Electronic Time Capsule
eBay search for Music
In the autumn of 2007, after a short briefing on
how to use eBay and how useful it can be to find things you want through the Internet, I sat in my study and
typed in the words 'Schaub-Lorenz Music Center' in eBay's search window and waited.
Most hits were portable transistor
Up popped a large number of hits, mostly portable
transistor radios that I was not interested in. However, surprisingly, one of those hits turned out to be
the Schaub-Lorenz Music Center 5001 that I'd been looking for years, but had never managed to track down.
This German-made music center, which was about
to be auctioned in two days time on a live eBay auction, was, in its day, a state-of-the-art consumer
radio-tape recorder manufactured in 1965-67 by the firm of Standard Elektrik Lorenz AG in Altena,
Almere, The Netherlands, 11
If this music center I was thinking of buying contained some original 1960s and early 1970s
music programmes or radio broadcasts on its tape-recording unit, it would be nothing less than a 'time
capsule', perhaps containing musical or radio treasures. Alternatively, I might just be buying Pandora's
Box, plagued by faults that no-one in the world could solve.
Buying it, though, would give me the opportunity to walk down memory
lane, acquire a "very well-engineered machine with good quality sound"1, and become the guardian of a forgotten piece of German electronic
history. If I didn't buy it, I would never know for sure what was recorded on it.
1. Jim Weir: private e-mail, Nov
What collectors have said on the
internet searches, I'd come across several e-mail exchanges between antique radio collectors, and
would-be collectors, who described the 5001 music center they had heard about on the grapevine or had
One such e-mail read:
"Wow! That's just the sort of technology
that appeals to me. I am going to have to find one of those machines".1
Another message read:
"The early 5001 model in a wooden case with twin
loudspeakers appears to be a sought-after model in Germany, and is quite valuable".2
Ralf Birkenkampf, a former music center
owner, also described the 5001 music center as a "collector's item". These music centers were " very
expensive machines and so were mainly bought by wealthy people. In 1965, a cheap car cost DM 4000, while a
music center 5001 cost DM 1248".
1. John of
Ellington, Northumberland NE61, who posted a message on www.vintage-radio.com (May
2. Howard of Godalming, Surrey, who also
posted a message on www.vintage-radio.com (May 2005).
& Sons of Finchley
R. Henson & Sons of
I'd bought my first Schaub-Lorenz Music Center (5001 model) back
in 1969 from a small wholesaler in north London. I had to shell out the best part of seven weeks
wages that I'd earned during my college holidays as a barman in a working men's pub in Newhaven, Sussex.
The company that sold me the machine was R. Henson Ltd of 21, Lodge Lane, north Finchley. As I recall, I
paid around £89 in cash, which was a lot of money then.
Price of a cheap German
Ralf Birkenkampf, an ex-music center owner living in Germany,
recalls how expensive these machines were when they were launched.
"Back in 1965, the Schaub-Lorenz Music Center 5001
cost DM 1,248", he told me. That was a
great deal of money in those days, given that a cheap car in those days
cost DM 4,000. Consequently, only wealthy people could afford to
buy the music center".1
Manhandled across London to south
As I had no car then, I had to lug the 26-kilo cabinet across
London and then to the south coast of England by taxis, underground and trains.
Swapped for second-hand
A year or so later, I swapped it for a car, which I apparently
needed more than the music center. At the time, it seemed like a fair deal. Later, however, the car
turned out to be poorly maintained and was riddled with minor faults and so the sweetness of the deal
Life-long regret motivates search for
It'll come as no surprise to hear that I have regretted selling
that music center ever since, and so in 2007 I made up my mind to try to find a replacement. That's when
the idea came up to search for a replacement on E-bay.
1. Ralf Birkenkampf's
recollections (5 April 2008)
Auction house in Eastbourne,
The music center that had just popped up in my eBay search window
in October 2007 was for sale in a live eBay auction. This would be my first live internet auction. I
discovered that the auction house was located in Eastbourne, East Sussex, England, a town I know well and
close to where I'd grown up. The eBay description referred to 'Chaub-Lorenz' instead of Schaub-Lorenz,
and included colour photos of the machine that was described as being "in good
Registered as absentee
I phoned the auction house, enquired how to register for the
auction online and, as a so-called 'absentee bidder', I later placed an advance bid for the machine,
effectively authorising eBay to overbid any other bids in the live auction up to a maximum amount,
without my having to lift a finger on auction day.
Day of the
On the day of the Internet auction, I waited and watched until my
item, almost the last, came up. Bidding suddenly started and within seconds ended, with the final and
winning bid being mine! I had acquired a sought-after German time capsule for just £15! I simply couldn't
believe my luck. The total cost, including auction and credit-card fees and sales tax came to just £19 (±
€27). This had to be the radio bargain of the century.
Arranged storage and collection
e-mailed a friend near Eastbourne and asked him if he would pick up the music center for me and store it
until I could come over to England to collect it.
When I went to England
to collect the music center a few months later, I found it being stored under an upright piano in a house
near Eastbourne. I was delighted to find that the music center had a beautifully polished, dark mahogany
cabinet, identical to the one I'd originally owned back in the late 1960s.
As it was so heavy, I had to ask the
strapping son of the landlady of the B&B where I was staying, to help me carry it into the building, not
wishing to risk leaving it in the car overnight. When I mentioned that I didn't know whether it even worked,
the landlady's son replied "Even if it doesn't, I wouldn't mind having it just as a piece of furniture in my