The Columbia model BI, referred to in Columbia advertising as the Sterling, was introduced in 1905 at a price of $45. The double spring motor yielded extended playing time. It was an upper mid range machine in the Columbia line, competing with Victor offerings such as the Victor III.
Columbia favored intricate, ornate case design, and the boxy cabinet here with rounded pillars and colorful banner decal is no exception. Simpler cabinet design would come into favor in the 1920s, but the fancy golden oak case of the BI presents great appeal to present day collectors.
This example has undergone extensive mechanical restoration to make it as reliable as possible. The turntable drive gear, which is always a problem area in Columbia disc machines, has been replaced. The motor has been taken apart, cleaned and lubricated. Both mainsprings have been pulled, cleaned and re-greased. This is a big job, but necessary to keep the springs from sticking to themselves as they release and causing the motor to run unevenly. Additionally, the reproducer has been rebuilt for maximum sound.
Compare the work that has been performed on this machine with any phonograph offered on a venue such as ebay. An ebay seller isn't going to do this kind of maintenance because it represents additional time and expense, but at some point you will have to pay extra to have the work done anyway.
This BI has exceptionally nice original finish with a good, attractive original scroll decal. The nickel plated horn, which is very desirable, has no creasing or distress worth talking about (just one or two tiny dimples). There is some light, typical weathering of the nickel on the back bracket but no heavy rust as often found. There is some very slight typical veneer peel on the motor board. Someone had replaced the small knob on the start/stop rod with a small nut (this assembly was also a mild annoyance on Columbia disc machines), but the start/stop and speed control are now working properly. All in all, this BI is in much, much better than average condition and the machine is running smoothly and properly.
Case dimensions are approximately 12.5 inches square, excluding the back bracket. The horn is approximately 19 inches long with an 18.5 inch bell.
And in case you're wondering, the singer on the mp3 recording is vaudeville artist Maureen Englin.
We buy, sell, and repair antique phonographs and music boxes.
Pick-up and delivery possible in many parts of the midwest,south, and northeast.