Devised, researched
 and written
  Peter King Smith BSc

                                                         The mid-1960s, German-built multi-track tape recorder with FM/AM/SW radio

Electronic Time Capsule

Live auction

eBay search for Music Center
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 radios
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.

Imminent eBay auction
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, Germany.

Almere, The Netherlands, 11 March 2008

Time capsule

Pandora's Box?
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. 

Well-engineered machine
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 2007

Collector's item

What collectors have said on the grapevine...
In earlier 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 owned. 

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 (May 2004).
2. Howard of Godalming, Surrey, who also posted a message on (May 2005).

Henson & Sons of Finchley

R. Henson & Sons of Finchley
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 car
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 coast
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 car
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 turned sour.

Life-long regret motivates search for replacement
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)

Live eBay auction

Auction house in Eastbourne, Sussex
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 condition".

Registered as absentee bidder
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 auction
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
I immediately 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.

Heavy furniture

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.

Heavy 'furniture'
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 front room!"