COLUMBIA GRAPHOPHONE TYPE B "EAGLE" (1897/98)

The Columbia “Type B” Graphophone – commonly called the 'Eagle' – was first sold in late 1897 as an inexpensive yet solidly-built machine for the mass market. Priced at $10 for the bare-bones machine, or $12 with a wooden base and curved oak lid, it was a rare bargain. At the time, Edison's least expensive phonograph was the Home at $40, while Columbia's least expensive was the Type A at $25. Not surprisingly, the Eagle was a major hit. (The name refers to the common nickname for a $10 gold coin of the era.) Although it was manufactured up to about 1907, Columbia ceased promoting it in 1902. Thereafter it was sold primarily through Sears Roebuck catalogs.

The Eagle remains very popular among collectors today—the totally exposed gears and governor make this machine a lot of fun to watch, and despite its rather weak key-wound motor it is capable of playing quite well. Because so many still survive, it is a common machine that deserves a place in every collection.

Although Columbia Eagles are readily found, and still fairly inexpensive, it is very challenging to find one in mint original condition. These were typically not well cared for once they became obsolete in the early 20th century, and most that are found today suffer from years of neglect. This early example is nearly new in condition and is amazing to see. (The all-wood handle, without metal end caps, dates this machine to between September 1897 and November 1898.)

Based on the number of survivors, it seems that most original buyers opted to pay the extra $2 for the wooden case. This one also includes a recorder in original box, which added another $5 to the total, bringing this specific machine up to $17, which is equivalent to almost $450 in today's dollars. (The Eagle was also briefly available in 1898 in a special “Nickeled and Polished” version.)

The Columbia Eagle first appeared in the September 1897 Columbia catalog.

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