Antique Wireless Association Conference and Auction Report
COMPILED FROM REPORTS BY RAY CHASE, JOHN V. TERREY, AND THE AWA
Rochester, New York September 1-4, 1999
The Antique Wireless Association (AWA) held its 38th annual historical radio conference at the Marriott Thruway Hotel in Rochester, New York, September 1-4, 1999. Registered attendees numbered over 1,100, up from the 910 of last year.
Many countries were represented, including England, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Canada, S. Africa, France, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland -- an impressive international representation, to say the least. Once again the attendance numbers belie the contention that the Internet has supplanted meets where collectors can enjoy face-to-face, good ol' radio-talk.
The increased attendance may have been due in part to the long-range forecast of good weather, which increased the expectation of a wonderful week for outdoor activities. As it turned out, the unremitting sunlight proved to be a mixed blessing, as the heat became pretty intense and made staying outdoors an endurance contest. The hotel's recent coat of blacktop sealer on the parking lot certainly added to this share of the "global warming" problem and tested the mettle of vendors and customers alike.
Nevertheless, on a walk-through of the flea market on Wednesday at noon, your editor counted 206 vendors, and on Thursday, 208, around the same as last year. Of the total, about 30 vendors overflowed into the adjoining grass area -- no doubt, a cooler locale. By Friday, the number of vendors had diminished to 38, while on Saturday, a mere handful remained. Unfortunately, those who can attend such an event only on a weekend have missed the better part of the activities.
The flea market always contains something for everyone, from cathedrals and tombstones to transistor radios and TVs. Perhaps the most unusual item on display was the Westinghouse receiver built for the Byrd Antarctic expedition.
One happening along the way in the flea market evoked a memory of the old days of this conference at Canandaigua, N.Y. There, new vendors would show up everyday, and when they drove in, their cars would be followed by eager buyers hoping to grab a treasure as it came out of a trunk.
This Empress Model 5S log cabin radio, in good condition but missing its balcony, still brought a high bid of $120.
A warning: Auction prices are not current values. Our selection of auction items is not necessarily complete. A listing such as this cannot adequately include the condition of cabinets, chassis, transformers, tubes, the operating status of the set, and the inclusion of incorrect, restored or replica components, etc. Auction prices are the result of the excitement of the auction process, the skill of the auctioneer and the specific interests of the participants. Nevertheless, auction prices serve as useful references and as another element in the value determining process. The possibility of error always exists, and if we are notified, corrections will be reported.|
A nice matching pair of early Crosleys offered in the auction. The Harko Sr. and 2-step amplifier, both without tubes, brought a $600 bid.
Today, just about everyone sets up early on the first day. But this year, one Rocky River, Ohio, collector came a little later, and a crowd quickly gathered "to help" him, by the way, to unload what turned out to be hot items -- a Kennedy 110 receiver and a companion 525 amp, as well as a DeForest Interpanel.
The more casual atmosphere of those Canandaigua days is long gone from this highly successful conference. In a way, this success has created problems for the AWA. First, the event has grown so large that parking is difficult and restrictions have become necessary. Security measures are taken much more seriously than in the past. From the point of view of AWA, these restrictions are justifiable because this is, after all, a club conference, not just a flea market open to the general public.
Still, there is a direct contradiction inherent in this position when the August Old Timer's Bulletin editorial says one thing, but the club actions mean something else. The editorial talks about wanting to appeal to newcomers, but a $39 entrance fee, which included $24 to register and $15 to join AWA, discouraged new collectors. Note a letter in this month's Radio Miscellanea on this subject.
In a conversation with AWA officials, your editor found that they are looking to find solutions to the problems ironically created by success -- namely, overcrowding and parking. Though there was offsite parking at the nearby Day's Inn lot and shuttle bus service, more is needed for casual visitors. The Dayton Hamvention, for example, handles 25,000 or more participants with busing arrangements. If the parking problem were solved, the club could advertise to the general public and charge a reasonable one-day fee, thereby encouraging new collectors.
A vendor displays a variety of communications gear for sale in the flea market.
All other aspects of the conference work really well. The AWA's long relationship with the hotel pays off, as the accommodations are all good, so the only deterrent to this being a nearly perfect event is the parking issue. AWA will no doubt solve that problem before the millennium year event.
The special theme this year was Philco, and the company was prominent in presentations and contest entries. Recognized Philco authorities Ron Ramirez and John Okolowicz gave interesting talks on different aspects of Philco history. Ron also took over the hand-painted radios seminar. Other presentation topics included shortwave history, vacuum tubes, a forgotten 1920s radio station, pre-1912 wireless and electrical apparatus, building a Skywave crystal set, and a key and telegraph seminar.
In the old equipment contest, it was unexpected that so many Philco TVs showed up. What some of us think of as "new" is slipping into the "old" category. It was also unusual to see all four early Westinghouse units together -- RA, DA, AR, and RT. A highlight was Buford Chidester's beautiful ship speakers, one of which appeared on the October 1999 A.R.C. cover.
