Saturday, January 12, 2008
Daryle Lambert: Collectible Radios
Top: Crosley "Mate" from 1931. Photo from Western Historic Radio Museum. Bottom: 1940 RCA Q-122A
While many of you are too young to remember the good old days of radio, I'm not. And today, radio collectors are a breed of their own.
The first radios I remember were large box type sets made of wood. They occupied a prominent place in the living room, where the entire family would gather around and together, listen to the news and dramatic shows on the only radio in the home. Try telling your kids, at one time, the family relaxed by the radio, perhaps doing some handiwork or polishing their shoes after dinner, and see how they react. No television. Can you imagine that? How did we ever survive?
I often yearn for those special days of listening to The Green Hornet, The Shadow Knows, and Fibber McGee and Molly. And who can forget Bing Crosby, Jack Benny, Rudy Vallee, George Burns and Gracie Allen. Back then, these people were household names. In fact, though it was the Depression years, many of them became very wealthy from their radio work. Their shows provided a much needed escape from hard times. These new dramatic and interesting shows kept the family clinging to every word that came out of those speakers, returning for each new episode. Unless you can acquire some old recordings of these shows, they will be lost from you forever. Some days, how I long to just sit around the radio with family and friends and listen to those long gone days.
Later, the size of these radios became smaller, and different materials were used in their construction. Bakelite and Catalin were used by the new designers to show that beauty could be added these sets. Some of the most expensive models, the ones collectors search for, are even encased in mirrors.
In the early days, radio played a key role in politics. Franklin Delano Roosevelt probably wouldn't have been elected over the incumbent, Herbert Hoover, if it hadn't been for radio.
Bringing Americans the war news was perhaps one of the greatest services of the radio. In those days, the networks wanted this country to prevail in war. Can you think that possible with what we hear on our newscasts today? In those days, it was Family, God, and Country. Today, the divorce rate is over fifty percent, we can't mention God, and the country is polarized. We have definitely taken a wrong turn.
Evolution of the Radio is a guide put out by L&W Book Sales, and is a good starting point in your study of the radio, showing pictures and listing prices. Radio Advertising is also collected by many, and this book shows some of that as well.
Some of the radios collectors look for are Atwater Kent, Philco, General Electric, RCA, Zenith, Emerson, DeForest, just to name a few.
When I am out on the hunt for items I like to look for, I often run across some of these great old radios of the past. While I might not personally collect radios, I know there are many collectors out there looking for what I've just stumbled upon. This just might be the special piece they'd been looking for to add to or complete their collection. If I could get it at a good price, why not buy it? These pieces can become real treasures for you and often picked up for a song. The collector looking for it will be glad you found it.
To view and learn more about collectible radios, try taking a look around Western Historic Radio Museum, AntiqueRadios.com and RadioAttic.com. These sites have a world of information and fabulous examples of these treasures.
You just might discover many of the radios you grew up with are, now, highly valuable and collectible.
Aside from finding radios in people's basements, attics, and garage sales, often you can find radios at hamfests. Radio clubs, such as the Mid-Atlantic Radio Club, is a good place to meet collectors and learn more about what they collect.
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