Talking Doll FAQ - Economics

What was the retail price of the Edison Talking Doll?

"$10 each, undressed, and from $12 to $20 for dressed dolls, according to the costume." New York Tribune, April 20, 1890.

What was the wholesale price?

William Hope Dean (who was licensed to sell the Edison Talking Doll in Canada) cited "the price to the trade" as $7.00.

What would the equivalent prices be, in today's dollar?
According to the Federal Reserve Bank's Consumer Price Index, $1 in 1890 is worth $26.68 in 2015. Therefore, the $10 "undressed" Edison Talking Doll (of 1890) might be priced at $267 today.

How much did it cost to make the phonograph and assemble it in the doll?
On November 14, 1888, Edison told EPTMCo: "The estimated cost of the toy phonograph, put inside a properly made doll, is, as near as we can come at it at present, ninety-seven cents."

In February 1890, the Edison Phonograph Works quoted EPTMCo these prices:
  • Phonograph, installed in the doll body: $1.50
  • Assembling and washing the doll head, arms, and legs; and adding the chemise: 30¢.
MBJ004;TAEM 90:457 - Image 64

Charles Batchelor compiled an Itemized Parts List for the "Phonograph Doll Toy," giving Labor, Material, and Total Cost figures, for each component part, as of February 28, 1890.
MBJ004;TAEM 90:457 - Image 63

On March 5, 1890, Edison informed EPTMCo: "... the goods will be billed against your Company at the following prices:
  • Phonographic Mechanisms, complete: $1.25 each
  • Bodices containing mechanism: 30¢ each
  • Assembling Heads, Arms, Legs, Chemises and washing per doll: 3¢ each."

How much did the doll alone cost? (without phonograph)
EPTMCo was scheduled to buy "1,000 dozen" dolls from Europe each month, from February through June 1890.The dolls were priced at $6,000 for 1,000 dozen (50¢ per doll).

What percent profit was guaranteed to the Edison Phonograph Works, for manufacturing Talking Dolls?
EPTMCo licensed Thomas Edison and the North American Phonograph Company (NAPCo) to manufacture talking toys, under the Jacques patents, in exchange for Edison and NAPCo agreeing to do so and charging 20% over their costs. (License Agreement of July 1, 1889.) (Reiterated in the License Agreement of August 6, 1889.)

What percent royalty was allocated to Thomas Edison, personally?
EPTMCo was to pay Edison a royalty of 20% of the "shop price of movements." (Memo of May 24, 1889.) (Reiterated in the License Agreement of August 6, 1889.)

Last updated: April 25, 2015

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