Audiophiles snap up high-value auction items

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WALLA WALLA — Probably the largest regional collection of antique recording equipment was sold off Saturday, with many pieces selling for thousands of dollars each at a Macon Brothers Action.

The collection of microphones, gramophones, telephones and numerous other items ending in “phone,” as well as plenty others starting in “phono,” once belonged to collector William “Bill” Shawver of Finley, Wash., who died earlier this year.

In addition to being an avid collector of late 19th and early 20th century telegraph, telephone, radio and recording instruments, Shawver also collected memorabilia from the same era.

Even Thomas Edison light bulbs caught the eye of Shawver, who had a number of Edison replica bulbs in his collection.

Moving forward a few decades in technology, gramophones were also a large part of the Shawver collection, with one Columbia gramophone with a wooden horn selling for $3,500.

But probably the highest valued item for the day was a phonograph cylinder player that wasn’t even an original.

Before the invention of the gramophone, which play recordings from disks, the phonograph cylinder player was how people recorded and played back audio.

One of the very first models was one designed by Edison and it used a foil cylinder.

The foil cylinder would later be replaced with a hard wax cylinder that was the standard until about 1910.

According to Doug Macon of Macon Brothers, one of the original Edison Bergmann tin foil cylinder players was housed in the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

In 1996, Smithsonian officials agreed to allow replicator specialists Bill Ptacek of North Dakota two disassemble and take exact measurements of two of Edison’s cylinder players, Macon wrote in a media release.

Ptacek then used those measurements to recreate a limited number of the replicas.

On Saturday, one of Ptacek’s replica foil cylinder players sold at the Macon Brothers Auction for $15,500.

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