1953 Charlie Douglass “Laff Box”

Value (2010) | $10,000 Auction
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APPRAISER:
What did you bring me?

GUEST:
The Laff Box.

APPRAISER:
A Laff Box? Where'd you get it?

GUEST:
At a storage auction. The people don't pay their bills, and they auction the stuff off to pay the storage fees.

APPRAISER:
So, did you get a lot of stuff in the locker?

GUEST:
All their used household goods, their washer and dryer, things like that, furniture.

APPRAISER:
So what made you think this would be worth bringing to ANTIQUES ROADSHOW?

GUEST:
It was just an interesting thing, and I was actually going to throw it away because it just didn't look like it had any value. But I just thought it's interesting, so then I started doing a little more research of what it is.

APPRAISER:
You found out that this was the laugh track machine, the original one.

GUEST:
The original one.

APPRAISER:
This little machine is a group of tape loops.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
And Charlie Douglass invented this laugh track machine for early television. In 1953, he said, "We need a better audio solution for the audience reaction," so he would get really great recordings and then offer those recordings to the television companies to enhance their programming. Why don't you push one of the buttons? (laughter) So that would be put onto the finished product of a television program. And then, to add to that, you brought in his actual journal book of all the shows that he did.

GUEST:
That's right, yes.

APPRAISER:
And you find almost every important television show from 1953 all the way up to Cheers.

GUEST:
Yeah, I don't know some of these shows.

APPRAISER:
They're historical, important shows. There's some here... this one says "Merv screams." One of these says "Beatles." So that adds to the value that he has audience reactions to some of the most important shows, too. But what this box is, is an important part of television history. Because television would not be the same without a laugh track. To me, this is as important as early cameras, as important as many of the computer technologies that exist today.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
Push another button, let's see what we have. (laughter) So the big joke right now is on the guy who didn't pay the storage locker rent.

GUEST:
Yeah, that’s right.

APPRAISER:
And that's because this item is probably worth about $10,000.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
And the reason I think this is the only one that exists is because Charlie Douglass was very secretive about his device, therefore he could go into a studio with his team with his black box and do the work for them. And then he'd take his black box and not let anybody see what was in it. How much did you pay for the locker?

GUEST:
$650.

APPRAISER:
And what did you make on all the other stuff?

GUEST:
About a thousand.

APPRAISER:
Oh, you're a winner. Give yourself some applause.

GUEST:
Okay. (applause)

APPRAISER:
Oh, I'm going to push one, too, because I like it. (laughter)

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
allcollectors.com
Hudson, Massachusetts
Appraised value (2010)
$10,000 Auction
Event
San Diego, CA (June 12, 2010)
Period
20th Century
Material
Metal

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