Westford, Massachusetts -- February 17, 2008
REPORTED BY DOROTHY SCHECTER
President's Day weekend and another bright, cold New England morning at the Westford Regency Hotel in Westford Massachusetts. Despite general unease about the economy, overall attendance at the 39th Greater Boston Antique Radio Collectors (GBARC) meet was approximately equal to last year's, around 600. An informal survey of the crowd indicated that the range of interests seemed to be more clearly defined to include serious hobbyists and shoppers, full-time business operators, and just casual observers. Of course, the 62 exhibitors (plus 55 helpers) at 93 tables were ready at 8:00 a.m. to do business, as well as to trade radio stories and information.
Radio XXXIX was also an occasion for some clubs to publicize their future events. Charlie Perkett of the New England Antique Radio Club was there to talk about their April meet in Manchester, N. H., while Michael Crestohl promoted the May New England Amateur Radio Festival (NEAR-Fest) in Deerfield, N. H., the successor to the "Old Hosstraders." It is primarily an Amateur radio event, but, of course, many Hams have overlapping interests in vintage radio. "The Flea at MIT" in Cambridge, Mass., was represented by Steve Finberg who handed out flyers about this large radio, electronic, and computer sales/swap meet. This event is usually attended by over 1,000 once a month from April to October in a mutilevel garage. Clubs have obviously decided that Radio XXXIX is a great venue to spread the word about their activities.
A regular at these meets, author and historian Alan Douglas is always willing to share his knowledge of early radio with attendees.
Rumor has it that Norm Hertz was the lucky buyer of this Kodel crystal receiver.
In fact, "spreading the word" about vintage radio collecting is really the essence of the GBARC radio meet. Time and again, exhibitors mention the importance of the one-on-one contact at this meet, as opposed to eBay transactions. This is obviously a key ingredient for sellers, but it is equally important to those who accompany them as helpers.
For example, a "radio wife" like Bobbie Stead was there to help her husband Ed, while a "radio daughter" like Jennifer Markell stood by as her dad Dennis's assistant. Bobbie liked the excitement of the big room crowd, while Jennifer preferred the less hectic smaller room. Both expressed pleasure at the friendly atmosphere and the opportunity to learn new things about the hobby and to meet new people -- not exactly the eBay experience.
To carry the support system even further, Cynthia Phillips, taking the place of her son or daughter to help husband Bruce with his "Radio Orphanage," designed a way to keep track of him at the meet. He now wears a bright orange T-Shirt with a radio logo, which Cynthia had given him on their recent 32nd anniversary. Romance and radio go hand and hand.
Speaking of romance, I had pleasure of bumping into a newly engaged young couple, Kristin Ohlin and Jeremy Parker, both of Massachusetts. He was there to stock up on tubes and to give her an "introduction to what married life will be like." She was undeterred and even offered to take the ring off for a minute and pretend that they had become engaged here at the meet.
Ray Bintliff, who is both a Ham and vintage radio collector/repairman, as well as an A.R.C. staff member, offered this Silvertone Super 8 shortwave communications receiver.
They were deep in conversation with David Wunsch, a professor at their alma mater, UMass-Lowell, where he teaches the "History of Radio." Radio meets can certainly make the world smaller.
They also bring serious shoppers like Dick and Carol Secor from far upstate New York to see what might add to his collection of over 300 8-track tapes and eight players, as well as test equipment and radios. Carol's hope was that a table next year might mean "some stuff out, rather than all in." Should this be called "The Radio Wife's Old Refrain?"
Sellers varied, from longtime to brand new, as well as to longtime shoppers who finally decided to take a table and become active sellers. As always, the measure of the success of the day also varied from seller to seller. Some like Jon Golden who e-mailed us to say, "Great show -- best sales I've had, ever!" obviously enjoyed a profitable day. On the other hand, A.R.C. staff member Ray Bintliff, who had brought only high-end stuff, asked, "Where are the buyers?"
In between was first-year seller Joseph Thomas and his helper Rick Towne from Degrasse, a town as far in upstate New York as you can get. They had come for 12 years as shoppers. Now it was time to enjoy the weekend at the hotel, take a table, and pursue an interest in 1920s battery sets, among other things. Their sales paid for their trip and more -- quite a happy outcome for them.
This interesting Atwater Kent Model 708 was offered at Joe Milano's table for $550.
For Brian Edwards, a seller for several years, business was also "pretty good," and he'll be back next year. As an interesting aside, he brought along some very heavy railroad signal equipment just to see if it there was interest. One sold, so you never know who out there at a radio meet might have a special interest.
