The Antique Radio Collector's
Source Book -- Plastic Radios
By Mark V. Stein
REVIEWED BY GEOFF SHEARER
The new guide book, The Antique Radio Collector's Source Book -- Plastic Radios by Mark Stein is the first of a new series in a totally different size from his earlier books -- a smaller 6" x 9" format. This makes it easier to transport to swap meets and on road trips to antique shops and auctions. However, it is similar to the earlier books on consoles and tabletops in that it is devoted exclusively to one subject.
What I like most about Mark's guides are the explanations he presents in the front dealing with pricing, condition, and history. Unlike many other "price guide" authors, he doesn't jump right into pictures and prices but rather starts with a disclaimer about prices. He then moves into an overview of plastics, followed by an evaluation of the condition of the radio, as well as items to avoid.
I'm not up much on plastic history but I did learn that "horn" was molded into consumer products, that the smell from my knob boxes is years old tenite re-enforced with butyric acid, and that "gutta percha" is natural latex.
The discussion on Catalin describes the demise of this substance for cabinets, but I would add one reason -- that the lead molds were scarce after World War II because many had been turned into bullets during the war. Every Catalin cabinet had to be given human attention before it was ready for a chassis, and manpower for that process became too expensive after the war. In the "General Considerations" section (dealing with what to look for in a radio), I might also add that ballast tubes were in glass enclosures as well.
The radios featured in this guide are representative across the board of plastic radios from the early 1930s to the more common sets of the late 1950s. There are a few transistor sets listed, but, by and large, this source book is for plastic table radios up to and including 1960 sets.
The prices reflect going rates, although I don't know that the collector is yet ready to spend $25 on some of the early 1960s radios. The high end and medium priced sets have been well researched on value and accurately reflect what they would sell for at a swap meet or auction. I believe better information is available today because of online auctions and auction reviews reported in Antique Radio Classified.
Once again, Mark Stein has produced a fine addition to our hobby library, and this source guide should see plenty of wear and tear in the next several years. Remember, though, when you're out there buying radios, make sure you like what you're buying because you may have to live with it for a long time.
The Antique Radio Collector's Source Book -- Plastic Radios is published by Radiomania in a 6" x 9," 255-page, softcover format. It is available from Antique Radio Classified for $37.95.
(Geoff Shearer, 14408 Brookmere Dr., Centreville, VA 20128)