It's a great time to be a Talking Board collector. With so many boards to choose from these days, you even have the luxury of being choosy. It wasn't always so. Sources for old talking boards were few and a sizable collection usually took years to accumulate if you lived anywhere other than the East Coast. Your success depended primarily upon how much time you were willing to spend scouring antique stores and flea markets. When you discovered the occasional gem, it was a very big deal. All this has changed with the arrival of Internet auction sites like eBay. Browsing one of these sites is like visiting a flea market the size of Kentucky but without having to suffer the dust and sore feet. Talking boards once thought extinct pop up regularly. And while there is nothing quite like spending an afternoon wandering an antique show or searching antique stores in some quaint part of town, you're far more likely to find what you want online.
While you're online, you're going to want to make some new friends. Networking with collectors and sellers has never been easier. Talking board enthusiasts often have extra boards to trade and if they know what you are looking for, they can really help. When connecting, it's always important to play nice but stay sharp since there are all types of people out there. Some spare no expense and simply must have every talking board while others pick and choose carefully avoiding all but the best bargains. One collector may give you the shirt off his back but another might be considerably less charitable, out bidding you constantly or wheeling and dealing behind your back to scuttle some deal you are negotiating. It's particularly frustrating to see an auction on eBay suddenly "disappear" knowing that there isn't a thing you can do about it. Don't become one of the possessed and let your new hobby make you crazy. It's all part of collecting.
So, what is a fair price to pay for a board on an online auction? It depends on a number of factors and things can change day to day. A board that sells for $50 today may sell for $300 next week. Two or three anxious buyers can drive up the selling price during a bidding war. You may become exasperated when the price exceeds your financial comfort zone but don't despair. Buyers sometimes overlook rare or important boards and even dump entire collections. If you miss the board of your dreams, there is likely to be another in the not too distant future. Patience is a virtue. Do your homework and make sure that you know your stuff because items are often misrepresented. A patent or copyright date dates the patent or the copyright, not the board. And, although it may be obvious, you can't tell the age of a board by the planchette. The planchette may not be original to the board. Mismatched sets are common.
It's important to know that a board that is in pristine condition, with the original box and message indicator always will be worth more than just the board alone. From a collector's perspective, damaged talking boards with nasty stains, worn printing, or plywood separations, aren't worth a lot of money unless they are very rare. If you buy one in poor condition, do it because you like the board, not because you think you have a great antique investment. Speaking of investing in antiques, talking boards are a specialized taste. If you are looking for the latest hot new investment venture, look elsewhere. Old talking boards may or may not enjoy lasting mainstream popularity. The odds are that you'll never get rich investing in them. And we sincerely hope we're wrong about that.
So, how much are you willing to spend? The least expensive talking boards are the garden-variety paper litho Fuld-Parker Brothers Ouijas from the years 1939 to 1999. They sell for less than $30 usually and many are in excellent to mint condition. There must be millions in circulation. There is rarely a time when you don't have your pick of the lot. Wood William Fuld boards from 1892 to the 1940's are very collectible and sell for $100 to $300 depending on condition and completeness (with boxes and message indicator). The pretty golden maple boards are more desirable than the plain ply boards although how much they sell for often depends on who is doing the bidding, the time of year, and we suspect, the phase of the moon. Earlier Fuld-Kennard look-alikes sell for slightly higher than the later circle-star Fuld Ouijas. Very rare talking boards like the electric Mystifying Oracle or others can sometimes auction for ridiculously high prices when the dedicated collectors get involved.
Unusual and rarer boards like the original Kennard Ouija, Haskelite "Egyptian" Mystic Board, and the J.M. Simmons "swastika" Ouija sell in the $100 to $250 plus range and can go higher if they have the matching planchette and box. Hasko Mystic Trays, "wood bordered" Hasko Mystic Boards and their cheaper plywood cousins sell for quite a bit less, in the $25 to $85 neighborhood.
"Chicago" boards like the Swami, Rajah, Magic Marvel, Yogee and kin seem to price themselves in the $50 to $150 range but can sell for more if it's been some time since one has been up for auction. It can be a jungle out there. Keep your eyes open and follow the auctions closely. You're likely to find some great deals. And finally, don't become so dependent on the auctions that you neglect the antique stores and flea markets in your area.
Get yourself started by familiarizing yourself with the names, dates, and variations of the different talking boards. Begin with our Gallery then go to our Museum of Talking Boards collection at Google's Picasa Web Albums. Neither has every board ever made but there is enough to keep you occupied for at least a little while. For rare Fuld, Kennard, Reed history information, head over to Robert Murch's incomparable site, William Fuld.com. If precursors to the talking board like dial plates or planchettes interest you, have a look at Brandon Hodge's Mysterious Planchette. Incidentally, visitors tell us that there is a wide range of information available on the Internet and that they are not sure what to believe. We can assure you that the information on the above mentioned sites are as rock solid as you are likely to find. We pride ourselves in being able to back up our research. If you have specific information that you need, or questions, comments, criticisms, email us and we'll get back to you as time permits.
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