The Awards Banquet on Friday evening was well attended. But, as always, the four auctions were the focus of most collectors on Thursday and Friday. Proceeds totalled just over $50,000, down from last year's high of $64,500. Here is where the impact of Internet auctions seems to be clear. The number of lots was down only about 10 percent from 1998, but the total proceeds were down about 20 percent, illustrating a drop-off of high-ticket items.
The Thursday communications equipment auction conducted by Ed Gable, is less formal than the three major auctions. After the winning bid is determined, the seller and buyer get together and exchange money and items. AWA collects 10 percent from the seller.
The communications equipment auction is limited to vintage ham, military, and commercial equipment, but in general, there seemed to be less high-end equipment and less military gear this year. Highlights included two Hallicrafters SX11s, selling at $300 and $400, one of which was in its original factory, copper-lined cabinet. A Super Skyrider, ca. mid-1930s, with a magic eye tuning indicator, was striking.
Other interestng items were a Collins 51J2, ca. 1950, in very good condition and working, selling at $310; a World War II era RCA AR-88, ca. 1941-1945, at $325; and a Drake SPR-4, ca. 1970, at $350. Sales at this auction totalled $4,748.
The tube auction, traditionally held on Friday, was moved to Thursday evening because of its length in recent years. While the auction crew quickly arranged the auction items, the preview was delayed and did not start until 8:05 p.m. The tubes were not well laid out and a thorough preview was impossible due to the size of the crowd and the limited time. The preview closed at 8:30. Auctioneer Bruce Roloson did his best to describe each lot before it was sold off, and sales totalled $8,412.
The best tube brands were in evidence, along with some less common, such as Amrad, KenRad, Duovac, and Taylor. Western Electric tubes continued their rise in desirability, as singles sold from $55 up. A WE 274A sold for $150 and a 300B for $160. Good WD11s were available, and good brass-based 201s went for as low as $12 each.
On display in the contest was this beautiful 1923 Ultra radio frequency receiver and matching amplifier by the Industrial Radio Service Co. of Saginaw, Michigan. The 9 tubes used in both pieces are Meyers snap-in types.
A mounted display of samples of the first metal octal tubes brought an astounding $190 -- something that may prompt scrounging around in cellars and shacks to come up with more sets for next year. Notable was the fact that several box lots drew prices as high as $350. The moral of this story is that rummaging through box lots sometimes reveals a valuable sleeper.
This year, a DeForest spherical Audion, with open filament and not working, sold for $500. this price was down from past years when the price was as high as $1,750 for sphericals in excellent condition and working. Four QRS tubes with good filaments sold for $140. Though not necessarily rare, these tubes with their striking tops painted red are fun to have around. This auction ended at 10:45 p.m.
Walt Buffinton handled the paper and general auction on Friday. There was quite a delay in getting started, and the first lot did not come up until 9:12 a.m., but from then on, Walt kept up a rapid pace. The preview time was whatever could be squeezed in Thursday evening and in a little over an hour on Friday morning. Congestion in the staging area again meant that courtesy was not always in evidence when people tried to examine the equipment closely. New York City subway regulars must have felt right at home.
A wide selection of tombstones and cathedrals were offered in the flea market.
Among the paper items was a treasure -- a ring binder with about 1,000 pages of Western Electric tube specification sheets, which sold for $290. The highest bid of $400 went to a photo of S.F.B. Morse, along with an autograph cut from a letter, both matted in a single small frame. Paper sales totalled $3,996.
In the equipment section, the highest item bid was for a World War II Japanese man-pack receiver that had been captured in Burma. In excellent condition and complete with all coil sets, it sold for $2,200. A "sleeper" may have been the 1927 Westinghouse metal-cased superhet identified as a Byrd model, claimed to be from the Byrd South Pole expedition. Though reported as from the Ford Museum, it drew a final bid of only $1,150.
Good microphones, keys and older telegraph equipment continue to increase in price, as high bids were evident in these categories. One observation is that very nice Canadian sets from the 1930s and 1940s seem not to be appreciated, as many good-looking ones, and others with reasonable reserves, were not sold.
The grand total for communications equipment, paper, tubes, and general equipment was $51,473.
The next AWA Conference is scheduled for September 6-9, 2000, and the theme is Crosley.
Information on joining the Antique Wireless Association (AWA) may be obtained from Joyce Peckham, Box E, Breesport, NY 14816. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. AWA publishes the "Old Timer's Bulletin" quarterly and holds regional meets, in addition to the annual conference. Annual dues: one year, $15; 2 years, $27; overseas, $18.
Photo Credits: John V. Terrey
(Ray Chase, 1350 Marlborough Ave., Plainfield, NJ 07060; John V. Terrey, c/o A.R.C., P.O. Box 2, Carlisle, MA 01741)