Lifetime collection of music rarities spanning 140 years to be sold
- Credit: Simon Parkin
One man's lifetime collection of mechanical music spanning more than 140 years is set to go under the auction hammer in Norfolk.
Echoes of how recorded music has been listened to down the ages, from music boxes to gramophones, featuring in the collection of Richard Bartram that is to be sold at a sale at TW Gaze auction rooms in Diss on May 17.
BBC antiques expert and director of the firm Elizabeth Talbot said: 'The collection is in the private ownership of a gentleman from Wymondham. It was formed in Norfolk over many years, driven by his personal passion and fascination for the subject.'
These days when digital music is instantly available on our smartphones it is difficult to forget how the ability to listen to recorded music was once rare and special, with a music player the centrepiece of many 19th century homes.
The collection includes polyphons, phonographs, early 20th century camera phones including a Mikiphone, gramophones, music boxes, a peraphone, a seraphone, penny-in-the-slot machines, an organette, record players, bygone accessories and subject-related ephemera.
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Mrs Talbot said: 'Some of them are cranked machines, some of them are ratched music boxes with comb and cylinder movements, some are penny-in-the-slots, many of which are polyphons that play discs, some quite tiny and some quite large. There are also a couple of mantle clocks that play discs.
'He also has a couple of quite exquisite musical snuff boxes and a musical sewing box in the form of a boudoir grand piano that is really rather lovely.
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'The tiniest item in the collection is a gold musical seal fob that you would wear on your watch chain and that has the most minute barillet movement that plays the most charming, tinkly musical accompaniment.'
Mr Bartram is selling his huge collection, the newest piece of which is a 1960s Pye model record player, as he is downsizing. Items are estimated to fetch from £150 through to an auto-change penny-in-the-slot machine that re-dates the jukebox estimated at £10,000-£15,000.
'East Anglia has a strong tradition of and appreciation of mechanical music,' said Mrs Talbot. 'Locally we have the Grange Musical Collection museum in Palgrave and Diss has hosted organ and music box festival in the last couple of years, so we are very much on the map for collectors.'
• The collection can be viewed at TW Gaze in Diss on May 9 (2–8pm), May 10 (10am–6pm) and May 16 (2–8pm). The auction starts at 1pm on May 17.