Type AB Graphophone
This Type AB is pristine, perhaps the very
best example I've seen.
Authors George Paul and Tim Fabrizio have produced an exceptionally
well written, well researched series of books about phonographs and
many aspects of the hobby. Published by Schiffer Books, they have
done more to spark new interest in phonograph collecting than anything including eBay. George and Tim are 'famous' in
phonograph circles. So it's no surprise they can no longer
get a 'good deal' at a phonograph auction. Read on to learn
As I sat patiently waiting for the Columbia AB to 'come up' for
auction, I repeatedly recalculated how much I was willing to spend,
including fees and sales tax, each time mentally raising my maximum
bid price. The day before the auction, I had scouted out the
stash of machines at Skinner's Auction house careful not to draw any
attention to the pristine Columbia AB. The New Yorkers (no,
not Yankee fans, competitor bidders) were already arriving with what
I imagined to be pockets full of cash. While
praying for a ton of snow, rain or sleet to keep bidders home, I
wondered, who am I going to have to bid
against to win this AB?
Suddenly, I heard the slam of the gavel, sold, now ladies and
gentlemen up before us, lot
2468 is a very unique, rare, exceptional.... I wanted to tell the
auctioneer, stop the accolades, just say we have an old Columbia
phonograph. But noooo, he provided more detail than necessary getting
everyone's attention. When the bidding started, it looked as
if every hand was raised on the opening bid. As time passed the
number of bidders thinned out, finally there were only two.
As Tim hadn't slowed the speed at which he was raising his hand, I
began to think, this will be more expensive that I expected.
Finally, there was but one hand raised, it was mine. It was mine.
At auctions, knowledgeable collectors have an advantage over the
even more knowledgeable dealer because the dealer must buy the
machine at a price that will allow him to earn a reasonable profit.
So as I bid against Tim, a professional dealer who owns
www.phonophan.com, I was
willing to pay the higher price to win. I thought, if Tim's willing
to bid that amount, that's a knowledgeable dealer price. Later that
day when I tried to tease Tim about my new prize, he smiled and
said, I wasn't bidding, I was scratching my head.
This machine was in perfect condition requiring only a few minor
touch-ups to the dark oak cabinet and base, a little tweaking
mechanically and normal lubrication. The highly nickeled
open-works needed a gentle cleaning and polishing. There was
no rust or oxidation on any of the original nickel plating.
The Columbia Type AB Grand Graphophone now often called as the
"Macdonald" (not the original official model name) was designed by American Graphophone leading
inventor, chief engineer and factory manager, Thomas H. Macdonald.
This machine has a removable 5 inch mandrel that slides over the
standard 2 inch mandrel to play either size record. At the time
Columbia Phonograph Company introduced the AB, 2 inch records cost
.50 each or $5. per dozen while "Grand Records" cost $1. each or $10
A wing nut on the left side locks the larger or smaller mandrel in
place under the reproducer. A knurled knob moves forward and
backward to adjust the speed. A speed indicator with steps
from 70 rpm to 170 rpm also has a knurled knob which the user can
move to indicate playing speed. The AB has a key-wound two
spring motor and three ball governor. This machine has the
rarer #4 Grand reproducer which was often traded in for the more
common (better sounding) # 5 reproducer. The Columbia
Phonograph Companion, Volume I by Howard Hazelcorn notes these AB
machines have a serial number range from 750510-759029 and estimates
that approximately 150-250 ABs survive. This machine is serial
The rest of the story. When
I got home I noticed the AB was missing the flat nickeled
key. I checked the auction catalog photo, it showed no
key. I called
Skinner's Auction House to ask them to contact me if
they found the key. After a while, I gave up assuming,
no key. A few months later, I received a
package and nice note from Skinner's saying they had found
the key. Now that's class!
Type AZ Columbia Graphophone
The Columbia Model AZ, introduced in 1904 at the World's Fair in St.
Louis. Selling for $25. this Columbia graphophone featured a bright
polished nickeled brass "Lyric" type reproducer on a fixed carriage.
The pink-red flowers with gold stems and GRAPHOPHONE name painted on the black
enameled chassis stand out nicely.
The upper gear drive is
exposed. The bedplate is nickel-plated. The chassis, cabinet,
two-spring motor, 4-ball governor are the same as the Model AT but
the AZ has the more reliable fixed reproducer "lyre-frame" carriage.
The easily-removable, brass nickeled reproducer with a 1 3/8"
diaphragm is a Type #9 Lyric T-1 "free weighted" reproducer also
used on the Rosenfield Phonograph and Rosenfield Illustrated Song
Machine. This two spring motor has sufficient power to play five
cylinder records and does a decent job cutting wax records when using
the optional recorder. The Columbia Phonograph Companion book notes these AZ machines have a serial number range from 295524-320520 and estimates that approximately 250-500 AZs survive. This machine is serial number 315948.
Type AT Columbia Graphophone
Columbia Model AT introduced in 1898 then priced at
$25.00 has the popular nickeled bedplate, black enameled cast iron
chassis decorated with painted gold GRAPHOPHONE name, pink/red
flowers and gold stems. The upper gears are open. It has
a more powerful double spring motor which gives longer playing time
per winding, 4-ball governor and it came configured with a #2
This particular machine is
an "early model" because its serial number 207709 falls within Hazelcorn's Serial number range of 201260-303568.
doesn't have the pot metal used in the later model carriage assembly
that is known to crack and
freeze up as the pot metal deteriorated over years.
Perhaps this is why more earlier model ATs survive than later
This particular model has the less ornate New York Model A or Bijou
Model AN plain oak cabinet with locking cover. This machine has a
brass horn but should have the
standard 14 inch A1 Aluminum horn or optionally fitted with a
14 inch J2 Japanned tin horn or alternatively, the listening tube
for left and right ears. The nickel plated bed plate needs
work but the machine is functional and plays reliably.
