EDITOR'S COMMENTS From Antique Radio Classified for October 2003
(Copyright 1996-2003 by John V. Terrey - For personal use only.)
Our cover this month has prompted us to ask, "What's happening on the radio buying and selling scene?" Has the eBay phenomenon of the past few years faded a bit? We venture to say "yes," given the flurry of activity in auction house sales in 2003. In the past, we have published reports from a handful of houses -- Estes, Harris, Eric's, Dorotheum -- one to four a year from each, but nothing like the deluge of this year.
In particular, Estes Auctions has taken center stage in the radio "show business" of 2003. Since January, Estes has held no fewer than ten auctions -- September alone had two -- and we are scrambling to keep up with publishing the reports by our faithful contributor Ray Chase. In October and November, at least three more auctions will be held, and you will note in this issue an Estes ad for a January 2004 event.
In addition to this auction house activity, club meets continue to be generally strong. Though attendance may be down at some, many auction totals are up, due, no doubt, to an increased quality of items being offered. Why should this be so? A look at several Estes Auctions reveals that they are estate auctions, indicating that some big-time collectors are deciding to cash in on their own estates or to disperse their collections before they become an issue for heirs to handle.
The result is that rare and unusual items sequestered in private collections are appearing in auctions as never before. The advantage to all of us is that we can begin to know what these items are worth. Previously, such sale prices were unknown because the transactions were done privately. Now we can see that the unusual and rare are pulling away from the pack with commanding prices.
Though the proceeds of the two Estes Auctions reported by Ray Chase in this issue were not exceptionally large -- both under $50,000 -- they show that the truly desirable items are bringing the best prices. An example is the Atwater Kent Radiodyne breadboard, a rare variety of the Model 10, selling at $1,300. By contrast, an ordinary Model 10 sold for $800.
Another example is the Western Electric CG1-A Coast Guard superhet, which sold for $1,400, though the front panel was corroded. There are even more examples of rare items in the larger Estes Auctions published in the past year, as well as in ones we'll be running in the coming months.
Unusual sets are also much in evidence in Photo Review this month. A group of tabletop sets, a piece of test equipment, an AC FM converter -- each one is an interesting example of whatever type it is.
An unusual old photo of an early radio scene always provokes interest. When Lawrence Golub sent in the 1938 photo of his father on location with Radio Station WNYC AM, we immediately asked for a story to go with it. Fortunately, Edward Golub, now age 90, was able to provide one about his career as an engineer with the station, the subject of our lead article. Thanks to the Golubs for an enjoyable piece of radio history.
John Hagman bills himself as a Vermont "radio archeologist," but he might also be called a "Yankee radio wag." How seriously you take his version of the perfect antique radio depends on whether or not you covet big, heavy sets laden with tubes and knobs, and running hot enough to be food warmers. Sounds just right if you happen to have a big old Vermont farmhouse.
Mark Stein continues his series of price guides to tabletop radios. Volumes 1-3 were originally titled Machine Age to Jet Age, but this new one is called The Complete Price Guide to Antique Radios: Tabletop Radios, Volume 4. Volume 1 contains an index to Volumes 1-3, but not to Volume 4, and the books vary somewhat in size and number of photos per page. For example, Volume 3 has 12 photos per page, while Volume 4, like Volume 2, has 9.
Stein's books are set apart from other guides in that they emphasize photos and also list prices. Other guides have more comprehensive listings, but fewer photos. However, as reviewer Geoff Shearer points out, this new book is another chance to match a set with no tags or identifying marks with a photo, obviously a valuable tool to the serious collector.
A.R.C. Benefits. A reminder of a major A.R.C. benefit -- our book service, which can be especially helpful to you as the holiday season approaches. Be sure to make your own wish list, as you consider gifts for family and friends. An ad on page 41 will guide you to various gift choices. Other benefits include a toll-free number: (866) 371-0512; the Web: www.antiqueradio.com; Discover, Visa, American Express, and MasterCard accepted; books shipped free in the U. S. by book rate; and to current subscribers, a ten percent discount on all book orders.
Coming Radio Events. The fall is a favorite time for radio events -- time to squeeze in as much as possible before winter arrives. The list includes 23 meetings, 8 auctions (2 in Ohio), and 15 meets. As always, we urge you to join in the fun.
John V. Terrey, Editor
ON THE COVER
We can never thank Ray Chase enough for the many auction reports he shares with our readers. Now we also thank him for the colorful photo on our cover which captures the essence of an Estes Auction, not only with the sign, but also with the display of better quality items for sale at a May auction.