COLUMBIA GRAPHOPHONE TYPES QB and QA

When it was first marketed in early 1899, the Columbia Graphophone Type Q was the least expensive phonograph offered by any of the major manufacturers. As inexpensive as it was -- $5 -- it still represented a fairly serious investment for the average worker, equivalent to over $100 today. It was a simple machine with an open motor, however it was a well-made and reliable phonograph which proved to be extremely popular.

The basic $5 Type Q had no provision to protect the machine and make it easier to carry around. For that Columbia offered two options. For an additional $1 a customer could purchase the Type QB, pictured here. This consisted of a Type Q Graphophone fitted into a cardboard box with simulated leather cover, red lining and a leather handle on top. The front is embellished with a gold "The Graphophone" imprint. (The original catalog boasted "When closed, the case resembles a camera in size and finish, and is very neat.") The QB is by far the rarest version because the cardboard box was fragile and ill-suited to withstand the rigors of years of handling and environmental damage. Consequently very few survive today.


For $7.50 Columbia offered the Type QC (later called QA), as shown below, mounted to a wooden base with typical bent oak cover. This was a very popular option and it is found quite commonly with a light oak finish. The intense dark green color of the cover and base shown here is quite unusual, however. Both Columbia and Edison used green oak finishes in the early 20th century although it is very rare to see one as darkly colored as this Type QA. It is hard to imagine how this color would fit into Victorian decor. It proved to be quite unpopular and was soon discontinued, supplanted by light or dark ('antique') oak finishes.

Two styles of the Type Q were made. The earliest, as seen in the Type QB at the top of this page, had a brushed steel base and a solid key. In 1901 the machine was redesigned with a 'japanned' black base with gilt striping and a filigreed key, like this Type QA above. The support for the governor was moved from the base to the motor assembly.

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