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MMD > Archives > July 2004 > 2004.07.09 > 10Prev  Next

Value of Tel-Electric Player Piano
By Bob Billings

In the 040708 MMD James asked the value of a 1908 Tel-Electric piano.
That depends on knowing a number of things.  First, a little history to
put it all in context.

In 1905 the newly formed Telelectric company bought an existing all
electric player company and probably sold a few players over the next
two years.  In 1907 they began selling a redesigned version of it on
a commercial basis.  The players were installed in existing pianos of
any make.  The player consisted of a magnet bank installed in the
piano, connected by a cable to a standalone console that played the
brass(!) rolls.  Around 1908 the company changed the name on the
players to Tel-Electric.  The last players were made in 1917.

The first question is what is the make and condition of the piano?
Early on Telelectric had pianos made with their name cast in the plate,
but gave that up by around 1908.  If the piano is a Telelectric it is
rare and should be worth more to a collector than if it was a common
make.  Since the player system was installed after market, the age of
the player system is rarely the age of the piano.

Is the system complete?  The system consists of a magnet bank under the
keybed, two large solenoids to operate the sustain and soft pedals, and
the console.  The system was powered by either batteries or a motor
generator.  If powered by a motor generator, is the cabinet supporting
the console present?  The motor generator was mounted inside an
asbestos lined compartment in the cabinet.

What is the condition of the console?  And is it the original console
that came with the piano?  Tel-Electric continually made changes which
are not always apparent to the eye.  The most significant is the value
of the variable resistors that controlled the expression, under either
automatic or manual control.  They were matched to the solenoids under
the keybed, which varied according to the whim of the month.  Consoles
are fairly common today, but the magnet banks are not, as they were
usually removed when the player stopped working because they interfered
with one's knees.

Are there any rolls, and if so what are the titles?  Most Tel-Electric
rolls are quite forgettable, arranged by hand from the scores.  Some of
the rags were good, and the later hand-played rolls were "interesting".
A surprising number of rolls still exist, considering that they were
made only for 12 years, 90 years or so ago, and most of the players
were not working by the late 20s.

With these questions answered I may be able to help in determining the
value of the Tel-Electric.

Bob Billings
Reno, Nevada

(Message sent Fri 9 Jul 2004, 15:25:57 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  Piano, Player, Tel-Electric, Value

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