Antique Wireless Association Conference and Auction Report
Rochester, New York -- September 6-9, 2000
COMPILED FROM REPORTS BY RAY CHASE, LUDWELL SIBLEY,
JOHN V. TERREY, AND THE AWA
See print edition for auction listings.
The Antique Wireless Association (AWA) held its 39th annual historical radio conference at the Marriott Thruway Hotel in Rochester, New York, September 6-9, 2000. Registered attendees numbered 981, down from last year's over 1,100.
A very large number of foreign countries were represented, including England, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Italy, Brazil, Germany, Sweden, Holland, and Mexico. Once again, the numbers indicate that many do not want to give up the face-to-face communication with other collectors that a major meet offers and that the isolated Internet does not.
This British Mark III shortwave tuner seen in the flea market sold for $2,000.
Though most aspects of this conference work very well and most participants come away feeling quite satisfied, parking problems continue to be a major deterrent to complete success. To drive into the hotel parking lot, one has to be a hotel guest or a vendor. True, a very nice shuttle bus circulates to off-site parking about 1/2 mile away, but this is not exactly convenient if you are carrying a heavy item and have to wait a half hour for the next bus.
Also a shuttle does not encourage the casual flea market attendee who might just drop in and buy a set or maybe become a collector eventually. Even if he took the bus ride, he would be stopped at the flea market gate by an inhospitable sign saying he had to register at the tent or hotel -- "Strictly Enforced." The enforcement, incidentally, was done by volunteers, off-duty police officers/members, who lent an aura of heightened security, as well as heightened restrictiveness. If the visitor did take the trouble to register, he was surprised to find that he had to pay a combined membership and registration fee of $39. Not many took kindly to that sum.
This black and white photo doesn't give the full "welcoming" effect of a sign with lettering in black on red and attached to a wooden sawhorse barricade with duct tape.
Last year when we reported on this problem, we had the impression that the AWA was looking for a solution. The impression now is that the AWA has accepted the staus quo as opposed to finding a different location that will allow opening this wonderful event to the radio community at large. Living within the confines of the current location is not a viable solution. In fact, the place does not meet the needs of even the membership, let alone the general public. Members come from far-flung places, and, if they are not vendors, they too struggle with the inconveniences of parking.
We understand that the ideal is to have the hotel, the flea market, and all actvities in one place. But, perhaps a compromise is in order. Why not, like the Dayton Hamvention, find a facility large enough for all activities and parking, and let the hotels be a separate component elsewhere? This plan would eliminate the barrier raised by most hotels to occupying their parking lots with a flea market.
There must be such a facility somewhere in the Upstate New York area, near enough to Rochester where the AWA was founded and where itsmuseum is located to maintain a sense of its history. Of course, this facility must also be convenient enough to the more than 100 experienced volunteers needed to run a major event like this annual conference. As we all know, budget considerations preclude hiring a professional management service, since vendor fees would then have to mirror those of flea markets like Brimfield, Mass. -- several hundred dollars. For this reason alone, participants in AWA's annual event have much to be thankful for. However, because it continues in many ways to be a success doesn't mean that the AWA conference can't get better, and a better location would achieve that end.
A positive note regarding accommodations was the fact that the hotel had undergone extensive renovations. Improvements were everywhere, even down to two telephone lines in every room to allow for simultaneous laptop and telephone use. Another plus was the availability of directions to a nearby Mailboxes, Etc. for those who could not carry purchases home. And for those who had questions, suggestions, issues to be addressed, a "Members Forum" was held by AWA President Bill Fizette on Wednesday morning. Unfortunately, not all left feeling that their concerns had been heard.
As forecast on the Internet local report, the weather was generally glorious with daytime highs in the 60s and 70s. It was perfect fall weather, unlike last year when the heat made outdoor activities a real challenge. As a result, I could thoroughly enjoy my annual walk-through count of the flea market on Wednesday morning, and by noon, I had counted about 190 vendors set up. Although AWA had sold the 312 available spaces, not everyone was actually set up at one time. Overall, there seemed to be a little less activity in the market than in past years, borne out by a check on recent numbers. Since the high of 225 in 1997, the numbers have slipped each year to the current 190.