The Columbia Model Q
The Columbia Model Q designed and patented by Thomas Macdonald in
1897 was introduced in January 1899. Similar to the Type B but
smaller and priced at only $5.00. This key-wound open works machine has
a single spring motor speed regulated by a 3-ball governor. It
came standard with the popular #3 reproducer and flat winding key.
The 10 inch japanned tin horn was included.
Columbia also offered the Type QB, the same configuration as above
but with the now very rare cardboard case for an additional $1., the
QC same configuration in an oak bent-wood carry case priced at $7.50
and the QQ with a 10 inch nickel plated horn and recorder in a
bent-wood carry case, priced at $10.
The Columbia Model Q (second style) is basically the same as the
original Q configuration but the base of the machine was black
enameled with gold stripes and Graphophone identification decal.
The cast filigreed winding key added a touch of elegance to this
very low cost machine. The better sounding #7 reproducer was
considered a big improvement. Most of these second
models were configured with the bent-wood case priced at $7.50 very
competitive with Edison's GEM family.
Sears, Roebuck & Company sold an optional embossed cast nickeled
base with lions paw feet. This base could be configured with
the first or second style Columbia Q. Although the J-1 was the
standard 10 inch horn, I think the optional 10 inch nickeled horn
looks much better with the nickeled base.
The nickeled base shown in this phonograph is one of "the two last,
limited edition nickeled base reproductions" that I bought from
Aaron Cramer. I believe they were the last two because when I
tried to buy one more later that day, my good friend Aaron told me
there were no more. Click here to see some of
Aaron's incredible collection.
Click photo for another view.
The Columbia Model Q "Busy Bee"
Columbia Type Q Busy Bee Graphophone is essentially the same as
other Columbia Q machines except the diameter of the mandrel was a
bit wider to accommodate the "Busy Bee High Speed Gold Moulded
Records" made exclusively for O'Neill-James Company of Chicago. Like other
Columbia Q's the base was black enamel with
gold pin striping with a prominent Busy Bee gold decal. As this
model was not normally configured with a bent-wood cabinet, it had
rubber feet affixed to the four corners to prevent scratching the
The O'Neil-James Company founded in 1904 came up with the unusual
name from a member of the staff named Sherwin Bisbee, thus BusyBee.
The company believed they'd garner a large share of the market by
selling a low cost graphophone and would avoid competition from
Columbia and Edison, by selling a slightly larger diameter
two-minute cylinder record.
Columbia Q "The Language Phone"
The International College of
Languages (ICL) a NY City based correspondence school aggressively
advertized its French, German or Spanish Language Phone Method.
ICL was to Columbia as International Correspondence School IICS) was
The ICL kit included choice of gold moulded
cylinder records produced by ICL or Rosenthal (Richard S.) a 30 page
instruction booklet "Speaking and Pronouncing Manual", a
complete set included ten booklets, the Columbia Q second style with
bent-wood case, #7 aluminum reproducer, filligree key and ear-cup
Advertized in 1900 the regular price was
$37.50 for the kit or $5.00 deposit and then $5.00 per month for
five months. In 1903 ICL advertized that the pronunciation of the
professor was a clear as heard on the phone- a wonderful advantage.
Columbia Type B and BX, the "Eagle"
was one of Columbia's most popular low-cost Graphophones. It was
called the "Eagle" because it could be purchased at that time with a
United States ten dollar "Eagle" gold coin. Its
gears, two spring motor and 3-ball governor open-works are fun to
watch for those who appreciate Macdonald's highly reliable, inexpensive
mechanical engineering. Initial deliveries included the
smaller #2 reproducer later replaced with the larger, louder #5 and
#7 reproducers. A ten inch japanned tin horn was included in the
base price; this machine doesn't have the power needed to push a
much heavier horn, alternatively another lightweight horn might
work. It's chassis and base were bright brushed
steel. A nickeled, highly-polished model, called the "BXP" and
ten inch nickeled horn could be ordered for an additional $5.
Hazelcorn's Columbia Phonograph Companion notes these serial number
B: 80040-190857 and 406366-424629, 500+ survive,
BX: 425907-429826 76-150 survive, BXP: 6-15 survive.
This machine is serial number 143304.
Fast Forward, 1950
In July 1950, Columbia advertised this Model 104 LP Changer
Attachment capable of changing all sizes of 33.3 rpm records
automatically describing this changer as the best LP salesman since
the LP itself. Remember that at this time Columbia and RCA
were battling the 'format wars'.
message was that one speed is all you need to play anything from a
3-minute pop hit to a 50-minute symphony. Advertised as
a $32.95 value that sells for only $16.95, dealers were encouraged
to sell these as "every sale creates an ever-growing market for more
and more LP records".
This Model 104 reliably plays 7", 10" and 12" records.
I'm not into Columbia's phonographs, but I wanted this nice
attachment in a brown bakelite cabinet to compare what prospects heard
in 1950 when considering the RCA Victor 45 record changer.
Although many believe that an "LP" sounds better than a "45",
I'm convinced that a 7" 45 rpm record sounds better on an RCA 45 rpm
record changer than a 12" LP on a Columbia LP record attachment when
all other variables are the same.
In 1950, the direct competitor to Columbia's Model 104 was the RCA's
9YJ, which was later renamed 45J. RCA advertised "Already 10
other record companies are making or have announced they will make
"45"s in early 1950". RCA licensed its record changer
technology and arranged contract manufacturing for other companies
such as Cresent, Crosley, Decca, Emerson and Motorola who sold
these record changers under their label along with their own Radio
and Television appliances.