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Edison Opera serial number database


Tinfoilphono

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There have been some comments online recently about the potential value of a database of known Edison Operas. I have gone ahead and created a spreadsheet to start this project, which will obviously take time.

 

Please post in this thread with information on Operas you own or have seen:

- Serial number
- Wood (mahogany or oak)
- Owner (information will be kept private)
- Notes (any details worth recording -- ESPECIALLY if it it marked "Concert" rather than "Opera" on the data plate)

 

NOTE: If anyone is concerned about posting a serial number publicly on the forum, feel free to PM me privately.

 

Thanks!

Edited by Tinfoilphono
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The project is moving right along, despite the distractions of the Christmas holiday. I currently have 109 numbers on file, of which 72 are Opera/Concert and 37 are School Phonographs.

 

It's a bit soon to make firm determinations -- a database of 300 or so would be more instructive -- but there are a few interesting points becoming apparent.

 

-- As of now I show 27 under serial #1000, and 6 under 100.

-- Mahogany and oak are intermixed, with no discernable pattern.

-- Currently the first oak option appears just over 700.

-- Perhaps not surprisingly, mahogany appears to outstrip oak by a significant margin, just over 2/1 at this point.

-- The changeover from Opera to Concert fell between 3841 and 3974. I hope to narrow that gap further.

-- Early School Phonographs are intermixed with Operas, but starting around 3143 and continuing to 3555 there seems to be one solid block of around 200 that are exclusively School Phonos. It is looking like initial sales were made to order, but a dedicated run was later produced. No School numbers appear after 3555, so that was probably the main production run. These lingered in inventory and Edison had to discount them to eventually clear out stocks.

 

If anyone has additional numbers to add, or knows of any for which they can get information, I'd appreciate it. There's a story to be told once enough data is available.

 

EDIT to correct error in Concert numbers.

 

Edited by Tinfoilphono
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Just in the few hours since I posted that update the number has jumped to 132.  I have only ten reported Concert tags, so I look forward to more of those.

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Rene,  I see that on another forum, there's a post with a picture of an Opera with an oddly-stamped serial number.  You may recall that back in 1980s/90s, there were reproduction Opera data plates made up with the serial number left blank.  These were made for people who were making "Operas" from mechanisms from Amberola IIIs and B1s, dropping them into reproduction cabinets.  Just be vigilant...  Bad data is worse than no data!😉

 

George P.

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Coincidentally enough, I brought those replicas up in an email this morning, speculating that the 'gold plated' Opera in the photo may well have been such a beast. I deliberately left that one out of my list.

 

Hopefully the numbers I have so far are accurate. I see no red flags in the way the data is taking shape.

 

EDIT to add: even without the otherwise inexplicable dash and two extra digits, the serial number on the questionable plate, 4356, fall squarely into Concert territory, so that number couldn't be correct on an Opera-labeled plate.

Edited by Tinfoilphono
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beautiful goldplating but the number is odd indeed
 

Some times ago I read a post containing hints in order to distinguish genuines vs fake (amberolasiii)

Might be a good idea too recall some of them? 
-numbers matching

-rod hole

-etc

 

Btw I don’t know who is the administrator of the other board but i’m waiting for his account approval since a few days now😉

 

Regards

Pat

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Really a great project.  Thanks for taking it on Rene!  Will the *final results be shared on the APS website or somewhere?  

 

Also, I think given the broad sweep for numbers you are making and general willingness for collectors to share the data, I bet you will have captured a big percentage of the survivors.  Some conjecture about the number of survivors would also be very interesting.

 

*I guess the results may never be truly final.

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I will be posting a PDF with the data (without names) fairly soon. The dust appears to be settling already, after a flurry of responses. I'm currently up to 203 listings.

 

There is an old rule of thumb in the antiques world claiming that average survival rate of any object is about 10%. That is obviously a very imperfect estimate but it's surprising (in my experience, anyway) how accurate it appears to me. I have tracked serial numbers on several phonographs, and many vintage Hamilton watches (which was my profession for decades before I retired), and far more often than not after years of acquiring data the results come in close enough to 10% to make me feel pretty comfortable. By that metric, I would estimate there are around ~500 Operas still around.

