Radio XLI -- a.k.a. Radio 41
Westford, Massachusetts -- February 14, 2010
BY DOROTHY SCHECTER
It's always a gamble. Will the winter snows of New England hold off for the weekend? Will the radio crowd leave their warm workshops for the Greater Boston Antique Radio Collectors (GBARC) meet held annually at the Westford Regency Hotel in Westford Mass., and hosted by A.R.C? Well, it did -- and they did!
Total attendance was 546 from ten states, up from last year, in spite of the uncertain economy. Vendors numbered 53 from eight states, and the upbeat feeling that goes with a long weekend that includes Valentine's Day pervaded the crowd.
A Family and Friends Affair
More people also took advantage of the hotel amenities -- pool, health club, restaurants, and ample parking. The 40 advance hotel room reservations topped last year's 32. Among them were Ruth and Joe Milano who came with friends Cookie and Glenn Heimroth from Wayne, New Jersey, to enjoy everything about the weekend. As Ruth helped out at Joe's table, she gave high praise to the show and the hotel. "We travel to all the shows," she said, "but this is the best." With Cookie chiming in, an endorsement by "radio wives" of an ideal radio weekend was clear.
The Milanos' tables offered some very nice 1930s table radios, such as the colorful Federal set priced at $225. Needless to say, the rare Radolek (Model 16721 or 16724 according to Stein's Machine Age to Jet Age, III) offered at $425 generated a great deal of interest. In general, the Milano display was typical of the work of a collector who does everything possible to restore sets to original condition. That goal was evident in many displays at this meet.
Mark Meehl and his North Reading, Mass., neighbor John Nowosacki were first-time exhibitors and set up tables side by side. They enlisted the help of Mark's son Joe and daughter Leah for heavy lifting -- definitely a family/neighbor affair. Like so many in the hobby, both Mark and John are general collectors and enjoy doing repairs.
At the Milano table, this Radolek set was offered at $425.
John had an interesting potential customer for his Kolster radio receiver, which needed serious repair. In fact, Greg Charvat couldn't seem to tear himself away, and I learned later from John that, after returning a second time, Greg had succumbed to temptation and bought the set.
I also learned from Greg himself why he couldn't resist the challenge of this set. It seems that Greg, an M.I.T. Lincoln Lab engineer, combines two seemingly unrelated hobbies -- vintage repair and dance. To the delight of participants at dance parties in Waltham and Cambridge, Mass., he plays vintage music through his vintage equipment. All of which proves that you never know what draws people to a radio meet.
Another first time exhibitor was Bob Genthner along with his wife Anita from Upstate New York. Bob has been mainly a solid-state Zenith collector, but is always open to exceptions. He was in the process of trying to evaluate the current market, and in that pursuit, they have attended several meets. There he hopes to talk directly with serious collectors. He was also hoping such a collector would come along to show an interest in his Zenith 8G005 Trans-Oceanic.
"Catching the Next Collector Wave"
Longtime buyer turned first-time exhibitor Allan Ropper was also interested in the state of the market and was looking to "catching the next collector wave." First an engineer and now an M.D., Allan offered on his table a touch of what might also be offered to patients in his waiting room -- a bowl of Hershey candies. What a way to sweeten a deal and help to celebrate a Valentine's Day meet!
As for catching the wave, longtime exhibitors Dave and Karen Sutherland seem to have that trick mastered. Diversification is their motto as evidenced by the wide variety of radio-related items on their tables, and no doubt, also in their large country store in Keene, N. H. Among the ephemera was Dave's impressive collection of doll house radios. One example was a Majestic highboy, which functions as a bank and was actually used to advertise a bank -- a reminder that in its heyday, radio was advertising bait for many a business.
Also at the Milano table was an unusual Federal table set in bright orange. This was not from Federal of Buffalo, N.Y., but Federal of Chicago, Il.
For Ross Hochstrasser foreign sets have been a serious business, and he had Grundig and Telefunken sets, among others, on display. Two Grundigs with the same model number and in poor condition offered a great opportunity for a 2 for 1 bargain. Someone looking for a project could make one good set out of the two.
Ross was also interested in talking about the state of the radio market, which he says has declined, though A.R.C. ads have often worked well for him. However, he also runs a clock repair business, which is booming. So again, diversification is a key to survival these days.
