This scarce and early machine is the coin-operated version of the Type N. It is historically significant since it was the first spring-driven coin-operated phonograph in the mass market (earlier machines were battery-powered). First offered in August 1896, and only in the market for one year,
it used the same heavy-duty upper mechanical assembly as the home version but with
an added coin mechanism. This was mounted in a table top cabinet with a removable curved glass
lid. (In later Columbia coin-operated Graphophones the lid was attached with hinges.)
Both the home and commercial versions of the Graphophone Type N are unusual in that
they have an endgate supporting the mandrel on the right side. This feature was used on all Edison phonographs
until 1906, but only two Graphophones were fitted with endgates: the Type N and Type
The N coin-op is a substantial machine with enclosed gears in the cast aluminum upper works, which made for quieter operation. The motor, however, was not the same heavy-duty unit used in the home version. In a coin-operated machine, which is wound for each play, there was no need for a powerful motor that could run several records on a single winding. Consequently a simpler and cheaper motor was designed, with a single spring and no spring barrel. (This same motor was used soon thereafter in the inexpensive Type A Graphophone for home use.) This also cut costs, allowing the larger and more complicated N coin-op to sell for only $10 more than the smaller home version of the Type N.
The Type N coin-op came out over two years before Edison finally launched a competing spring-wound coin-operated phonograph, the "H", also priced at $50. However by that time Columbia had already replaced the Type N with the Type AS (based on the simplified Type A mechanism), which cost only $35, once again trouncing Edison in the price wars.
Unfortunately, total production is unknown because serial numbers were intermixed with the home version. Given how few survive today the total sales must have been small. Despite a contemporary catalog advertisement which called it "cheap," the $50 price tag was formidable -- equivalent to over $1,300 in today's dollars.
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