A.R.C. -- THE NATIONAL PUBLICATION FOR BUYERS AND SELLERS
OF OLD RADIOS AND RELATED ITEMS -- PUBLISHED MONTHLY
BOOK REVIEWS:Machine Age to Jet Age, Vols. I and II
By Mark V. Stein
REVIEWED BY DICK DESJARLAIS
From Antique Radio Classified
(Copyright 1997 by John V. Terrey - For personal use only.)
Shortly before this review of "Machine Age to Jet Age, Volume I" was ready for publication, Volume II appeared on A.R.C.'s reference shelf. Although similar in format and content to Volume I, Volume II contains all new listings and added features, which are addressed at the end of this review. (Editor)
If all you knew about this book was its main title -- Machine Age to Jet Age, you might think that it is about the development of the engine from steam to jet. And when you see the cover with its 41 color photos of very collectible radios, you might assume that more color photos are inside. Wrong on both counts! As its subtitle states, this book is "Radiomania's Guide to Tabletop Radios, Volune I, 1933-1959 (with market values)," and furthermore, all the photos inside are black and white.
Despite these initial mixed signals, this reference book is a worthy supplement to the collector's library. Over 1,300 good quality, black and white photos of representative radios of this high-style era fill 230 of the book's 255 pages. The fact that the book covers a relatively short period of radio history -- just 26 years -- might be limiting to some collectors, since no battery sets or consoles are included. However, those who are "into" the Art Deco era of the 1930s-1950s will find excellent examples of wooden mantel sets, tombstones, cathedrals, novelty sets, metal sets, Catalins, Bakelites, plastics, Plaskons, and beetles.
Stein offers this advice:
"A word about dealers and dealer prices: expect to pay a premium when purchasing from a dealer. The dealer offers one the luxury of eliminating the time consuming hunt through yard and estate sales, flea markets, antique shows and the like. It is he who goes through the trouble of rooting out those hard to find items -- ones which you might not happen upon except after years of hunting yourself. Dealers inventories represent long hours and related expenses, and so their prices must reflect those additional costs."
The book has six chapters, the most important being Chapter 5 where the major manufacturers are featured alphabetically. The sets of unknown or lesser known manufacturers are presented in Chapter 6 -- a 30-page "Miscellaneous" section. One minor distraction in both chapters is the interruption in continuity created by blank spaces at the end of certain manufacturers' listings. The author might have chosen just to continue with the next manufacturer's products. A brief, basic description appears with each radio, giving the make, model number, materials used in the cabinet construction, year of manufacturer, coloration, and market value. The pricing information makes the book a relatively dependable guide, as price guides go, even though it has a 1994 copyright. A spot-check comparison with Evolution of the Radio, Volume 2, and the new 4th edition of Bunis' The Collector's Guide to Antique Radios showed that prices in all three references are usually consistent within a reasonable range.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Although the major focus of this book is on radio photos, there are other briefly treated but helpful topics of interest to the collector. Chapter 3 -- "Pricing" -- describes the author's approach to establishing prices and gives the reader some helpful insights into conditions affecting price, including chassis corrosion, rodent wear, transformers, tubes, cabinet backs, knobs and dial lenses.
Chaper 3 also contains a brief definition of the most common types of plastics used in radios of the 1930s to 1950s period. The book separately addresses the valuing of plastic radios and wooden radios, depending upon specific conditions, such as chips and cracks in plastic radio cabinets, and finish and veneer in wooden cabinets.
Chapter 4 -- "Resources" -- provides an authoritative listing of vintage radio clubs, both domestic and foreign. Also included is a somewhat limited listing of publications, such as periodicals, reference guides, suppliers and vendors.
The overall quality of Machine Age to Jet Age is somewhat marred by occasional, quite obvious misspellings and typographical errors, which tend to detract from the book's contents. Nonetheless, the book serves a definite purpose for the period and has much to commend it to both radio dealers and collectors.
Volume II of Machine Age to Jet Age (1930-1959) is a welcome supplement to Volume I in part because it has been expanded to cover the earlier years 1930-1932, allowing many more cathedral radios to be included. Another welcome feature is 16 pages of color plates showcasing 192 selected examples of table radios by classification -- for example, Bakelite, painted Bakelite, plastic, beetle plastic, Urea, Plaskon, Catalin, etc.
The radios shown in these new color plates are further described and valued in the black and white section of both volumes. However, there is no cross index to connect each color photo with its black and white counterpart.
Other additions are a 1-page listing of representative internet websites and a helpful 2-page commentary by Joe Greenbaum on wooden radio finishes.
Two minor but distracting flaws have carried over from Volume I. One is the existence of many blank spaces sometimes covering one-half to two-thirds of a page. The other is the persistence of spelling and typographical errors, although significantly reduced from Volume I.
Since the radios pictured in the two volumes total over 4,000, for the serious collector or dealer, the purchase of both volumes is a good investment. Be alert for Volume III, which is already in the works.
Machine Age to Jet Age, Volumes I and II, by Mark V. Stein are available in 81/2" x 11" paperback format from your local specialty bookseller or directly from the publisher. Send a money order or check for Volume I at $24.95, Volume II at $28.95, or both volumes at $49.95 to: Radio-mania, Department 2, 2109 Carterdale Rd., Baltimore, MD 21209. U.S. shipping is free; Canada is $2; all other countries are $3.
(Dick Desjarlais, Dick's Radio Days, Box 629, Littleton, MA 01460)
More on Machine Age to Jet Age, Vols. I and II
by Alan Voorhees
These two books are the most valuable collecting resources I have found. Included with each radio pictured is an estimated market value. Of course, there is no question that there is always skepticism regarding the values that guide books give, and one often wonders what makes the person doing the valuing an authority. However, in this case, Stein is a major radio dealer and has personally sold many of the sets pictured in the books. This gives him an insight into the prices that these radios may actually sell for.
Obviously, the main advantage of these volumes is that you can see a photo of each set. This helps to identify a radio you might have whose model number has long been missing. It also lets you see what sets you might wish to have to fill out your own collection. In my case, I finally got to see photos of two sets I wanted for my own collection. It is easier to seek them out now that I know what they look like.
(Alan Voorhees, 10809 McIntyre St., Oakland, CA 94605)