Bob and Judy Fuerderer know all about diversifying within the field, having owned a TV and radio dealership for 50 years in Long Island, New York. When their sons took that business over, they moved to Surrey, N. H., where for several years they've been doing what else -- collecting and radio/TV repair! Obviously, radio is not something you leave behind when you retire.
Actually, I doubt that anyone at the meet ever leaves radio behind, no matter what his or her profession or stage of life. Like Norm Hertz who made the five hour trip from Staten Island, New York, on a Sunday morning, almost everyone was there because of a commitment to radio preservation. Norm's special interest is crystal sets and early receivers, and he sells parts for restoration while also writing a book on crystal sets.
Norm must have been the right person for buyer Henry Thomas, a Motorola technician from Halifax, Mass., to consult. Before I knew it, they were in deep conversation about technical matters that left me way behind. I realized I was witnessing another primary reason for people to attend a meet -- to exchange and to get information.
On Lenny Provost's table, an RCA record player with microphone and Dick Clark rpm records.
In fact, that was the primary reason for Randolph Peet, a non-collector, to travel all the way from the Albany, N. Y., area. His ultimate goal was to find out the best way to ensure that the equipment from his late uncle John Marona's used radio and TV business could be passed on "to those who would enjoy it." The radio collecting community always welcomes a preservationist like Randolph who doesn't want "to just throw it away."
Perhaps he got some answers from the longtime radio business team Bruce and Charlotte Mager of Waves in New York City who set up in their usual corner in the side room. Others also in the side room like Rain Buttignol, Walter Bernd, and Lenny Provost, all long in the trade, are more than willing to give advice and to share the latest radio talk. They even try to sell to each other, as in the case of the first automatic phone with bells in it that Bruce thought Rain should have.
The Magers always display exceptional items, such as the huge Hammond clock in a neon frame advertising "RCA Radiolas -- $95-$495" or the two Kennedy battery sets. The beautiful original painting of a Grebe Synchrophase makes you wonder whatever happened to such art work -- why don't we see more of it?
Lenny Provost, who calls himself "a non-techie," also displays the unusual. The star of his show was the RCA record player with microphone and Dick Clark 45 rpm records. Lenny too was musing on the state of the hobby. He says that nowadays you have to do a little more planning and thinking about what you bring to a show. He thought that the selection of goods this year was a little different -- "not as much old stuff, but still not too modern." His idea that "you have to work harder for a little less" probably applies to every field in this struggling economy.
This unusual and early wet cell B battery at Frank Eder's table appeared to be homemade using up to 40 test tubes. A stamped metal tag on it said, "A.D. Carter B. Battery 1925 60 VT."
Beyond Buying and Selling
The really great thing about a meet like this is the camaraderie that goes far beyond the business of buying and selling. To enjoy that fellowship, people came from all over the Northeast, and as far away as Illinois. We were pleased that Marc Ellis, editor of the AWA Journal, who had come East from Chicago on a family visit, took the time to drop in on the meet. As he sat in the lobby waiting for Editor John Terrey to take him on a visit to his museum, he said, "I'm seeing many happy faces coming out of that hall."
Our colleague and staff member Ray Bintliff agreed. Though there were hectic moments, Ray commented that people seemed more relaxed, pleased with the event, and eager to stop by for a leisurely chat.
In the same vein, a totally unsolicited e-mail to me from Bob Genthner almost a month after the event said it all. It read: "If you were the woman who was taking an informal survey during the event, this is for you. I had no major criticism of any aspect. As for attracting a varied clientele, I sold things to just about every type you could imagine, so apparently there is broad appeal. I did well, and hopefully I will attend next year. Thank you for running a well planned and worthwhile event!"
This is a very collectible Sony Trinitron portable color television set. Marketed in 1980, Sony claimed that it was "the smallest Trinitron color TV in the world, with a 3.7-inch diagonal picture."
That's music to the ears of our staff who work hard before and at the event to make it all happen. You see us in the lobby and at A.R.C's book table where sales were so good that staff member Bobby Lyman said, "Suddenly it was noon." The old cliche applies -- "Time flies when you're having fun." We hope you'll join in the fun again next year on President's Day weekend. As exhibitor Norm Hertz commented, "This is an important cabin fever escape."