Loading Spinner

Phonographs

The phonograph was invented by Thomas Alva Edison in Menlo Park, New Jersey in 1877. Edison, who lost most of his hearing as a child, had an ongoing interest in sound transmission and recording for his entire life. He invented a system in which sound vibrations could be captured and transferred to an embossing point. The vibrations were then impressed on to a piece of tin foil wrapped around a cylinder, which could be used to play back the sound. Edison was awarded a patent for his invention in 1878.

After several improvements and shakeups in the industry, the phonograph became a mass- marketable entertainment device available to the public. Early phonographs played cylinders, which had good quality sound but a limited playback length. When the disc record was invented, Edison's competitors adapted their phonographs to play this type of recording. Edison opposed records at first due to their poorer sound quality, but caved in to public demand in 1913 and also adapted his phonograph to play records.

Early phonographs operated by a crank and had large horns for speakers. In the '30s, vinyl records were produced, and after World War II, the long-playing record was introduced, helping to grow the popularity of the phonograph. The all-transistor portable phonograph known as the record player remained popular into the '90s, and records are still produced by some popular artists today.


Quick Facts

  • The technology that Edison used to invent the phonograph also made sound in movies possible
  • The Victor Talking Machine company produced phonographs with the brand name Victrola. These phonographs had an inner horn. They were large and encased in finished wood so that the Victrola was like a piece of furniture
  • The highest price ever paid for an antique phonograph was $40,000 for an Edison Spectacle machine, one of the rarest phonographs

Recommended Items at Auction

See all items

Antique Edison Cylinder Phonograph
May 22, 11:00 AM EDT
Antique Edison Cylinder Phonograph
by Sarasota Estate Auction
Est: $300- $500
$1501 Bid
Victor Talking Machine
May 27, 11:00 AM EDT
Victor Talking Machine
by Chupp Auctions & Real Estate, LLC
Est: $25- $200
$251 Bid
Columbia Grafonola
May 27, 11:00 AM EDT
Columbia Grafonola
by Chupp Auctions & Real Estate, LLC
Est: $25- $200
$251 Bid
Edison phonograph
May 27, 11:00 AM EDT
Edison phonograph
by Chupp Auctions & Real Estate, LLC
Est: $25- $200
$251 Bid
Antique phonograph needles original
May 20, 11:30 PM EDT
Antique phonograph needles original
by Baker's Antiques and Auctions
Est: $35- $40
$250 Bids
VINTAGE CASED CRANK PHONOGRAPH
May 28, 11:00 AM EDT
VINTAGE CASED CRANK PHONOGRAPH
by D. L. Straight Auctioneers
Est: $100- $200
$500 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Phonographs


Chupp Auctions & Real Estate, LLC

Chupp Auctions & Real Estate, LLC

D. L. Straight Auctioneers

D. L. Straight Auctioneers

Greenwich Auction

Greenwich Auction