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8 track tapes an icon of obsolete technology


Question: I love examples of obsolete technology. I recently purchased a box of 8 track tapes with a player at a secondhand store and am amazed at the sound they produce. Can you tell me more about how this system and how it came about? – Robert, Tucson

Answer: Eight-track tapes are an icon of obsolescence. They were developed by Bill Lear of the Learjet Corp., in 1964. Lear produced a tape that was an endless loop of standard one-fourth-inch magnetic tape, housed in a plastic cartridge. The tape had eight parallel soundtracks that corresponded to four stereo programs. In 1965, the Ford Motor Co., offered the system as an option in its new automobiles.

Although sound quality was fairly good, there were problems. Songs were sometimes interrupted as the cartridge changed tracks. There was also bleeding of one track onto another. The demise of the technology occurred in 1982 with the introduction of compact discs. The last 8 track tape issued by a major American company was in 1988. In Mexico, a limited number of 8 tracks were made as late as 1995.

Are the tapes collectible? Yes, but on a limited basis. Most 8 tracks found in Tucson sell for about a dollar. Players are getting difficult to find, but occasionally one can be found at a garage sale or flea market for less than $50, sometimes much less. Some of the more popular tapes include the original Broadway cast recording of “Hair,” and collections by such artists as Janis Joplin, the Mamas and the Papas, Dean Martin and the Tijuana Brass.

Q: I have a set of salt and pepper shakers in a coin glass pattern made by Fostoria. They are green and in perfect condition. I would like to sell them but have no idea of what they are worth. Can you help me?

Ealish, Tucson

A: According to the “Antique Trade Salt and Pepper Shaker Price Guide,” by Mark F. Moran (Krause, $19.99), the Fostoria Glass Co., was founded in 1887 in Ohio. The company was purchased by Lancaster Colony in 1983, and it closed its plant three years later. Your salt and pepper shakers were made between 1950 and 1970. In ruby, they are valued in the $100-$125 range. I suspect in green a little less.

Q: You mentioned pewter in a recent column that caught my attention since I own a charger which was manufactured by the Fein-Zinn Co., in Germany. It measures about 14 inches and is in reasonable condition. How much do you think it is worth?

Steve, Oro Valley

A: I spoke to several appraisers and they seem to agree that your charger is worth about $50.

In addition to his work for the Tucson Citizen, Larry Cox writes book reviews and a weekly collectibles column that are syndicated by King Features and distributed throughout the United States and Canada. E-mail: contactlarrycox@aol.com.


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