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BEWARE OF THE CRAP-O-PHONE!

(For more on phonographic fakes, visit CRAP-O-PHONES AND OTHER PHONOGRAPH FORGERIES)

Don't waste money on these worthless counterfeits!


These counterfeits "Victrolas" from Asia often show up on online auction sites, at flea markets, and in other venues that attract novice collectors. Crap-O-Phones (so-named by the advanced collecting community) use a hodge-podge of parts scavenged out of junky wind-up portables, which were made in India into the 1960s, and poor-quality reproduction parts. This motley assortment is then dropped into new boxes and finished off with a flimsy new sheet-brass horn and back bracket. The machines do work, but often not for long. They are produced solely to deceive.

Many dealers knowingly misrepresent these machines as the real thing, and price them accordingly. Others are somewhat more honest, calling them call "reproductions" or "replicas," but this isn't correct, either. No such machines ever existed in the open-horn era; Crap-O-Phones are historically incorrect bastardizations, tossed together from mismatched junk parts. In addition, their unauthorized use of the "Master's Voice" trademark is an infringement of copyright law.

Crap-O-Phone currently wholseale for $45 on average (down from about $75 a few years ago as the market got increasingly glutted), and eBay "Power Sellers" post dozens every week, fetching $100-$200 or so. Even at that, these machines are are no bargain. The cheap motors and flimsy new back brackets are especially vulnerable to breakage. Reproducers often have decaying white-metal parts and dried-out gaskets, or are badly out of adjustment and will damage your records. Costs to repair or replace these parts would exceed the minimal value of the machine.

A few things to look for when shopping for an outside-horn machine:

  • The elbow (the piece that connects horn to arm) should be smoothly curved, heavy, high-quality casting. Crap-O-Phone elbows are sharply angled and fabricated of cheap, soldered sheet brass.
  • The back bracket (the piece that supports the horn/arm assembly) should be a heavy, high-quality casting. Crap-O-Phone brackets are usually crudely cast of cheap, brittle white-metal.
  • The reproducer should have an open face that reveals the diaphragm. Crap-O-Phones use much later, low-end reproducers (some from as late as 1940-1960) with metal face covers and diaphragms.
  • The crank should be perfectly horizontal and not disproportionately long. Crap-O-Phone cranks are often angled and out of proportion to the case, since they are taken from machines with different dimensions.
  • A stamped metal nameplate with model and serial number should be attached to the case. Most Crap-O-Phones substitute a cheap, new colored print or decal of "His Master's Voice."
  • Beware of any outside-horn machine with a Thorens motor. This is a sure sign of a Crap-O-Phone.
  • Watch out for lumpy, soft, or purplish finishes, like those seen on cheap imported furniture imported from India.
  • Novelty cases (glass-sided, circular, hexagonal, etc.) are common on Crap-O-Phones but rarely occur on authentic machines, especially American models.
  • Watch out for cases with filled or nonfunctional holes; some Crap-O-Phones use old cases that have been reconfigured to accept parts that were never meant to be placed in them.


© 1999 by Mainspring Press. THIS ARTICLE MAY BE REPRODUCED AND DISTRIBUTED WITHOUT CHARGE FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE COLLECTING COMMUNITY.