Antique Wireless Association
Conference and Auction Report
Rochester, New York -- August 17-21, 2004
CONTRIBUTED BY LARRY BABCOCK, RAY CHASE, JOHN TERREY AND THE AWA
The 43rd annual Antique Wireless Association (AWA) conference took place at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Inn, formerly the Thruway Marriott, in Rochester, New York, August 17-21, 2004. As always with any major meet, success relies a lot upon the weather, and anxious scrutiny of weather reports precedes the event. This year the ominous forecast of rain every day of the meet proved to be pretty much on the mark. However, though the heavens opened mid-morning Wednesday, the rest of the day cleared and gave folks a chance to uncover their wares for a dry remainder of the day.
On my traditional noon walk-around that day, I counted 123 vendors open for business, certainly a declining number, though the weather forecast has to be factored in. Past numbers ranged from the record high of 225 in 1997 to 190 in 2000, 189 in 2001, 196 in 2002, and 157 in 2003. According to the Antique Wireless Association, the number of flea market spaces sold was 215, while registered attendees continued a downward trend -- 667, compared to 730 in 2003, 825 in 2002, 854 in 2001, and 981 in 2000.
This set drew a great deal of interest in the auction. Its tag indicated that it was built as a prototype for Federal in 1921 by C.D. Barnes Co., of Grand Rapids, Michigan. It sold for $1,500.
At his flea market table, Jim Moneghan from Lincoln, Rhode Island, had the following items for sale: left to right, top to bottom: a Magnavox AC-3 3-tube amplifier for $675, a Grebe CR-14 receiver for $895, an Aeriola Jr. crystal set for $425, an Airway F receiver for $1,250, a Western Coil WC-11 receiver for $495, a Federal 59 receiver for $985, and a Sparton 558 blue mirror receiver for $2,600. In front is a small Crosley 1-tube Pup.
Merrill Bancroft had this blue-ribbon winner TECLA 50D detector and 50A amplifier, ca. 1923, in the Old Equipment Contest.
The weather made the rest of the week frustrating for vendors struggling to protect their gear from the elements. However, in spite of the vagaries of nature and the decline in participation, AWA still runs a quality meet. It can be relied on to excel in many ways, particularly in the breadth of its coverage of the conference theme. This year's theme, "Broadcasting," brought Mike Adams from the West Coast to give a presentation on "Charles Harrold, Pioneer Radio Broadcaster." The Old Equipment Contest included 13 broadcasting-related categories and resulted in many outstanding items on display, from transmitters to recording equipment and various kinds of receivers.
Of particular note were the microphones from the collections of Bob Paquette on display in the contest room and Ekkehart Willms on display in the flea market.
Bob, incidentally, was also selling his impressive 2-inch thick book, The History and Evolution of Microphones. Given Bob's extensive knowledge of the field, it's not surprising that his display of very early, rare microphones received a top Hauck award for documentation.
Gary Alley and Merrill Bancroft both entered King Amplitone horns in the Old Equipment Contest. Ordinary headphones were the audio drivers.
AWA is also noted for the variety in talks and presentations, the auctions, and the banquet, which this year featured a very entertaining jazz band rather than something directly related to the theme. The ladies too had their annual special luncheon, with the additional attraction of a talk on quilting by Fran Holly. Then, there is also the opportunity to visit the AWA Museum with its important collection of the early wireless years. As I've said many times before, if you can go to only one big meet, this is the one.
Foreign collectors seem to continue to agree. Perhaps more than any other meet, AWA attracts people from abroad. This year five European countries were represented, in addition to Japan and Canada.
Worth mentioning is the fact that the hotel is now an acceptable venue, though much of it is still student housing during the school year. Nevertheless, no students are present during the days of this conference. Among the standard hotel amenities is the bar which is open and makes a very nice place to congregate. In addition, the restaurant offers very good food, cafeteria-style, at student rates -- a welcome perk, to say the least.