 

There aren't many obvious trends to be seen yet, but they are getting at least a bit clearer. There are some blocks where a lot of numbers cluster together. In a few cases, there may  a gap with as many as 100+.  But by and large it's becoming fairly fleshed out.

 

Currently I have 50 under 1,000, of which 8 are under 100. The highest number so far is 4665. The earliest Concert labeling I have is 3950. The lowest oak Opera so far is 564. Mahogany outstrips oak by a bit less than 2 to 1.

 

Stay tuned for more, probably in  a week or so.

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Sorry a little late to the game, but here are two more for your data base.

 

1.  Mahogany Opera, # 2639,  SM model A,  sold to a local collector who is not on the either forum.

 

2.  Mahogany Opera, # 3480,  SM Model A, kept in my collection

 

Best of Luck for the New Year

Bruce

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Tinfoilphono

Thanks for the additional data! The tally is now over 280 machines, which is remarkable. It looks like the majority of responses are in, so I plan to post the results early next week. It will, however, remain a work in progress that will be continually updated as new information surfaces.

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Valecnik

Thanks again for taking this on Rene.  It's really an interesting project.  I look forward to looking at the results!

 

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Tinfoilphono
Posted (edited)

Here is the summary of all the serial numbers I have been able to obtain. Have fun parsing it, and please share any insights!

 

https://www.antiquephono.org/wp-content/uploads/documents/edison-opera-database.pdf

 

This remains a work in progress, I will continue to add to the list as more numbers turn up. The link will remain valid for future iterations.

Edited by Tinfoilphono
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Ediphile

Here's the information on my "Concert" - in England.

Serial 4432.   (A late one!)

Mahogany.    (Music Master horn is oak, but possibly from another machine).

 

I would doubt that there was any correlation between the serial numbers and the type of wood for the cabinet.  The machine factory  would have been quite separate from the cabinet-works (possibly even separate buildings ?)  Would not the machine-factory have just serially-numbered the plates and attached them as the upper-works came "nude" off the production line ? 

 

 

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Valecnik

Thanks Rene.  Already gave it a look.  My first impression was not a single oak reported before 550.

 

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phonogfp

There are certainly patterns evident which confirm the long-standing Edison practice of assembling machines in "batches," the size of which gradually decreases as demand/production diminishes. 

 

The Opera was introduced with remarkably little fanfare in the November 1911 issue of The Edison Phonograph Monthly.  If not for the descriptions of simplified outfits for all Edison models, and the offering of advertising electros for all models (pages 10-11 of the issue), there would have been no mention of the new model at all!

 

The Opera was offered in oak in the February 1912 issue.  Presumably, serial #564 was reached by then, but we should be wary of this possible anomaly.  Number 555 is mahogany, and #568 is also mahogany, along with every other Opera reported thus far up to #726.  Is it probable that a block of only 13 oak Operas was assembled in January/February 1912 (#556 - #567)?  It's certainly possible (note the small batch of oak Operas between #1723 and #1782, the tiny batch between #2006 and #2020, and between #2393 and #2438), but marketing sense would suggest that Edison would have wanted a relatively large inventory of oak Operas at the outset of their availability to meet unknown demand.

 

Some of the smaller batches may be explained by this little blurb inn the April 1912 issue of The Edison Phonograph Monthly:

 

Opera Model Delayed

 

The rapidity with which the Opera Model is being disposed of by the trade has exhausted out stock completely, and rendered necessary considerable delay in the shipment of both the mahogany and golden oak finish.  The situation is being coped with to the best of our ability and we hope soon to be able to fill all orders promptly.  In the meantime we are making the fairest possible distribution of the various machines as rapidly as they can be turned out.

 

Of course, it's always company policy to blame delays on high demand, but whatever the cause, small batches sufficient only to meet jobbers' orders may have occurred during March/April 1912.

 

Frow reported that 1234 Operas had been sold by the end of February 1912.  That would seem to argue against those low-numbered oak examples, but it must be kept in mind that "sales" do not mean "shipped."  In light of the Opera shortage of March/April, Frow's cited sales figures might make sense. 

 

Frow also reported that the decision to change the model name to "Concert" was made as of August 20, 1912, however, this was not made public until October, when the machine was equipped with a Diamond A Reproducer for the new Blue Amberol Records.  We might presume that #3950 was reached sometime between August and October 1912, but read on....