An overview of the hotel parking lot with the flea market in full swing.
However, there were still vendors set up on the overflow grass area, and many good items were offered. Among the rarities were an early 1-tube Grebe CR-5 with the tube sticking out of the front panel and a British military Mark III crystal set. There was also the usual wide assortment of battery sets, plastics, cathedrals, novelties, transistor radios, tubes -- something for everyone.
The theme of this year's conference was the Crosley Corporation. Many impressive items, some brought by members from Cincinnati where Crosleys were manufactured, were on display. On Thursday, "Crosley and the Super Power Station WLW" was the subject of Charles Singer's presentation.
In the Old Equipment Contest, Crosley theme categories covered products from the 1920s to the 1960s, as well as company history, advertising and documents. A Crosley Xervac hair restorer, your editor's entry, was a center of much attention. Another rarity was a Eugene Turney 1-tube radio, ca. 1921. The "Standard Receiver" categories in the contest had a change from the past -- they were generally based on type of circuitry rather than on number of tubes.
These two Zenith consoles -- a 12-tube 12U158 (left) and an 8-tube 8S463 (right) -- look as if they had just come from a dealer's showroom.
In the August issue, A.R.C. subscribers had aleady had a preview of the winner of both the "Best Display Award" and the "People's Choice Award" -- the Crosley Lady -- owned by Jim Wilson, who collaborated with Dave Crocker on the article in the August 2000 A.R.C. "Best of Show" was won by Charlie Singer's WLW history 500 KW transmitter display.
This AWA event is a great learning environment epitomized by the seminars, which included wide-ranging topics, such as companies still maufacturing vacuum tubes presented by Ludwell Sibley and members of the Tube Collector's Association, as well as shortwave listening by Bart Lee. Other topics covered were the evolution of the broadcast receiver presented by Marc Ellis; Hallicrafters history and the BC-610 by Robert Grinder; the 32-volt DC farm lighting system by Dale Goodwin; the Museum of Radio Technology in West Virginia by LLoyd McIntire; and key and telegraph, moderated by Tom Perera.
Mike and Bob Raide hosted a get-together of old-time radio operators, an ongoing component of the AWA. The contests sponsored every year give operators an opportunity to try out old receivers and transmitters and to work at preserving them.
By popular demand, a sightseeing tour was reinstated this year for the enjoyment of family members. The day included a cruise on the Erie Canal, a visit to Murphy's Orchard, lunch, and shopping. Sounds like a thoroughly enjoyable and exhausting day, as well as an excellent example of why AWA is more than just a flea market. The tireless organizers make a concerted effort to provide entertainment for everyone, and by any measure, they certainly succeed.
The entertainment at the Awards Banquet on Friday night, attended by 230 people, featured an old-time radio show presented by Gary Yoggy and actors from the Elmira Little Theatre. As always, the focus of the conversation at the tables was the four auctions on Thursday and Friday. At these events, 321 registered attendees saw 371 items cross the block.
The communications auction was held on Thursday morning, and as usual, Ed Gable was the auctioneer and master of ceremonies. "MC" seems an appropriate title because Ed always livens up the auction with good commentary on the gear offered, along with some witty asides. It makes for an entertaining and educational session.
Unfortunately, the 41 lots sold marked a 30 percent drop in quantity from last year. In addition, except for a Collins KWM-2, which sold for $875, quality items also were few. The second highest bid was $275 for an R-392 military receiver. The auction totalled $3,039, down 35 percent from last year.
A display of cone speakers demonstrates just how many shapes they can take.
This auction is less formal than the three major auctions. Once the item is hammered down, the buyer and seller themselves finalize the deal. For recording purposes, we have included several items in the communications category below that, in fact, showed up in the general auction.
