Collector's Corner: Sony Walkman Personal Cassette Stereos
By Michele Alice
Sony Corp's recent decision to discontinue the Japanese production of their Walkman cassette stereos marked the end of an era. Introduced to the world in 1979, the Walkman TPS-L2 cassette player was an immediate commercial success. Competitors such as Panasonic, JVC, and Aiwa soon began flooding the market with their own versions of the personal portable stereo cassette player, but it was the Walkman brand that became synonymous ("walkman" - small w) with the device in the popular lexicon.
Between 1979 and 2010, Sony alone sold over 200 million units of dozens of different Walkman models. Some, such as the WM-DC6 Professional player/recorder (1984-2002) and the WM-DD9 (1989), offered sound quality and features usually found only on high-end home decks or professional equipment.
In 1982, cassette units faced their first major challenge when Sony launched the Discman D5/D50 compact disc player. Sales of cassette units began to decline, but it was the advent of the iPod in 2001 that sent sales sliding precipitously, relegating the Walkman cassette player to "niche" markets. Luckily for those who cling to their cassettes, Sony has stated that the Walkman will continue to be manufactured at plants in China for worldwide distribution, but once present supplies of Made-in-Japan models have sold out, that will be it.
Of course, few factors influence collectability as much as obsolescence. Prices for cassette units at yard and estate sales, where they are still easily found, are generally quite affordable - just a few dollars. The same is true for units found online, where most are selling for considerably less than $100. But there has been some movement in prices for older, rarer, "firsts," and oddball units - especially those that are mint-in-packaging or that retain their accessories. A used Walkman WM-3 (1981) with original box and all accessories recently fetched $510 online at auction, while a used TPS-L2 (1979) accompanied only by its original repaired case sold for $450.
For those who would like to learn more about this collectible, check out the resources listed below, and
Happy 31st Birthday Walkman! - link to website - July 1, 2010 article by Dorina Graham is rather ironic now in light of Sony's decision.
Pocket Calculator's Vintage Walkman Museum - link to website - Each major brand has its own page. Also offers History, Collectors Forum, and Database (1979 – 1989).
Sony Retiring Cassette Walkman in Japan - link to AP story (October 25, 2010).
stereo2go.com - link to website - Forum "for information on boomboxes, walkmans and all portable stereo products."
Walkman Central - link to website - Really comprehensive site devoted to Sony portable devices - Walkman, Discman, Watchman, etc., with photo and detailed discussion of each. And check out the FAQ's and Glossary.
About the author:
Michele Alice is EcommerceBytes Update Contributing Editor. Michele is a freelance writer in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts. She collects books, science fiction memorabilia and more! Email her at makalice @ adelphia.net eBay ID: Malice9
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