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The Vitapulser: Good for what Ails Ya

Antique quack medical device results in a shocking TV appraisal

 

My recent debut on Discovery channel's hit TV show Auction Kings as the expert appraiser featured me evaluating a circa 1920s Vitapulser. Many people have been telling me how much they enjoyed the show.

With all the inquiries about the electromagnetic device that I received after the episode aired, I thought I would take this opportunity to expand on the information about the Vitapulser beyond what was included on Auction Kings. Cast member Cindy Shook, the office manager from Gallery 63 near Atlanta, where Auction Kings is filmed, shared her take on the quack medical device. 

Cindy showed the world that she is a better and braver woman than I am as she put the Vitapulser to the test. She and auction house handyman Delfino Ramos actually put a new D battery into the quack medical device and then Cindy put the Vitapulser right up against her neck to try it out and see if it worked. The results? Cindy gave herself a pretty good shock!

I think most of the show’s viewers felt her pain as the camera crew captured her reaction. I have to hand it to her; I wasn’t brave enough to try it. If you missed the episode, you can watch it on Discovery’s website or watch for a rebroadcast. Cindy’s a hoot! 

The producers of Auction Kings asked me to appraise something that in today’s world is called a quack medical device. But, back in the 1920s, the Vitapulser was seen as a technological innovation. It was among the many medical devices used to do everything from help circulate the blood to provide soothing vibro-therapy. For instance, Dr. Macura’s early 1900s blood circulator looked like an egg beater but was marketed as a fabulous device that could cure anything — just like the Vitapulser. In the early years of the 1900s, the widespread use of such devices went hand in hand with the onset of electricity. These medical machines (some hand held and some table models) would stimulate blood flow, grow hair, spark nerve reactions, cure body pain, and even help out ladies who lacked sexual process and needed assistance in the bedroom, if you get my drift.

The Vitapulser, according to the accompanying instruction booklet, would stimulate the nerves with an electrical current through a sponge pad. The idea was to apply the device to various areas of the body to get your blood pumping. The Vitapulser is battery operated, but the type of batteries it used dating back to  the 1915-1920s are no longer available. When Cindy and Delfino used a contemporary D cell battery in the device, it gave Cindy a big shock! From Cindy’s reaction, it appears that the Vitapulser’s jolt still worked and got the blood pumping.

This quack medical device and others like it have an active collecting market.

Based on sales records for similar collectibles, I appraised the Vitapulser at $75-$100, but the auction found somebody who was willing to pay $150 for it. The buyer said that she was going to give it to a friend as a gag gift. I cracked up at Auction King’s star and owner of Gallery 63 Paul Brown when he commented that the buyer could probably get a new and improved model “to cure what ails ya” a lot cheaper today.   

When it comes to evaluating the market value of such an unusual item, there are many things to consider. I have been known to say that you shouldn’t be taken in by the fact that something is unusual. Sometimes the fact that something is unusual just means that no one else wants it or has since thrown theirs away and that’s why it’s unusual.

Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events nationwide. Dr. Lori is the expert appraiser on Discovery channel’s Auction Kings which airs Thursdays 9 PM.  Visit www.DrLoriV.com, www.Facebook.com/DoctorLori or call (888) 431-1010.

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