Of course, as with any organization, there is always room for improvement. At the members' meeting, some very creative suggestions were made about how to address the issues of declining attendance and of finding ways to encourage new people to take up the hobby. As we all know, newcomers can be enthusiastic collectors who turn out to be good customers for the more basic equipment. Eventually, they may also become sophisticated collectors of high-end items. Recognizing that the preservation of radio history is at stake, AWA seems to be making strides toward encouraging newcomers to join in the avocation that means so much to us "old-timers."
Bob Slagle entered this Colby Telegraph School tuner and detector in the Old Equipment Contest. The knob on the end of the left unit is moved in and out to change the inductive coupling.
The auction was down about one-third in entries from last year, even though the permissible number of lots of radios had been increased from three to five. It's interesting that even though more lots were allowed, the price per lot increased.
Bruce Roloson, who always conducts a lively auction, sold the tubes on Thursday evening at 8:00 p.m. This year a spherical Audion with an open filament was entered as a possible Wiengarten repro, but the local Audion expert vetted it and declared it to be an original DeForest. He ended up buying it for $630. There were some very interesting foreign tubes entered, and they drew commensurate prices.
Walt Buffinton handled the paper, books and general equipment as usual on Friday starting at 9:00 a.m. Walt dusted off the paper and advertising goods quickly in fifty minutes. Notable items were a hardcover Edison and His Inventions, which sold for $460, and a near perfect Atwater Kent original, framed, dealer, reverse-painted, advertising sign that drew $400.
In the auction, the yellow and red R5A1 Addison, left, brought a high bid of $1,300, and the red General Electric C-400 Plaskon, speckled with blue and white, right, brought $440.
Battery sets, left to right, top row: a Miraco R-3, with tubes, selling at $340; an early Crosley VI with wooden book condensers and porcelain tube sockets selling at $280 without tubes; at right, a Clapp-Eastham HR selling at $160. Lower left, a Crosley X, also with wooden book condensers and porcelain tube sockets but needing work, sold for only $80; and the later Crosley VI, lower center, sold for $150.
The equipment portion of the auction went smoothly and was completed at 1:30 p.m. after a one-hour lunch break. So, in all, 239 lots were sold in three and one-half hours. Gone are the days when the auction would run to 5:00 p.m. or later, delaying the dinner program. There was no separate Ham/Communications section this year, and only a few Ham radios appeared in the general auction. In addition, the tube portion could have been folded into Friday with no problem.
There were some good items in the equipment auction with enough bidders competing so that prices were about where they should be. The prime item was an original Sparton Bluebird with no visible flaws and complete with a round blue mirror disk on which the radio sits. It did not appear to be restored at all and drew a winning bid of $2,600. The auction total was $37,208, compared to a little over $45,000 last year.
We encourage all of you to plan to attend next year's conference scheduled for August 14-17, 2005. The theme will be Western Electric. If you've been disappointed in recent years, you may have your faith restored.
Here is another view of the 1925 Midwest Miraco R-3. It is a 3-tube set, a detector followed by two stages of audio amplification. A coil is mounted on the front panel. This set is rarely seen at auction.
e=excellent, vg=very good, g=good, f=fair, p=poor, unk=unknown condition, N.O.S.=new old stock, N.I.B.=New In Box, wk=working, nwk=not working, WT=with tubes, NT=no tubes, BB=brass-based, TT=tipped tube, SW=shortwave, PS=power supply, PB=push buttons, All prices have been rounded down to the dollar. Some low cost items and items with incomplete descriptions were omitted. See print version of A.R.C. for complete auction listing.
(Larry Babcock, 8095 Centre Ln., East Amherst, NY 14051; Ray Chase, 1350 Marlborough Ave., Plainfield, NJ 07060; John V. Terrey, c/o A.R.C., Box 2, Carlisle, MA 01742)
Information on joining the Antique Wireless Association (AWA) may be obtained from Joyce Peckham, Box E, Breesport, NY 14816. E-mail: email@example.com. AWA publishes "The OTB" quarterly and holds regional meets, in addition to the annual conference. Annual dues: $20 U.S.; $25 elsewhere; Life membership: $400 U.S.; $500 elsewhere.
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.