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Optigan invades Holland

Posted by peahix on May 15th, 1999

Gus Wylde had mentioned to me that he had heard that the last 100 Mattel-produced Optigans were shipped to Holland. But it wasn’t until recently that I found out more info about this mysterious shipment. Dutch Optigoner Frans van der Bijl had written to me requesting info about the Optigan, and when I told him about the “final 100,” he became inspired to do his own bit of detective work. Here’s some email excerpts featuring his discoveries:

Sadly the person who imported them for Holland (Jan de Waal) is dead and his company doesn’t exist anymore. One store (Dirk Witte, Amsterdam) had two (according to his son that was in 1968…) [note- this is clearly inaccurate... it was probably more like late '72 or early '73] and they didn’t sell extra discs, they only had the startersets that came with the machines. Another store (Goldsmeding, Amsterdam) sold a few. The store was taken over by a pianoshop and all organstuff was sold as a whole. But I know the name of a former employee, when I find him he can tell me some more I hope.

An organshop-owner told me Optis were made in Holland. I of course doubted that. But then he came up with a telephone number of a guy who had worked at the factory. This man told the same: Optis were assembled in Holland. Funny eh? He gave me the names of the head technician and the production leader, and now I’m trying to get their phone numbers. Another organ shop had sold optis in quite a large amount (several dozens) and even were on TV with them.

The owner of Riha (organ factory in Harderwijk and/or Ermelo Holland till 1980) Mr. van der Walle saw the Opti at a convention in the States, thought it was a hit and organized parts being shipped to Holland. They assembled 30 to 40 Optis here. But according to head-technician Bert Foppen it was not a success and he wasn’t really in a mood to talk a lot about it. Head production was Mr. Konijnenberg (dutch for rabbit-mountain…). Maybe they had some contact about technical stuff with the people of the factory here. According to a former opti-seller another Dutch organ factory had something to do with the production here (Eminent, the main competitor of Riha and
recently went broke), but this was denied by Foppen.

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