VOLUME 12 NOVEMBER 1995 NUMBER 11
The Henry Ford MuseumBY JOHN V. TERREY
Part 1 -- Highlights
From Antique Radio Classified for November 1995
(Copyright 1995 by John V. Terrey - For personal use only.)
This is the first of a 2-part report on the Henry Ford Museum Radio Auction. Due to publishing deadlines, a full report could not be included in this issue, but we have been able to put together the highlights of the event. A complete report will appear in the December issue. (Editor)
The much heralded Henry Ford Museum Radio Auction has come and gone, and the attendees may still be reeling from the wonder of it all. Most of the population of Dearborn, Michigan, were no doubt unaware that on October 7 and 8, 1995, their town was the center of perhaps the major radio event of the decade. More than 300 collectors and friends had gathered at the museum to spend a total of $590,693 - a bonanza for the museum's General Collections Fund.
On Saturday and Sunday, the registered bidders numbered 178 and 105 respectively. Interestingly enough, although the attendance was about one-half that expected, the proceeds totaled almost twice the auctioneer's expectations.
In seven hours on Saturday, 590 lots were sold, while 445 lots hit the block in five hours on Sunday. Bidding was fiercely competitive, as some of the prices noted here attest. The international set, which included representatives from Germany, France, Switzerland, Holland, Sweden, Japan, and Canada, gave the Americans from 28 states stiff competition and were successful on many of the rare items.
The prices were in a range never before seen in a U.S. auction, with a 1913 Marconi 101 tuner (modified by the Marconi factory in 1918) selling for $49,000. Of the additional items, four sold for over $20,000, eight more for over $10,000, and 90 more for over $1,000.
Among the high-bid items were a very early DeForest 2-step amplifier (missing the audion sockets) selling for $27,500; an American Marconi magnetic detector selling for $25,500; an Adams Morgan RA-6 tuner (dirty but complete) selling for $24,000; and a Canadian Marconi Type 2843 tuner selling for $20,000.
These prices gave an epicurean taste to the overall event. But, modestly priced purchases were also possible. Auctioneer Richard Estes remarked on the wide range of prices - an $11,000 item preceded by one for $5, a $24,000 item between $50 and $75 items. There were box lots of parts, tubes, transformers, etc., early transmitter racks, crystal detectors, telegraph keys, rare and unusual tubes, horns, and a number of broadcast receivers. And as promised, Estes spread the high-value items over the two days. Bidders marveled at Estes' skill in moving items along at a rate of about 85 an hour.
Some of the more familar items included a Magnavox TRF-5 receiver for $100; a Radiola III-A for $175; a Radiola 28 with loop and table for $200; a Radiola 33 for $45; a Radiola X for $500; two Radiola III sets for $75 and $85; a refinished Grebe MU-1 for $700; two Radiola 17 sets for $45 and $55; and a Radiola UZ-1325 horn speaker for $225.
A selection of additional higher-priced items included the following: a Radiola VII and VII-B for $10,000 and $1700; a Radiola 26 for $1,500; a Grebe CR-18 with coils for $2,600; two Kennedy Model 110 receivers for $2,250 and $2,100; two DeForest Interpanel sets for $2,450 and $2,000; a Federal 61, with cabinet in poor condition, for $950; two Atwater Kent Model 10C breadboards for $1,100 and $1,300; a Pittsburgh Radio Supply SP-2, with slide-in amplifier, for $1,100; a Grebe CR-9 for $600.
Additional wireless gear included a W.E. CW-938 transmitter for $11,000; three SE-143 tuners for $10,500, $8,000 and $2,100; two SE-1420 receivers for $2,200 and $1,200; and a NESCO CN-240 for $5,500. The army pack sets, all without receivers, sold for $4,500, $8,000 and $9,000.
As for rare crystal detectors, a 1916 Washington Navy Yard triple detector Type A (looks like an SE-183A) sold for $3,000, an IP-175 for $2,400, and two SE-183A triple detectors for $900 and $400.
The condition of the items ranged from museum quality (sometimes refinished, however) to dirty from years in storage. Many items were missing knobs and other components. Also, some items were without cabinets or sometimes were only panels stripped of nearly all parts.
Unfortunately, most individual items were not identified by white lot number tags, but museum tags on the majority of items showed a bit of the history of each piece. For example, the items from the RCA George Clark Collection had red tags, and items from the Edison Institute had white tags.
Another white tag contained the museum's de-accession number (e.g. 40.118.9). This is the number to use if you would like the museum to provide more information on your purchases. Send your request, along with that number and a description of the item to: Attn: Research Center, The Henry Ford Museum, P.O. Box 1970, Dearborn, MI 48121-1970.
Ford Museum's Lisa Korzetz, Sarah Lawrence, and Eric Manthey are to be commended for a very well organized event. The physical setup was convenient, with the auction tent located in a parking lot at the side of the museum. As each item was sold, it was moved to an adjacent tent to await pickup. A food booth served the museum's usual excellent menu, stoking the fires of hot-on-the trail collectors.
Credit should also be given to the Michigan Antique Radio Club for assistance during the auction.
The first Antique Radio Classified Radio Bash on Saturday evening right after the auction was also a great success. Eighty-five collectors from as far away as Germany, Canada, California, and Florida gathered to exchange impressions of the eventful day. Refreshments, a cash bar, and the four books given as door prizes added to the festive spirit. Many contributed to the "Show and Tell" table, which included items from personal collections, as well as auction purchases. In all, the diversity of items and people at the Bash paralleled that of the auction itself. Perhaps the Radio Bash will continue as an A.R.C. tradition.
Next month, a comprehensive listing will appear in A.R.C., as well as more information and photos.
Richard Estes Auctions and Ludwell Sibley.
(John Terrey, c/o A.R.C., Box 2, Carlisle, MA 01741)