Mid-Atlantic Antique Radio Club
Beltsville, Maryland June 6-8, 2003
Reported by Eric Stenberg
This year, RadioActivity, held by the Mid-Atlantic Antique Radio Club (MAARC) at the Sheraton Park Hotel in Beltsville, Maryland, kicked off on a Friday morning and ran through Sunday. The move to a more weekend-centric schedule was to try to accommodate attendees who have trouble with mid-week starts, and to join a successful recent trend in the format of large radio meets.
Judging by the flea market activity the first day, the change was a hit! Activity was going strong by dawn and more vendors continued to arrive all morning. The space allotted to the flea market was bulging by eleven o'clock and the organizers were scrambling to squeeze in more. This was the fullest we have seen it at this meet location. We attribute the crowd to the combination of vendors who normally do only the first day and those who normally cannot make it until Friday. It made for a large variety of offerings for sale at one time. The buying and selling remained strong until early afternoon, aided by the partly overcast skies that kept it from becoming baking hot.
A scene from Friday's flea market. This vendor is setting up with everything from an Atwater Kent breadboard to shortwave sets of the 1950s.
In the afternoon, attendees were able to turn their attention to several informative seminars. Plastics expert Kris Gimmy gave a very interesting talk on the history and chemistry of the various plastics used to produce radio cabinets during the last century. Kris was followed by MAARC's own, "resident" expert in vintage television restoration, Tom Houghtaling, who showed us the ins and outs of that craft. And, of course, it wouldn't be a RadioActivity meet without an installment of Ed Lyon's radio restoration seminar. This one went so well that it ran out of time and had to be continued the next morning.
While these events were going on, authors Ron Ramirez (Philco Radio, 1928-1942) and Mark Stein (the Machine Age to Jet Age series) were on hand to autograph their books and discuss them and related topics. Mark even premiered his latest work, The Complete Price Guide To Antique Radios: Tabletop Radios, Volume 4, for the first time, giving attendees a chance to buy a signed copy even before the books hit the stores.
Friday ended with the Tubes, Parts, and Literature Auction in the evening. This event is intended as an outlet for lesser and lower value items that might not be expected to make the minimum in the big auction on Sunday. It was not heavily attended, and, as a result, those who did stay were rewarded with some nice bargains on the 98 lots of boxes of tubes, literature, and odd-ball items.
On Saturday, the unusually wet spring we have in the Mid-Atlantic region caught up with us. The rains came for the day and washed out all outdoor activities. This did not shut down the meet by any means. The main indoor room was cleared and eight or ten hearty vendors set up inside. Those that did reported good sales. After the second half of Ed Lyon's seminar, several vintage radio-related videotapes were shown covering both historic and restoration topics.
The big event occurring on the second day is our Old Equipment Contest, which, fortunately, is an indoor activity. Over the last several years MAARC's contest has gained a reputation for being one of the best due to the number and quality of the entries. This year proved once again why that reputation is so deserved.
This is part of the large Philco display put together for the banquet night by Michael Prosise.
A large number of truly outstanding displays were brought in, both in judged and nonjudged categories. Highlights included a spectacular display of working equipment related to World War II television guided munitions put together by Floyd Jury. Much attention was also given to Jim Wilson's large, rare, and beautifully preserved Philco Concert Grand corner console radio-phonograph combination. Many of us were amazed that he had managed to get it in and out in one piece.
Other notable sights included Ron Frisbie's eight-foot long Leutz Model L, Bob Schmitz's meticulously restored Atwater Kent Model 9 breadboard, and Paul Farmer's beautiful Lucite Cyarts Model B in the "Yellow Radio" category. Robert Lozier won the theme category with a rare Philco Model 46 tombstone that was also a fantastic restoration effort. Geoff Shearer provided comic relief with an array of novelty piano-shaped radios complete with his daughter's Barbie dolls tickling the ivories.
Alas, it is impossible to truly do complete justice to this contest in a description here. But see the August issue of MAARC's newsletter Radio Age for all the details and pictures of winners.
Saturday ended with our annual awards banquet, preceded by a social hour. Banquet attendance was greater than last year, and all appreciated the theme presentation talk given by Ron Ramirez on the history of Philco. We were also treated to a fabulous display of superb Philco radios and related paraphernalia put together by Michael Prosise, the co-author of Ron's book.
This nice Midwest console was offered for sale at the flea market.
The rain did not follow us into Sunday, and there was again some opportunity for outdoor flea marketing. However, the big draw was the main auction held that morning. Our stalwart auctioneer Brian Belanger did his usual yeoman job calling the 249 lots. There were only a few high-end items, but there was quite a fine selection of good quality middle range sets and equipment.
Highest bid went to a very nice Emerson 411 Mickey Mouse Repwood set that sold for $1,650. This was the second year in a row that an example of this model took highest bid honors here, certainly an odd coincidence. Another standout was a beautiful Federal 59, with tubes, that brought $1,050. Total proceeds for the auction hit $7,487. There was a fair number of no-sale items due to high reserves.
The final event was a walk-around auction for "junque" items that was held in the parking lot. Those few who stayed to the bitter end had a chance at some real bargains, mostly in the $1 to $5 range. This auction has proven popular, and we are planning to rearrange the schedule to include it earlier in the meet next year, giving more folks a chance to participate.
Despite the rain on Saturday, we had ourselves another very successful meet, and we believe the move to the weekend was a good idea, one we will keep for next year. Total registered attendance was down very slightly from last year, but the number of vendors increased. We suspect the rain took a bite out of the number of Saturday walk-in registrants.
I would like to take a moment to say something about our policies and fees. You may note above that I used the term "registered attendance." We know the actual numbers are higher at the flea market. We do not charge casual flea market browsers a registration fee. We do this to help encourage interest by the general public, which may also generate some additional sales for our vendors.
This is the Emerson Model 411 Mickey Mouse Repwood that was beautifully restored by Dan Collins
and sold for $1,650 in the main auction.
We realize a small minority of folks in the radio collecting community do take a somewhat discourteous advantage of this situation, so we hope they are leaving a lot of their money with our vendors as well. The club does not set out to make extra money with this meet. Our goal with the fees is to defray the cost of putting it on. We did have to raise fees slightly this year to offset rising hotel costs. Nonetheless, it is still a very inexpensive meet, and we will endeavor to keep it that way.
We thank all who attended and supported RadioActivity 2003 and hope to see you next year on June 4-6 for RadioActivity 2004!
(See auction listings in print version of A.R.C.)
(Eric Stenberg, 8700 McNair Dr., Alexandria, VA 22309-4031)
The Mid-Atlantic Antique Radio Club (MAARC) publishes "Radio Age" monthly and holds monthly meetings, as well as the annual RadioActivity 2-day meet and auction. Dues are $20. For more information: Paul Farmer, P.O. Box 352, Washington, VA 22747-0352. www.maarc.org)