That's part of the excitement -- looking around to see what everyone else has, according to Andrea Maubourquette, first-time helper to Jeff Brooks. This was the primary reason she found the meet interesting. For Jeff, business was good, and for Andrea, the experience was even better.
More than one seller expressed a pragmatic approach -- don't come with high expectations but hope to be pleasantly surprised. What's never a surprise is the sense of having had a great time doing and talking about the thing you love.
When you tour the smaller room, you have to stop for a pleasant chat with "Sideroom Lenny" Provost. Unlike most collectors who search for originals, Lenny collects repros, and his display is truly interesting and amusing -- his "neat toys," as he calls them. Lenny likes this show because it concentrates on radio, which "makes it better."
Sporting his signature cap, Dick Bergeron shows off his World War I DeForest BC-14A crystal receiver in an "OD" box.
In the main ballroom, a father/son team, Mark and Jim Buliszak, reported that they had been coming for 20 years. As fellow Hams, they have much in common with their neighbor at an adjoining table, Ray Bintliff. In fact, they had communicated with Ray on his recent trip to Florida. So the talk at a radio show can take different avenues, all leading to information about and enjoyment of a mutual interest.
Information distribution sometimes goes beyond the meet. An example occurred when staff member Bobby Lyman happened to overhear exhibitor Jon Golden at the next table telling another collector to call him with microphone questions. When an inquiry about microphones came into the office soon afterwards, Bobby e-mailed Jon who, in turn, responded to the inquirer. The result -- the meet meant a future contact and putting a face to a name for a collector.
The Full-Time Radio Business Owners
In addition to those of us who think of vintage radio-collecting as an avocation, some who come to the meet run full-time businesses. For nine years, Mike Urban has operated his radio storefront in Milford, Connecticut -- close to the beach, a plus for vacationing collectors. He buys, sells, and repairs vintage radio and audio equipment, and considers this as one of the best shows for reaching a nice mix of people.
As part of his marketing strategy, Mike can offer in this pleasant, indoor, dry setting such quality pieces as the Saba Freudenstadt and Telefunken Concertino AM/FM shortwave receivers displayed on his table. He then saves bargains for outside flea markets. In other words, he studies his market and plans for different types of venues. He gives full credit to his supportive wife Suzanne, a graphic artist who designs his company logos and website.
A view of one corner of John Terrey's museum -- An A-C Dayton glass cabinet set in the foreground, a Grebe Synchrophase console to the right, and displays of Adams Morgan, Grebe, and more on the shelves in back.
No full-time radio business owners are better known than Bruce and Charlotte Mager of "Waves," their shop in New York City next to Madison Sq. Garden, a regular stop for collectors. So too is their corner in the side room where they hold court with their splendid offerings every year.
An example was a Pilot TV in its original case, complete with magnifier and original bill of sale, fully restored and working. They also offered a black Neutrowound that looks like a breadboard and comes in red and blue as well. Editor John Terrey confessed to having all three in his collection, and they are now diplayed in his newly opened museum.
John Terrey's Museum of early radio and wireless
Yes, it's a beautiful reality. After years of thinking about it, your editor and his wife Sarah have finally built "The Barn" to house his collection and library, the A.R.C. office, and Sarah's studio. It was open after the meet to anyone wishing to make the 5-mile trip from the hotel to Carlisle. Those who did were duly impressed, both with the collection of over 600 pre-1925 radios, amplifiers, horns, crystal sets, etc., and with the handsome facility. Enthusiasm was voiced by viewer Mark Vess who said, "I love people with such a passion for what they do." No doubt about it, this museum displays a passion for the preservation of antique radios.
On seeing our new office, John Dilks, who writes the "Old Radio Column" for
QST, had a real appreciation of what goes on here. He spoke not only of our distribution of information, but also of our great service to clubs both in print and on the website. As he said, "Pick up a magazine, and you can find a club." And he added an accolade -- "A.R.C. is the only glue that holds the hobby together." This is one to put in our book of favorite kudos.
Joe Dimaggio (his real name), who is in management at an NBC-owned station in West Hartford, also tore himself away from the exhibit to come down to our office to thank us for our work on the show, as well as on the magazine. Joe typifies A.R.C. "old guard" subscribers going back to its founding 24 years ago by Gary Schneider. We appreciate that continuity of support, just as we welcome the newcomers who show up every year at the show and on our subscriber list.
With the added attraction of the museum, we hope to see many more of you at Radio XL next year on February 15, 2009. President's Day weekend at the Westford Regency hotel is a nice little mid-winter respite, and with a great show thrown in, it's worth a long-range plan.
Photo Credit: John V. Terrey
(Dorothy Schecter, c/o A.R.C., P.O. Box 2, Carlisle, MA 01741)