Old Radios: What To Collect?
Firstly, collecting radios is always dictated by personal finance, and availability of the radio of your hearts desire... So, where do you start?
Like most interests, the subject matter is always vast. Our interests are influenced by sets manufactured from the 1930's to the 1950's, and it is there that we will base the answers to this poser. You can be a person who wants to collect all of it, but unless you have a very large house with storage and a very sympathetic partner you will have to narrow the field to either decades, or types.
Raw beginners should really start with sets that are very cheap. These tend to be the large or plain wooden box radios of the 1950's, or earlier sets that require considerable repair work to the cabinet and chassis. Theorectically, these should be cheap and cheerful unless your rather plain and ugly set happens to be uniquely rare, and worth lots of money as a pile of junk. Fortunately, this is seldom the case.
Really cheap sets should only cost a few pounds, but beware of the seller who will probably tells you that it works okay, and that it only needs a light clean up. These individuals are normally found selling from pitches at boot fairs or the outside junk stalls at large antique fairs. Unless it can be proven otherwise, accept that the likelyhood of the set working is probably comparable to winning the lottery. It rarely happens...
So, you've found your set, but before you buy follow these basic tips.
Okay, we've covered the basics of buying, but what makes a radio desirable? Well, that is a difficult one to answer, but here are a few basic tips...
We have already touched on buying "basic" sets, generally, these items really don't look particulary special or even unusual. Really just a square or rectangular box with no particular attractive inlaid veneer, a square or rectangular dial, and normally three knobs across the bottom. Often they are big and heavy, and quite unappealing. However, really special sets have unusual shapes whether in plastic or wood, interesting inlays or fixtures, with sinuous curves and attractive colouring. Alternatively, they can immitate items from real life or fantasy. These sets tend more so to be American or occasionally from Australia or Canada, but they leave very little to human imagination and ingenuity. They can also be made from unusual materials such as mirrored glass, or from a man-made material known as "repwood", (immitation wood compressed into interesting shapes), or they can be made from unusual plastics such as "catalin" and have really wonderful colours and shape, but they are very special, and you won"t want any other radio when you"ve seen one.
Historical interest also adds the desirable price tag, take for example the nazi propaganda radios, because of their association to Germany in WW2 they command a very high price.
Examples of desirability are shown below. These sets will cost a pretty penny unless you happen to find one lying neglected in a junk shop or antiques centres (often, much bigger junk shops!)
The above examples are not the pre-determining features you should look for, but items of unusual design and ultimate desirability. These sets, and others of that ilk, command quite high prices, especially the catalins, but you can also find other desirable sets much cheaper. Take for example the Bush DAC90a. This set was mass produced to such an extent that the item is relatively common.
Although square, the set has the plus factors of an attractive two tone brown bakelite cabinet with smooth and rounded corners. The dial glass has a particulary nice colour scheme with the whole set being set off by a beautiful rounded gold coloured mess speaker grill. It's also quite small and is easy to carry.
The bakelite takes well to cleaning, and when finished its look is not unlike that of a horse chestnut seed that has been freshly removed from it's skin. Really shiny and deep brown.
Yet a set like this can be purchased unrestored for around £40, and restored at around £125. Quite a good set to start with as a raw beginner!
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