Platinum free reeds in a mini concertina?
I'll post this in the pub section, because I don't know if it's a joke or not.

A 1958 article on a French comedian with a mini concertina (12 reeds) says this concertina was made in London to his specifications with platinum free reeds, costing "$50 each".
It says platinum reeds never need tuning. Is this true?

"The concertina, Rolls explained, was made to his specifications 20 years ago in London for $2,000. It never needs tuning because its 12 reeds—which cost $50 each—are made of platinum. Rolls can play any musical piece with the instrument."

Is there more information on this 4 inch mini concertina? Or on André Renaud's free reeds career?
i see a couple of issues with this story

who pays that kind of money for a 4-inch concertina ?? inflation not even counted

where goes the other $1400? complete gold-plated action and such?

seems far fetched
Hello Stephen,

I'm with Jozz on this one .... it does sound far-fetched.

The guy was a comic entertainer, probably famed for blowing smoke where he shouldn't blow smoke. (see, I kept it clean)

Kind Regards,

(24-04-2019, 11:59 PM)Stephen Hawkins Wrote: Hello Stephen,

I'm with Jozz on this one .... it does sound far-fetched.  

The guy was a comic entertainer, probably famed for blowing smoke where he shouldn't blow smoke.  (see, I kept it clean)

Kind Regards,


Platinum is a very soft metal (like gold or lead).
Consequently, reeds made of platinum would not be tunable, and simply wouldn’t be able to stay in tune any more than would guitar strings made of lead or gold!
Perhaps they meant the reeds were platinum plated (against corrosion)?
I'm sure "Rolly Rolls" blew some smoke in his career as a comedian vaudeville artist, but the author of this article, Eric Matusewitch, is a serious concertina expert.

There is no mentioning in this article about a lie or joke about the platinum concertina reeds.
But maybe it could be just a thin platinum coating.

In the early days of experimenting, the scientist Charles Wheatstone made symphoniums and concertinas with solid gold reeds. See this example in het concertina museum:
"Full Description: A Wheatstone Symphonium, serial number 78, with gold reeds, 17 keys, and fully engraved with Wheatstone’s 20 Conduit Street address. This early model is a 17-key version, with the two accidental keys each side having their reeds fitted to the inside edge of the wind-chamber."

After many experiments with silver reeds, gold reeds, brass and steel reeds, he finally chose steel for concertina reeds.

I was triggered by this remark in the Matusewitch article that "platinum (coated?) reeds never need tuning". I wanted to ask some experts here if this could be possible?

I also have a couple of issues with this Rolly Rolls story, one being: how can he play all sorts of tunes with only 12 reeds?? I suppose his 4 inch was a mini English concertina with standard 12-key Wheatstone layout. He couldn't have had lots of sharps and flats on this mini concertina.
Unless... he asked in his specifications for a gliding reed mechanism... A sliding bar, activated by a button, to shorten the vibrating reeds and changing the pitch of the reeds...
Hi Stephen,

I'm afraid that I am now way out of my areas of expertise, so cannot really arrive at any empiric conclusion. Dingo, however, writes with some authority on the properties of platinum. His assessment certainly appears satisfactory, and I would not contest his conclusions.

I am still running with the smoke blowing theory for the time being, mainly because it tickles me to think that way.

Kind Regards,

I don't know. If the article is accurate, this guy was a very serious artist. He played with greats and in one of the quoted sources the audience is described wishing him to cut his comedy act and just play instead, because he is so good.

It could be he actually had access to this kind of equipment, although it seems crazy to carry around a tiny instrument that you can loose as easily as a pencil worth $35.000 in todays money.

If he earned that much we are living in the wrong century with our instruments...

Big Grin
I’ve never seen a concertina claimed to have platinum reeds – this does sound like tongue-in-cheek self-promotion.
That said, the concertina was, at its height, a very prestigious instrument played by the nobility of Europe (I know, it seems unlikely now!). Options included gold leaf bellows tooling, gold plated or crystal keys and even gold-plated ends.
Mini concertinas were often used as an ‘extra’ to an act and could still be ordered in the UK in the early 70s.
Music Hall artistes made big money and had their image to keep up.

Today, waiting list can be years long and modern instruments can demand high prices.
A Wim Wakker single Parnassus English style concertina is around $9000 and a ‘full consort’ of three comes in at $34,900.00
see: ( )
Prices of lesser models would still seem eye-watering to many.

that's serious money, that seems like a lot for such an instrument
(30-04-2019, 10:44 AM)jozz Wrote: wow

that's serious money, that seems like a lot for such an instrument

English concertinas are less in demand than the more common Anglo-German style, so the rarity probably has something to do with the cost. "We will only make two per year," makes this a labour of love, and a purchase of love too I guess.

Much more than I could ever afford, but the hand-crafting of such an instrument equals that of the finest concert accordions. There's no mass production advantages. It appears that every part is custom made. I'd like to see inside, the innards of concertinas are fantastic.

[Image: reedframe%20pan1.jpg]

It looks like they're individually cutting sheet steel for the reeds and brass parts for the action, even on their cheaper models. Geez.

[Image: reedframe1.JPG]

Gosh, there's a pretty box. I could look at these all night.
[Image: W-E1tr.jpg]
Bruce Triggs
Accordion Noir Radio
Vancouver, BC, Canada

author of:

Accordion Revolution: a People's History of the Accordion in North America from the Industrial Revolution to Rock and Roll (2019)

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