Antique ticker tape machines



2015-06-26 11:18:06

Antique ticker tape machines or stock ticker machines are early digital electronic communication devices, used for stock trading and transmitting information using telegraph lines.


Background and Description

The first ticker tape machine was developed in 1863 and unveiled in 1867 by Edward A. Calahan, an employee of the American Telegraph Company, as a natural progression from the telegraph machine. This provided the first mechanical means of communicating stock prices or quotes over a long distance, as before stock prices had been hand delivered, generally as day summaries rather than individual and exact numbers.

The purpose of the stock ticker machine was to transmit information and data over telegraph lines, such as stock transaction price and volume information. The stock ticker prints this information onto a strip of paper, known as ticker tape, making a ticking sound as it prints.

The first stock tickers used Morse code to convey their information. The Universal Stock Ticker was developed by Thomas Edison in 1869, when he was just 22 years old and working for Gold & Stock Telegraph Company. This design improved on previous stock tickers, allowing for alphanumeric characters and printing one character per second.

By the 1880s, there were 1000 stock tickers in New York. For the first time, traders could be up to date with the most recent stock figures in near-real time, with a delay of less than a minute. Ticker tape machines produced between 1930 and 1964 were twice as fast, with a 15-20 minute delay between time of transaction and time recorded.

Stock ticker machines were one of the first devices to successfully transmit text over a wire to a printing device, based on the printing telegraph. Ticker symbols, abbreviations of the company’s name, followed by brief information about that company’s stock and their prices, were sent out and printed onto the ticker tape.

Ticker tape machines were used for almost one hundred years, until made obsolete by computers and television.

Collecting antique ticker tape machines

Ticker tape machines are high-end collectibles, very valuable and sought-after. They are fantastic display pieces, as well as being testament to one of the most significant inventions in economic history.

Between 1870 and 1900, 6,000 Universal Stock Tickers were made by Electrical Industries New York, D&H Precision Tool Company New Jersey, and J H Bunnell & Co, New York.

Around 6,000 English machines, the Exchange Telegraph Stock Ticker, were made by ExTel Co, London between 1871 and 1907.

6,000 New York Quotation Tickers were made by the New York Quotation Company between 1889 and 1910.

The Self-Winding stock ticker saw around 16,000 produced between 1920 and 1930, by M & I Electric Company New York, J H Bunnell & Co New York, and T A Edison, Inc.

This is not to mention other designs such as Dow Jones’ Broad tape tickers.

By the early 1900s, the Western Union had bought out most independent telegraph and stock ticker companies, so many examples have their name on them, including 10,000 of the new 1930s Black Box Stock Ticker design ordered before it was produced, over 20,000 produced into the late 1950s.

In the early days of baseball, score turners used a ticker tape machine to record scores from around the league. Items connected with this, including full rolls of ticker tape on which games were recorded, are sought after as items of baseball memorabilia.

Replicas are produced, so be wary when determining whether a stock ticker machine is an original.

Very recently, a ticker tape machine that prints out twitter posts has been developed by a man named Adam Vaughan. Stock ticker tape machines are popular within the area of steampunk collectibles. Novelty items connected with the stock ticker machine, such as cigarette lighters or drinks decanters, are also popular items.

This indicates the charm still found with old methods of communicating, and the popularity of collecting stock ticker tape machines.


Stock ticker tape machines generally sell for anything between $4,000 and $30,000, depending on condition, whether they are still complete, whether they work, and at what time each example was produced. Thomas Edison’s ticker tape machines are particular valuable.

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