices. If you do find a nice phonograph and the price is right, then it's always good to have the seller crank it up and play a record ALL THE WAY THROUGH, before you buy.  Make sure you don't hear any loud bumping, grinding, or rattling.  The recording should sound loud and clear with little or no distortion, and no skipping.  

Before buying, always check to make sure the parts on the phonograph belong with that particular model. It's not uncommon for sellers to use parts from several different phonographs to cobble together a working phonograph. The last thing you want to do is pay too much and/or get stuck with a broken phonograph or a "frankenphone."

If you are a beginner and you like cylinder phonographs, then don't buy a 2-minute machine!!!!!  You may get a good deal on one, and it may look great, but you will be challenged to find decent records to play on it.  This is because 2-minute records in playable condition are rather hard to come by.  Always try to buy a 4-minute machine or a 2/4-minute combination machine that can play the 4-minute celluloid Blue Amberol records.  Blue Amberols are plentiful and inexpensive.  If you get a 2/4-minute combination machine, make sure it comes with a 4-minute reproducer (e.g. Model H, Diamond B, Model N, etc.).

I prefer to buy my phonographs and records the old fashioned way: in a face-to-face transaction.  Not only can I physically inspect what I want to buy, but I can put it in the car and drive it home myself.  If you buy over the internet, particularly on on-line auctions, then beware of scam artists.  Even if the seller is honest, they can do dumb things like ship the phonograph without adequate packing and protection of delicate parts.

Q: My phonograph is broken.  Can you fix it?

A:  I am not set up at this time to fix your phonograph.  I am also not in a position to recommend any repair services. All I can do is point you to my links page or you can do an internet search for some repair resources.  Before you send out your phonograph for repairs, always ask the repair person for references from satisfied customers.

The good thing about Edison phonographs is that parts are readily available for them. There are a bunch of companies out there that sell parts. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you can buy replacement parts and have a ball tinkering with your machine to get it up and running again.  Many cylinder machines are especially easy to fix.  In any case, never fix a broken spring unless you know what you are doing.  Phonograph springs are very powerful and they can hurt you pretty badly if they get free.


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