Once again, the tube auction was held on Thursday night to cut down on the length of Friday's auction. However, the change proved unnecessary, since the number of items overall was down and the Friday auction was shorter -- another effect of the Internet, no doubt.
Nevertheless, Bruce Roloson moved a broad offering of tubes along at a smart pace. The 105 lot input was down 30 percent from last year, but the quality was high. A spherical Audion, always a benchmark item, appeared on the block again this year. It sold for $1,150, even though only one filament was good and one top wire was "loose." This price was up from the $500 paid last year for one with an open filament and not working. Still, the price was down from a past high of $1,750.
Special purpose tubes were in the next high-price bracket, with a Geisler tube selling at $800 and a Crooks "Railroad" tube at $450. Western Electric and other desirable tubes sold in the $200-$500 category.
Total tube sales were $9,302, up marginally from last year, but well below 1997 and 1998.
As always, Walt Buffinton handled the paper and general auction on Friday well. Of interest among the paper and advertising items was a Marconi valve booklet selling at $200, a 1938 Crosley salesman's book at $100, 12 issues of Radio Retailing, 1935, at $100, and a Radio Amateur Handbook, 1927, at $110. The very desirable, thick, red Radiotron Designer's Handbook, 4th edition, with a dust jacket, sold for $60. Notable among the advertising items were two clocks -- an RCA octagon radio service clock, neon lighted, selling at $725 and a Crosley 15" neon clock at $625.
The book/paper items moved quickly, and this part of the auction was over by 9:45 a.m. Proceeds totalled $2,286, down over 40 percent from last year.
In the general auction, the total number of lots was 207, down 30 percent from last year. However, despite the apparent inroads of eBay, many desirable items still show up in live auctions, as was borne out by several prices over $1,000. A beautiful chrome McMurdo-Silver Masterpiece 6V1 with power supply and an 18" speaker, all in excellent condition, brought $3,000, the high of the day. Two Mercury Super 10 sets sold at $1,250 and $1,400 respectively. The final bid on a pre-World War II Toshiba 44B-styled velocity microphone, from the studio of Japanese radio station JOSF, was $1,000.
An auction is not an auction without a breadboard and items that can be classified as "classics." An Atwater Kent breadboard sold for $650, while a Philco 90 cathedral in excellent condition brought the surprisingly high price of $520. Early battery sets were also in evidence. A DeForest D-10, with loop, sold for $750 and a Federal 59 for $950.
Many folks had never seen a Crosley shortwave converter, but here they had the opportunity to see two -- one in the contest and another in the auction selling at $420. Other interesting items were an Orchestrion horn selling at $260, a Philco Predicta TV at $160, and a Hickok 4600 set tester, with books and coils at $270.
The total for the general auction was $34,029, just about equal to last year's total.
A grand total for communications equipment, paper, tubes, and general equipment was $45,617, down only a fraction from 1999, but down 25 percent from 1998 and 1997.
It's clear that the online auctions have cut into the hands-on auctions, but it was gratifying to see that the quality of goods has held up. If you missed this auction, you missed some bargains, as well as the opportunity to acquire rare artifacts that probably would not appear in any other venue.
Reporters Ray Chase and Ludwell Sibley are to be commended for their efforts in compiling this report for A.R.C. Our thanks to them both for their time and hard work.
The next AWA Conference is scheduled for September 5-8, 2001, and the theme is Stromberg-Carlson, a Rochester-based company.
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 "OTB" quarterly and holds regional meets, in addition to the annual conference. Annual dues: one year, $15; 2 years, $27; overseas, $18.
Photo credits: Ray Bintliff, Kenneth Gregory and John V. Terrey.
(Ray Chase, 1350 Marlborough Ave., Plainfield, NJ 07060; Ludwell Sibley, 102 McDonough Rd., Gold Hill, OR 97525; John V. Terrey, c/o A.R.C., P.O. Box 2, Carlisle, MA 01741)