EDITOR'S COMMENTS From Antique Radio Classified for July 2006
(Copyright 1996-2006 by John V. Terrey - For personal use only.)
What a way to start the summer radio events season -- at least in New England! We've had so much rain that it's hard to imagine outdoor events other than under water. But, we have faith that we will dry out, and, one way or another, we hope to meet you at one or more of these events.
Meanwhile, perhaps summer will get you in the mood for finding fun items like the Pepsi bottle novelty radio that Ray Bintliff reluctantly returned after he had repaired it for its owner. Today, most collectors think of transistorized novelty radios, such as McDonald's hamburger, Big Bird, and Snoopy. But Ray's subject is different. It's a tube novelty radio dating back to the 1950s. Ray describes the construction and takes obvious delight in its quality, as well as interest in its value today.
Of course, other tube novelties such as sailing ship radios and Crosley book radios sometimes surface in the marketplace. But, a radio apparently inside an oversized Pepsi bottle with the cap as a tuning dial would make any collector sit up and taken notice.
Another pursuit at summer flea markets could be radio-related postcards, such as those Dave Crocker uses to continue his story about what Marconi did 100 years ago on Cape Cod, Dave's home territory. In the early days of radio, postcards depicting radio stations and their antennas were popular, and often collectors today find that the postcards add to their historical perspective.
Dave can even relate the Cape Cod Marconi history to his own family history. This kind of personal, "down-home" connection makes our pursuit of radio history even more interesting.
Another such adjunct to a collection is an advertisement, like Stan Shelofsky's 1929 ad, which gives him a world of information on his Radiola 33. Not only does it place the set in the context of the period, but it gives the price and a clear picture of the marketing spiel that attempts to convince the consumer to buy the set. It also reminds us that the need to read the small print is nothing new.
Some collectors mount and frame advertisements and place them near the appropriate sets. In this way, a more complete story of the set is told to anyone viewing the collection.
Speaking of collections, each one gives some clues as to the collector's goals. Some may buy only sets that are already restored and working. Others may decide that even a basketcase is worth restoring, both for the challenge of the work involved and for the feeling of accomplishment in preserving a piece of radio history.
Ozzie Aasgaard is in the latter group. He describes a prolonged effort to save an old collector's deteriorating radios. Unfortunately, he failed to convince the old fellow that he should give up his dream of restoring the sets himself. But, Ozzie did manage to salvage and restore one set -- a L'Tatro Model 465 that, among others, was headed for the dump after the collector's death. Kudos to Ozzie for doing his bit for preservation.
Ray Chase reports on another Estes Auction, this one totalling over $50,000. Big ticket items were not plentiful, but a rare Unito Nightingale sold for $1,800, while some other battery sets went for solid prices. An Atwater Kent Model 10 sold for $750, a Federal Model 59 for $1,100, and two Kennedy sets for a little over $1,000 each.
One notable aside is that home brews sold for up to $150. Many auctions offer home-brew sets, but here the prices reflect that some of the sets were unusual and well-crafted.
Getting back to novelty radios, Paul Farmer, obviously a knowledgable novelty radio collector, reviews Debby Weaver's Novelty Radio Handbook. This book is a tribute to Debby's father-in-law Ray Weaver's collection, and it is a useful supplement to the Breed and Bunis books. Paul feels that, as with all such books, there could be more information on the radios and current price trends; however, he praises the photos and concludes that collectors need all the photos they can get. So, this book could be a good investment for you novelty radio collectors.
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Coming Radio Events. Radio events are in full summer swing. The July list totals 41, with 24 meetings, 12 meets, and 5 auctions. Be sure to plan ahead for the big ones like Extravaganza in Michigan, the New Jersey swap meet, and the CHRS fund-raiser at Station KRE in Berkeley, California, among others. And August looks even more tempting.
John V. Terrey, Editor
ON THE COVER
To tune the Pepsi-Cola bottle radio in Ray Bintliff's article in this issue, you twist the bottle cap. What's interesting about this set is not only its construction, but also the fact that it is a tube radio, dating to the early 1950s, before transistorized sets took over the novelty radio market. Constructing a tube set as if it were inside a bottle ranks among the more unusual of collectible radios. And, the colors are in keeping with this patriotic month of July.