Antique Wireless Association Conference and Auction Report

Rochester, N. Y. September 3-6, 1997


Internet Edition -- Full article with auction listing available in the print edition of A.R.C.

The Antique Wireless Association (AWA) held its 36th annual historical radio conference at the Thruway Marriott Hotel, in Rochester, New York, on September 3-6, 1997. The event was an all-round record breaker. Registered attendees numbered 851, but total attendance was certainly over 1,000. Considered by many to be the premier radio event in the country, this conference consists of a giant outdoor flea market, an indoor book fair, 4 auctions, an old equipment contest, displays, presentations, trips to the AWA Museum, and lots of good ol' wide-ranging radio talk.

Bright, brisk fall weather prevailed and made the flea market even more enjoyable than ever. A record number of 322 spaces was sold, and vendors spilled over the designated parking area into the woods beyond. At the height of the action on Wednesday and Thursday, your editor counted about 225 vendors at work selling their wares. As usual, the numbers dropped off on Friday and Saturday.

Television was the special theme this year. As in previous years, many presentations, demonstrations, and contest entries, as well as the featured banquet speaker, related in some way to the conference theme. The five theme-related presentations included "CBS Color TV, 1946 to 1954," "The Story of Electronic Television," "RCA Camera Tubes," "The History of Television," and "The Mirror Screw and Its History."

Organized by Peter Yanczer, a demonstration of ten operating early TV systems was a highlight of the meet. A unique, original piece a mirror screw, 120-line television system never before seen operating in this country was one of the interesting pieces of equipment shown.

Among the other demonstration subjects were the following: a prewar RCA TRK-120, a home-brew 25-line scanning disk receiver with a camera, a 60-line home-brew mechanical camera and receiver, a ColorTel color converter on an early B/W set, a flying spot scanner using a large arc lamp as the light source, a World War II iconoscope camera, a 60-line Hollis Baird scanning disk receiver with a home-brew camera, and 12 miniature personal television sets.

All of the television demonstrations were going on at once, much like a trade show, making interaction with the audience easy. One attendee commented, "All of the great demonstrations at one time and place will probably never be repeated or excelled."

The television theme was carried on at the Friday evening banquet by Dr. Malcolm Baird, son of John Logie Baird, the Scottish television pioneer. His interesting slide presentation with annotations showed many photos, some heretofore unpublished.

Other presentations also engaged the interests of conference attendees. For example, at the collecting books and magazines seminar, your editor talked on collecting Radio Boys books. In addition, Frank Bequeart provided information on how to repair books, and Dexter Deeley talked about the AWA library.

On Saturday, Dexter also organized perhaps the most extensive display of Tuska radios ever assembled at a radio meet. The sets had been gathered from several collections, including your editor's. The display had nearly all the models and variations sold by Tuska, even back to those the company designed for the A.C. Gilbert Co.

As always, the auctions generated much excitement. In general, the communications auction, held on Thursday, has a less formal air than that of the big Friday auction in that Thursday buyers and sellers finalize their own deals. After the winning bidder is determined at auction, the seller and buyer get together and exchange money and items. Highlights of this auction included a tied top price of $325 for a Collins 75A-3 receiver and for a National HRO-60, complete with 5 coil sets.

At 9:00 A.M. Friday, auctioneer Walt Buffinton kicked off the the big triple auction, which included a record 567 items. The number of collectors with bidders' cards was 275. Of note among the highlights was what Ludwell Sibley called a "galactic price"' for a deForest spherical Audion $1,750, topping last year's price of $1,100 for a similar item. Runnerup was a 1920s Marconi transmitting tube, selling at $800.

Interestingly enough, the highlights of the paper/collectibles auction were not paper items at all. A watch fob, including a 11/4" cloisonne medal on a strap, from the 1921 ARRL Convention in Chicago brought $750, while an incomplete early Edison movie projector drive mechanism drew $800.

Top-selling paper items were a 6-volume set of RCA "Redbook" service manuals for $160, The Electrical Boy by Trowbridge for $120, and The Speaking Telephone and Other Novelties by Prescott for $110.

Among the high-priced equipment auction items were an RCA condenser microphone selling at $1,400; two Sparton blue mirror sets at $1,500 and $1,800; a Federal 61 at $1,500; a Paragon RA-10 and DA-2 at $1,750; a Kennedy 220 at $1,050; and an RCA IP-501A at $1,400.

The other significant items included an RCA enameled metal advertising sign selling at $875; two SCR-59 World War I aircraft receivers at $825 and $1,000; and an English Ekco at $1,050.

There was an unusual volume of tubes this year, especially foreign types. Also of interest were a dozen or so telegraph/wireless items deaccessioned by the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry.

The total for all four auctions was $62,371.

An exciting adjunct to this conference was John Dilks' near real-time posting of daily events and color photos on the New Jersey Antique Radio Club's web page at http://www.eht.com/oldradio. Those who couldn't attend were able to" tune in" on-line everyday of the meet. Additional stories and Ludwell Sibley's auction report were also posted after the meet. The antique radio world is certainly catching up with the times.

We certainly hope to see you at Rochester in 1998. The scheduled dates are September 2-5.

Hartco 4-tube cathedral
Figure 1. A beautiful example of a working Hartco 4-tube cathedral
with a leatherette-covered cardboard cabinet, seen outside in the lot at Jerry Finamore's table.

Atwater Kent Model 5 breadboard
Figure 2. This Atwater Kent Model 5 breadboard had an asking price
of $6,100 in the flea market.

crystal sets and more
Figure 3. An AK Model 10 breadboard, a Grebe CR12, a Jackson Bell Model 62 cathedral,
two versions of the Martian crystal sets, a Kenrad crystal set and a Commerce Radiophone crystal set
all for sale by Bruce Mager of "Waves" in the flea market.

Information on joining the Antique Wireless Association (AWA) may be obtained from Joyce Peckham, Box E, Breesport, NY 14816. E-mail: awapeckham@aol.com. AWA publishes "The Old Timers Bulletin" 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, Dave Crocker, and John V. Terrey.

(Ray Chase, 1350 Marlborough Ave., Plainfield, NJ 07060; Ludwell Sibley, 44 E. Main St., Flemington, NJ 08822; John V. Terrey, c/o A.R.C., Box 2, Carlisle, MA 01741; Peter Yanczer, 835 Bricken, St. Louis, MO 63122)

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Copyright © 1996 by John V. Terrey - For personal use only.
Last revised: October 26, 1997. Pages designed by Wayward Fluffy Publications