 

Since the School Phonograph was introduced in December 1912, the reports of examples numbered at #1570, #2316, #2354, #2464, and #2704 (all well below #3950 which supposedly appeared in August-October 1912) must be called into question.  I'm not as suspicious of #3143 and #3151, since Frow cites discussion of the School in the summer of 1912.  Certainly the block that begins at #3351 and runs unbroken to #3437  is beyond suspicion, despite the fact that it is 500-odd numbers BEFORE the August-October changeover to the "Concert" at approx. #3950.   How can the discrepancy be explained? 

 

My only suggestion would be a situation similar to what I found in researching Edison Triumph.  The Ideal was changed to Idelia, but that change did not occur quickly nor consistently.  There are data plates labeled "Ideal" carrying numbers higher than some "Idelia" data plates.  In the case of the Opera/Concert, the changeover to "Concert" data plates may have occurred well after the agreed-upon name change.  The numbering of the School Phonographs would certainly support this possibility

 

George P.

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Tinfoilphono

Interesting observations, George. Oak #564 really does seem to be an outlier. It was reported by someone on TMF, I will try to see if there's confirmation.

 

One of the more interesting things that struck me falls within the 3351-3555 range. The vast majority of School Phonograph numbers are in that block. I had assumed that was one large production run devoted solely to School machines. Then a mahogany Opera popped up at 3441 (confirmed by photos) and another at 3480. So clearly that wasn't a solid run of School Phonographs, even though the vast majority in that range were.

 

I always found it odd that there was absolutely no major announcement for the Opera in Edison Phonograph Monthly. It just sort of appeared. That's so out of character.

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phonogfp

Rene, I was editing my earlier post as you were typing!  See my additional observations regarding the School Phonograph.

 

Interesting...!

 

George P.

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Tinfoilphono

The low serial numbered School machines are all confirmed. #1570 belongs to a very well-known California collector. #2704 is in the Ford Museum. The others have also been confirmed. So it is curious indeed.

 

None of the School Phonographs is labeled "Concert." That was a detail I checked for when I started logging those numbers many years ago.  School Phonographs were sold with either 10 or 11 panel cygnet horns. There is no discernible pattern to their use. They simply grabbed whatever was available. But, significantly, these horns were NOT taken from normal cygnet stock. They do not have hangers, since that was unnecessary. The holes for the hangers were plugged prior to painting. Decals were applied over the plugged holes. Here's a photo showing the inner and outer surfaces of such a horn. The arrow points to the depression of a plugged hole under the decal.

 

hangerholes.thumb.jpg.4921d84c20e8232d8c2b2adb23bc5650.jpg

 

Going back to oak Opera #564, that was sold at Christie's in 2002, and it's unquestionably oak in the photo. I wish there were a picture of the plate to confirm the serial number, but I'll have to trust that Christie's transcribed it correctly.

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New to posting here! Apologies for getting this information in late, I hope it is helpful. Below is information on my Oak Opera/Concert:

 

SN: 4591

Type: SM

Model: A

Wood: Oak

Other: "Concert"

Owner: Andrew Skitko

 

IMG_8182.thumb.jpg.feca2f667bf8b53149107b10a200cc7c.jpgfullsizeoutput_b8e.thumb.jpeg.1c02c35fe98707d712a0830818fba7ed.jpegfullsizeoutput_b8f.thumb.jpeg.24c075b27d0b03939ab5abe2e27f6300.jpeg

 

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phonogfp
2 hours ago, Tinfoilphono said:

The low serial numbered School machines are all confirmed. #1570 belongs to a very well-known California collector. #2704 is in the Ford Museum. The others have also been confirmed. So it is curious indeed.

 

Thanks for supplying the confirmation, Rene.  That certainly muddies the water!

 

It's interesting that no known School Phonographs are labeled "Concert."  With the latest-known School at #3555 and the earliest-known Concert at #3950, it's curious why the School survived the Concert after October 1913.  I suppose the obvious answer is that there was a large inventory of School machines that remained unsold. 

 

This thread turned out to be more interesting than I expected!

 

George P.

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