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Columbia Type BS Coin-Op


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Tinfoilphono

We already have a fascinating thread about the Columbia Type B "Eagle" so I thought it would be fun to take a look at the coin-operated variant of the Eagle.

 

Here's the early version as released in 1898, with routed horizontal decoration on all four panels and no decal. Unlike the more common banner version, the coin chute is angular and has an open front. There is no adjustable collar to set the start point of the record, merely a leather cushion to soften the impact when the carriage is rapidly reset when the cylinder has finished playing. I'm not sure how long this version was made, but based on the survival rate it must not have been very many. Although the BS is the most common coin-op around, it has long been one of my very favorites. It's a treat to be able to watch everything in operation, with nothing hidden away.

 

IMG_0379_edited-1.thumb.jpg.1662bbdd4f1a502d386bed4e31c0bb23.jpg

 

bsad.png.d3832213066fc98fd426b9482a3d867c.png

 

563620016_Columbiaphoto99.thumb.png.27a5203726dea1d6f328b1d1a88bb7ae.png

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A thread on the BS???!  Rene, I suspect I know where this thread is headed!

 

I agree - the BS is such a cute machine because of its exposed mechanism.  What a blessing that they are not too difficult to find.

 

The earliest BS Graphophones like the one shown above appeared around #160,000 (the BS was numbered amongst the Eagle serial blocks), but the last of this early type that I have in my database is #161422.  By #162191, the routing had disappeared, and a decal placed on the front panel - however, the angular coin chute persisted until at least #163997 (possibly interspersed with the later chute as old inventory surfaced).  I have only 36 BS Graphophones in my database, so there's lots more to narrow down.  Beginning with #164667, all the BS machines in the database have decals and the curved coin chute.  There's only one short-lived variation that I know of, and I'll bet it will be discussed here soon!

 

George P.

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Tinfoilphono

You know me too well.  😉  Okay, so here's the short-lived variation -- highly nickeled and polished, in the second style cabinet with banner decal and curved coin chute with covered front.

 

col-bsp.thumb.jpg.8140e3744b75b1c4acf416b99d2d75c7.jpg

 

The mechanism is apparently recycled from unsold inventory of the $15 "nickeled & polished" Eagle cataloged in 1898 and not offered again. It's remarkable to see a BS that gleams like this.

 

bsp-open.jpg.7c32ff256da51aaff0b130d061acaa94.jpg

 

I will let George fill out the story since he was the first to ever write about this variation, in the June 2018 issue of The Antique Phonograph.

 

Aside from the enjoyment of watching the mechanism in action, the BS was a remarkably simple, rugged, and bulletproof coin-op that is vastly simpler to adjust and maintain than any other coin-operated phonograph I know of. That is a real bonus for collectors who enjoy using their machines.

 

There's at least one other scarce variation out there, and hopefully someone will post a picture -- the version with a huge coin drawer underneath the main cabinet.

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At the time I wrote the article that appeared in the June 2018 issue of The Antique Phonograph, I was aware of only two examples of the highly nickeled and polished BS.  Since then I have been made aware of a total of five.  Of the four whose serial numbers have been provided, all are within 584 units of each other.  Considering that Eagle production for its first year was over 6000/month, and during its second year was over 2000/month, it's obvious that the known surviving "Nickeled and Polished" BS coin-ops were assembled within a week of each other.  I believe there is a logical explanation.

 

To quote from my June 2018 article:

 

The known serial range of $15.00 nickeled and polished BXPs ends about 30,000 units prior to this special BS. American Graphophone may have had a small inventory of unsold nickeled and polished “Eagles” (BXPs) in its inventory. When Columbia stopped offering the model in 1899, the factory might well have installed the remaining BXP mechanisms into BS cabinets to clear its stocks. The 30,000—odd intervening units may represent the time which elapsed until American Graphophone deemed the BXP mechanisms unsalable as “Eagles.” This possibility is further supported by the fact that the serial number of this special BS appears not only on the data plate, but is also stamped into the rear edge of the metal baseplate. Until now, this has been seen only on caseless “Eagles.” However, since the $10.00 (caseless) and $15.00 (nickeled and polished) “Eagles” were discontinued at approximately the same time, their remaining parts inventories might well have been used in a few BS Graphophones.

 

(I have deliberately not posted online the exact serial ranges of known BXPs and highly nickeled and polished BS Graphophones - in order to make faking them more difficult.)

 

As cool as is the highly nickeled and polished BS, it's too bad it's mostly hidden within the cabinet.  When I took photos for the article, I removed the lid of the BS in order to better show the effect.  Here are a few, including an example equipped with ear tubes (the original buyer was offered either the horn or ear tubes).

 

George P.

BS1.thumb.JPG.4b34b8f3a062d639ea7607487734f925.JPG

 

BS2.thumb.JPG.321cf149a47b9617db4cf5c731a4c313.JPG

 

BS3.thumb.JPG.cda175a91f90f9b2f2cb97ee798d3b59.JPG

 

BS4.thumb.JPG.c825ed40ba14996f6ed95c36b568da47.JPG

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Tinfoilphono

As long as I'm on the subject, here's the BS that got away when I was a teenager in the  1960s.

