Unfortunately, collector interest in Edison recordings is hit-or-miss. Most appear to sell for $1 to $3 each, but there are a few that appear to be more expensive. The best way to tell if you can get money for an Edison record is to try selling it. If nobody shows any interest, then it's probably not worth much.
Edison's records are made up primarily of live performances by popular musicians of the time. As such, they offer a unique view into what became of these songs after they were written. Some are self-evidently good songs, others less so. But all provide interesting context for understanding how modern listeners perceive these songs.
Records were sold by Edison and its successors at music stores nationwide from 1878 until 1951. After that, they could only be purchased directly from Edison or Universal Music Group (which acquired Edison's legacy in 1999). Today, they can also be downloaded digitally from many sources including Amazon, iTunes, and Pandora.
The value of Edison records depends on three main factors: age, condition, and genre. Records can increase in value over time due to inflation or because of changes in consumer demand. They can also decrease in value due to wear-and-tear from playing or storage problems. Finally, they can change in value based on their condition.
These included a Thomas Edison Electric Pen, worth at least $20,000, and a table purchased for $25 at a garage sale in Ridgewood 30 years ago by a former New Jersey schoolteacher, valued at least $200,000. Stay tuned: the table is being auctioned today at Sotheby's in New York, and PBS is recording a documentary on it.
Edison invented many other things too, like the phonograph, the film camera, and the light bulb. But he didn't patent them all - so other people stole his ideas and made a lot of money out of them. The same thing happened with his electric pen. It was first sold in 1915 for $10,000 in honor of its inventor - but then lost sales competition to Parker Pens led to it being re-released into the public domain in 1975.
In fact, almost every one of Edison's inventions were stolen or copied by other people. A few are still used today, even though they were never officially licensed by Edison himself. For example, the microphone is found in most smartphones, while the laser printer uses lasers that were originally developed for military applications (for targeting missiles).
Finally, there is one invention that hasn't been copied yet! That would be Edison himself. Even though he filed over 3,000 patents during his lifetime, only nine of them have actually been granted so far. The others were rejected by the US Patent Office or canceled due to lack of interest from investors.
The usual cylinder is black or blue, four inches long, and two inches in diameter, and was invented by Thomas Edison in the 1870s. The majority are worth less than $5, while some are worth $100 or more. Cylinders that are brown, pink, green, or orange, or are more than two inches in diameter, can be valued up to $200. There are very few records still in existence today, so it is difficult to value them.
An Edison phonograph cost about as much as a horse and wagon when it was new, but now sells for just a few dollars. The mechanism inside an Edison phonograph is exactly the same as modern compact discs, except that it used wax cylinders instead of plastic discs. Wax cylinders are harder to produce than vinyl records and thus were more expensive to make. They are also less durable, losing their sound quality over time if not cared for properly. In fact, most recordings will lose their quality within a few years of being made.
There are several reasons why an Edison phonograph is worth less than a compact disc player. First, they use different technology; therefore, no one product can play both types of media. Second, they are older; thus, they are from before compact discs became popular. Finally, they are larger and more expensive to make. An average-quality recording could take up to three hours to play on an Edison phonograph, while a compact disc only needs twenty minutes.
In his 84 years, Thomas Edison obtained a record 1,093 patents (either alone or jointly) and was the driving force behind technologies such as the phonograph, the incandescent light bulb, and one of the first motion picture cameras. He also established the first industrial research laboratory in the world. Today, this lab, known as the Edison Museum, is a national monument located in West Orange, New Jersey.
Edison began working on the electric light around 1872 when he learned about German physicist Heinrich Hertz's experiments with radio waves. Intrigued, Edison decided to try building his own generator and took out several patents on different parts of the system. In 1879, Edison's company produced the first functional incandescent lamp. By 1893, almost all of America had been wired for electricity so most businesses and homes were now using the electric light at night. This means that Edison had successfully brought one of his ideas from idea to implementation in just over 10 years.
It's hard to believe but Edison didn't stop there. He continued to come up with new inventions until he died in 1931. Some of his more famous inventions include the phonograph, the kinetoscope, and the film camera.
In addition to being one of the most influential people in history, Thomas Edison has also been called the "Father of American Industry" and the "Great American Engineer."