The Complete Price Guide to Antique Radios: Pre-War Consoles
By Mark V. Stein
REVIEWED BY DICK DESJARLAIS
Mark Stein's Machine Age to Jet Age series has provided antique radio collectors, dealers and historians with a 32-year time capsule in the form of a guide to tabletop radios. In his latest work, The Complete Price Guide to Antique Radios: Pre-War Consoles, Stein makes a distinct departure from previous efforts, both in title and in content.
As is evident in the title, the entire focus in this reliable price guide is on pre-war consoles (floor models). Over 3,500 models are depicted, covering the years 1930 to 1942. It is a feast for the eyes to simply flip through over 200 pages -- 12 photos per page. Every page is filled with reflections on the past, from simple designs like the Philco Model 33-F, valued at $75, to the elegant Sparton Model 1186 peach mirror radio at $45,000, the E.H. Scott Quaranta at $12,000, and, of course, the penultimate Zenith Stratosphere, valued in the $50,000 to $75,000 range.
These values obviously represent extreme price ranges. However, Stein's book is remarkable because it also identifies, describes, and values hundreds upon hundreds of "middle range" console radios. You name it, this book has it -- from the elegant highboys, such as the 1932 American-Bosch Model 40L ($150), to the classic lowboy style represented by the 1931 Fada Model 47 ($250).
In addition, Stein's book generously chronicles the gradual change in cabinet design, from the highboy and lowboy profile of the early 1930s to the legless floor models of the mid-1930s. Of the latter, the 1936 Silvertone Model 4586 ($350) is a good example.
The inclusion of price guide values is always a bold and risky venture, but kudos to the author for continuing this practice in what he calls the "first vintage console radio reference guide ever." Stein's parameters in establishing values, as he explains on page 5, are as sound and reliable as this complex task permits. Pages 6 through 8 present excellent "General Guidelines in Determining Value," including "Design Pedigree," "Cabinet Design," "Brand Name," "Tube and Band Counts," and other considerations.
Most notable is the section on "Design Pedigree," which acknowledges the contributions of such radio cabinet designers as Dreyfuss, Teague and Bel Geddes. Where possible, Stein has identified a documented designer (Des.), or an undocumented designer, assuming attributions (Attrib.). A good example is the Sparton Model 1186, which denotes "11 tubes, 3 bands, Teague Des."
Stein also discusses the other important considerations to be made in determining value -- cabinet, chassis, and trim conditions. He has added a listing of collector resources that is excellent.
There were many elegantly designed consoles manufactured before the seemingly arbitrary date of 1930 established by the author. Limited space or cost factors may be among the reasons. However, whatever the reasons, I was disappointed to find that models from the years 1927 through 1929 were not included.
One has only to flip through the first few pages of A Blast from the Past by Wolf & Jacobson to realize that the era of very collectible highboy and lowboy consoles began with the year 1927. But perhaps my disappointment stems from the fact that the favorite radio in my collection is not included. A family heirloom, it is the 1928 Atwater Kent Model 40 in a Pooley cabinet, designated in A Blast From the Past as "Model 7500, Spanish Chest Radio Cabinet."
Stein states in his preface that "there will undoubtedly be supplements to this title in the future as my research continues." He also says, "look for more new titles and prices from Radiomania Books coming soon." This is all good news. Perhaps we can look forward, not only to more on consoles, but hopefully to other reference guides for grandfather clock radios, chairside radios, "hidden radios," battery sets, home brews, and communications receivers, to name only a few.
The Complete Price Guide to Antique Radios: Pre-War Consoles is available in an 81/2" x 11" format containing 240 pages and showing over 3,500 models. It may be ordered from the publisher, Radiomania Publishing, 2109 Carterdale Rd., Baltimore, MD 21209, and from A.R.C. and other book sellers at $29.95. Be sure to check for shipping information.
Wollf H. & I. Jacobson. A Blast From the Past, Radio From 1927 to 1942. Stillwater, New Jersey: Sound of Music, 1987.
(Dick Desjarlais, P.O. Box 629, Littleton, MA 01460-2629)