 

bs-1960s.png.4157f3c9d756bbca8bfa2f640fa26ebc.png

 

I wanted a coin-op in the worst way. It tied into two of my interests at the time -- coins and phonographs. But I really didn't know what was out there. Information was scarce at the time; about all I had to go on was "From Tinfoil to Stereo." I had no clue whether a BS was rarer than an Edison Excelsior, or anything else in the book. I was flying blind.

 

But in 1964 someone in the midwest offered this one to me, and sent a Polaroid. I had no clue that it should have had a signboard, and that the horn was wrong. All I knew was that it was a coin-op, and I desperately wanted it. But-- the price was $75. That was three times as much as I had ever paid for a phonograph. I didn't have that kind of money myself, so I had to beg my parents. They refused. It was simply too much money -- equal to over $600 in today's dollars. I begged and pleaded, and offered to take on any chores they wanted, and eventually wore my mother down. I mailed off a check and waited excitedly to receive my new treasure. A week or so later the seller returned the check uncashed -- the machine had already sold.

 

I was crushed. It would be another 15 years before I finally got my first coin-op, and yes, it was a BS.

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On 1/15/2021 at 9:56 AM, phonogfp said:

At the time I wrote the article that appeared in the June 2018 issue of The Antique Phonograph, I was aware of only two examples of the highly nickeled and polished BS.  Since then I have been made aware of a total of five.  Of the four whose serial numbers have been provided, all are within 584 units of each other.  Considering that Eagle production for its first year was over 6000/month, and during its second year was over 2000/month, it's obvious that the known surviving "Nickeled and Polished" BS coin-ops were assembled within a week of each other.  I believe there is a logical explanation.

 

To quote from my June 2018 article:

 

The known serial range of $15.00 nickeled and polished BXPs ends about 30,000 units prior to this special BS. American Graphophone may have had a small inventory of unsold nickeled and polished “Eagles” (BXPs) in its inventory. When Columbia stopped offering the model in 1899, the factory might well have installed the remaining BXP mechanisms into BS cabinets to clear its stocks. The 30,000—odd intervening units may represent the time which elapsed until American Graphophone deemed the BXP mechanisms unsalable as “Eagles.” This possibility is further supported by the fact that the serial number of this special BS appears not only on the data plate, but is also stamped into the rear edge of the metal baseplate. Until now, this has been seen only on caseless “Eagles.” However, since the $10.00 (caseless) and $15.00 (nickeled and polished) “Eagles” were discontinued at approximately the same time, their remaining parts inventories might well have been used in a few BS Graphophones.

 

(I have deliberately not posted online the exact serial ranges of known BXPs and highly nickeled and polished BS Graphophones - in order to make faking them more difficult.)

 

As cool as is the highly nickeled and polished BS, it's too bad it's mostly hidden within the cabinet.  When I took photos for the article, I removed the lid of the BS in order to better show the effect.  Here are a few, including an example equipped with ear tubes (the original buyer was offered either the horn or ear tubes).

 

George P.

BS1.thumb.JPG.4b34b8f3a062d639ea7607487734f925.JPG

 

BS2.thumb.JPG.321cf149a47b9617db4cf5c731a4c313.JPG

 

BS3.thumb.JPG.cda175a91f90f9b2f2cb97ee798d3b59.JPG

 

BS4.thumb.JPG.c825ed40ba14996f6ed95c36b568da47.JPG

I won't soon forget the 1st time I saw this in person, George. Your photos do it justice, and we all know the difficulty in taking good photos of a very shiny object. Such a beauty that I believe anyone would be proud to have in their collection.

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Thanks Fran - you're very kind. 

 

When I bought this BS on eBay several years ago (a Buy It Now whose price I couldn't resist), I thought I was getting a typical example.  I picked it up in New Jersey a month later, and as I looked at it on the seller's kitchen counter, I did my best to keep a poker face.  I was quite familiar with the BXP, but had never heard of a BS with similar polished parts.  It was only a few days later at home, when I had a chance to study various serial numbers and correlate what was happening at Columbia at the time, that an explanation suggested itself.  Happily, the discovery of additional examples has confirmed, I believe, the theory I offered in the article (and transcribed in red above). 

 

It's a thrill to learn new stuff!

 

George P.

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  • 1 month later...

I have BS  162497.  It has the angled coin entry  but it has the banner decal.  Does this mean that the decal was added later?

Al Menashe

 

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1 hour ago, Albert said:

I have BS  162497.  It has the angled coin entry  but it has the banner decal.  Does this mean that the decal was added later?

Al Menashe

 

 

Not at all.  The cabinets without the routed bead on the front panel had the decal*.  The highest number BS with a routed bead (no decal) in my database is #161422.  The angled coin chute survived longer than did the routed bead.

 

*There is one known exception.  A BS exists with the routed bead AND a decal (absolutely original) applied OVER the bead!

 

George P.

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