Antiques: Zonophone Discs

Q: My great-granddad was from Italy and a great opera lover. When he immigrated to the United States, he brought along about three dozen recordings, including two Zonophone discs by Enrico Caruso. I read in one of your recent columns that Caruso’s American Victor Real Seal recordings are fairly common and not worth that much. What about the Zonophones?
                — A Reader in Kissimmee, FL

A: You are correct about the Caruso Red Seals. Most sell in the $5–$25 range, pending on rarity and condition.
Caruso, probably the most legendary classical tenor who ever lived, was born in Naples in 1873. He made his operatic debut in 1894 and after establishing his singing chops in Europe, arrived in the United States in 1902 where he began a long association with the New York Metropolitan Opera. His first major recording in the U.S. was “Vesti La Glubba” from “I Pagliacci,” cut in 1904 at the Victor studios. It charted as the best-selling recording in the country that May.

Caruso made only a few Zonophone recordings. Since they are scarce, they also are expensive. Several have sold in the $5,000 to $10,000 range. Someone who might be able to advise you is Richard Gesner, owner of “The Music Connection,” one of the premier record shops in New England. You can contact him at 1711 South Willow St., Manchester, NH 03103.