Robert Orr Auction
More Memories from 1982
Contributions by Jim Sargent and Robert Lozier
My memory of the 1982 Orr Collection auction sparked the following welcome responses: first, one from Jim Sargent, and then another from Bob Lozier. The photos are ones I took at the auction 25 years ago. (Editor)
From Jim Sargent:
I had to smile as I read John Terrey's article in the July 2007 ARC reminiscing about his attendance at the J. Herbert Orr auction in 1982. How quickly those 25 years have passed!
Like John, I had seen the ads for this mega-auction probably in Don Patterson's Radio Age publication. I had been collecting old radios since the mid-1970s and had attended several radio events, including Rockford, Illinois, (predecessor to Elgin) and the Dallas VRPS (originally known as the Southwest Vintage Radio and Phonograph Society) conventions.
A small fraction of the radios auctioned in Opelika, Alabama, in 1982.
There were only about a half dozen active radio collectors in Arkansas in 1982. However, three of us lived in the Little Rock area: Ken Holeman, who recently passed away; Tom Burgess, still an active collector and restorer; and I. We decided to make the trek to Alabama. Ken rented a 12-foot enclosed U-Haul, we went in Tom's GMC van, and I drove.
We went to buy. Wanting to spend our money at the auction, we chose not to stay at the finest motels along the way. Somewhere I still have the nice sales catalog that I used to record most of the sale prices. I recall the weather was cold and wet, and the majority of the sale took place under a big top tent with sides flapping in the wind. What a thrill it was to be there! This was the Muchow auction of the 1980s.
I remember seeing other well known collectors in the crowd, including Jim and Felicia Kreuzer and Don Patterson. As I recall, either Jim or Don won the bidding on the rare Radiola VIIB and the Western Electric CW-938 that John mentioned in his article.
I also met Paul Klipsch, a fellow Arkansan, sound audio legend, and developer of the Klipsch Horn. Paul had flown in on a private plane seeking phonograph items. He took several home. A few years later, I was fortunate to team up with Mr. Klipsch to do a comparison show of antique and modern technology at a high-end audio store in Little Rock. He was a real gentleman and impressed me in many ways, but that is another story.
I met Jim Fred there. At the time, Jim was publishing Antique Radio Topics, a monthly newsletter for collectors, as well as antique radio articles for Elementary Electronics. We had corresponded several times before our chance meeting in Alabama. Our hobby has a large crop of fine individuals and Mr. Fred is one of them. I would catch up with him several times over the years while attending the ARCA meet at Elgin.
Of course, Mr. Orr was there. He was an interesting man in his own right. I have forgotten the details with time, but among his many business ventures was Orrtronic, a maker of the first magnetic tape player for automobiles. It was actually the forerunner of the 4- and 8- track players. Anyone remember these antiques? I remember his telling me that the magnetic tape had its origin in Germany. He brought the idea to the states after the war. Mr. Orr passed away about two years after the auction.
I remember the auctioneer selling a rare Crosley Model 50A without cabinet. After the spirited bidding had ended (it sold for $150), the surprised auctioneer called for someone on his team to run back in the building, where the items were waiting their turn on the auction block, and get him another one of "those things."
The inventory tag on the Federal 61 that your editor, John Terrey, purchased at the Orr auction.
Weather notwithstanding, it was a great weekend. Tom, Ken and I tested the capacity of Tom's van and the rented U-Haul to get our goodies back to Arkansas. Both Tom and I still have several of the items we bought that weekend. Each can be identified by a metal tag that Mr. Orr had carefully placed on the item in an inconspicuous place.
John closed his article saying he would never forget the auction in Opelika. I would have to agree. While the cold and dampness in the air that November weekend have faded with the years, the excitement and friendships formed that weekend are still with me.
(Jim Sargent, 2112 Blackfoot Trl., Mesquite, TX 75149)
From Bob Lozier:
Back when the Bill Orr collection went to auction, I had been recently laid off and was just starting to get into a new job. Money was definitely tight, but I was determined to go to what was, for me, the first estate radio auction I could attend. As I recall it was about a nine-hour drive, and when I got to the preview, it knocked my socks off! I also realized that my chance of being high bidder on anything of interest to me was going to be slim.
Another selection of radios, cathedrals and battery sets, at the Orr auction.
As far as I can remember, I came away with only one radio. It was a nondescript sort of home brew that just looked strange inside. It had just two tubes and some honeycomb coils. After a little research, I figured out just what it was -- a home-brew broadcast band super-regenerative receiver of about 1923 vintage. I relegated the set to a high shelf.
Fast forward about 20 years to a February when I had to go work at MET Laboratories in Baltimore for three weeks. The day before leaving, I installed a new dehumidifier in one of my display rooms. Ten days later, I flew home for the weekend to find the house stinking like crazy of mildew. The drain line fitting of the new unit had cracked, causing all the water from the dehumidifier to spill out onto the tile floor for probably most of the ten days.
I had to remove everything in the room, bleach the floor and walls, repaint the walls and do a detail cleaning of every item in the room (some 200 radios plus a few hundred other small items). It required just about all of my spare time over a period of five months to clean things up to my satisfaction. Fortunately, there was apparently little lasting damage.
When it came time to clean the super-regen broadcast set, I realized that I had accumulated some info on Armstrong's introduction of the circuit and that now was the time to note the extreme rarity of this set. I decided to clean up the set and show it at Charlotte and Rochester in 2006. [Robert's article on the set begins on the following page.]