Vintage Radios



2015-06-26 10:33:38

Vintage Radios are collectible radios produced during the 20th century.

Brief History

Vintage radios can much in size and style. Radios made from the beginning of the 1900s are large machines that would have occupied the same space as a TV set or even a whole cabinet. Radios back then were designed to receive short frequency signals through multiple bandwidths. Despite their huge size, “console” radios were popular and could be found in many American homes during the Second World War.

Technological developments in the 1920s and 1930s reduced the size of radios. One of the best-sellers of this era was the wooden Crosley Cathedral radio that came out in 1932. It was named such because its Art Deco ornaments brought to mind façades of stately church buildings. Radios at this time were compact enough so they can be put on top of tables, counters and shelves. The reduction in size made radios more popular as it meant that people need not have a large space to own one.

A notable change for radios (and other tube appliances) began with the invention of the transistor in 1947. Several years later, in 1954, Regency Corporation (then best-known for its TV signal boosters) debuted the Regency TR-1, the world's first transistor radio.

After only a few years, portable transistor radios became extremely popular, and are quite desirable due to the excesses of Pop and Space Age design.

Guide for Collecting Vintage Radios

Some people collect vintage radios because they make great home decoration pieces whether they still work or not. They can be found in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors and designs. As a general rule, Catalin-made and high-end console radios are the priciest. The mid-range includes cathedral, tombstone, and large table top radios. Wooden and bakelite radios are in the lower price range. Brand, model, condition, and appearance matter when it comes to vintage radios.

While older radios used wood for their outer housings, Bakelite, a kind of plastic was later used in casings for radios because it was both lightweight and inexpensive. Catalin, a variety of Bakelite was used to produce the most eye-catching and colorful radios. This new material enabled manufacturers to produce bright hues and translucent shades. The downside of using these early forms of plastic is that they became brittle over time.

There are those who collect vintage radios because they want to tinker around the relics and make them work again. Bakelite-made radios with Art Deco style curvilinear edges are known to be popular among collectors who are keen on restoration. Produced between the 1930s to the 1950s, these radios have vacuum tubes in them so it would be hard to find ones that are still in running condition. Fortunately, vacuum tubes and many of the parts of these vintage radios can be replaced through electronics companies that still produce them. However these parts generally do not come cheap.

Good places to look for vintage radios are flea markets, yard and garage sales especially in the countryside. Estate auctions, where houses within farms and other rural communities are being offered, are also good venues for buying vintage radios. One can find a lot of vintage radios for sale in online auctions as well, though these are generally pricier.

Types of collectible vintage radios

See main article: List of types of collectible vintage radios

Notable Auctions

Some notable vintage radio auctions include a Zenith Walton radio made in 1938 that was sold for $2,000 in an auction on October 10, 2010. This electric counter-top radio was fully restored when it was offered for auction by Victorian Casino Antique.

A bright green Emerson brand Catalin radio was sold for $1,800 in an auction by Unique and Antiques, Inc. on October 28, 2008.

A 1930s wooden radio that was used to advertise Dr. Pepper was bought for $1,700 in an auction by the Burley Auction Group on July 26, 2008. At the time of auction, the unit was in working condition and had the original speaker meshes intact.

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