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How to Find and Collect Vintage Radios

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Collecting Vintage Radios

Vintage radios are great collectable pieces that are even more exciting if they still actually perform their function. Though whether or not they are in still working order they can still make for exciting home decoration pieces. This is because they come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, styles and colors. They were a mass produced item that many families had in various rooms of their homes. It is because of this they are also quite easy to find. This of course all depends on what you are specifically searching for. Some vintage radios are quite rare, and as a result, expensive.

The History of Vintage Radios

Vintage radios come in all sorts of styles. Their appearance largely depends on when and where they were made. Radios that were manufactured in the early 1900's tend to be rather large console units that are similar in size to large TV sets or cabinets. They were often multi-band radios that were capable of receiving a variety of short-wave frequencies. This meant that with a large enough antennae lead, they could easily receive broadcasts from all over the world. These types of radios were popular fixtures in homes during World War II. There are also large console radios from this era with Victrolas built into the top of the unit.

During the 1920's and 1930's technology also began to allow for smaller radios. The Crosley Cathedral radio that came out in 1932 was one of the best selling radios of this kind. These smaller wooden radios were ornately designed and were small enough to fit on a tabletop, counter, dresser, shelf or mantel. This is what made these radios so popular. People could listen to the radio without having something that took up a huge amount of space.

Bakelite and Catalin Radios

While all of the earliest models of radios have outer housings that are made of wood, later radios are smaller and have casings made of Bakelite. Bakelite is an early plastic that was a popular material to construct various home appliances and electronics from because it was both lightweight and cheap. This meant that they were very easy to mass produce and people could easily afford one of these smaller radios for their daily listening pleasure.

Ironically these same Bakelite radios are not cheap anymore and some can fetch extremely high prices from collectors. The reason for this being so is Bakelite is a very fragile material that becomes even more brittle over time. This is especially true of radios that are made of a type of Bakelite plastic known as Catalin. These brightly colored radios casings are so brittle that, depending on the brand and model, Catalin radios can go for thousands of dollars.

Another reason for the steep prices of Catalin radios is that they are some of the most beautifully colored vintage radios for their time. They come in a wide variety of bright colors and translucent hues. This is because the process in which the Catalin plastic was manufactured allowed for dyes to be added to the material before it hardened.

Identifying Types of Vintage Radios

Vintage radios that have outer casings that are made of Bakelite have Art Deco style curved edges and corners. These radios that span from the late 1930's to the mid 1950's either have a dark brown marbled wood finish look to them that is shiny when they are still in pristine condition or they are white. It is rare to find one of these old radios without any cracks or scratches in the outer casing. These old radios run on vacuum tubes instead of solid state circuitry so it is also rare to find one that is still fully operational after all these years. Though it is still possible to find replacement tubes for them.

Restoring Vintage Radios

Another thing to look out for when buying one of these vintage tube radios is the condition of the power cord. Because the outer insulation in these old cords is made of rubber they tend to dry rot over time. It may be necessary to replace the power cord. The good thing about many of these vintage radios is that they were made during a time when people actually got appliances repaired when something went wrong instead of just throwing it away and replacing it with the latest and greatest model. This means that things like the power cord and internal components are often quite easy to replace if you can find compatible components.

It is this restoration factor that draws many people into the hobby of collecting radios. They are a great collectable electronic device for people who like to tinker. There is wealth of information and resources available to those who wish to learn how to restore these functional relics. It is also fairly easy to find things like replacement tubes due to the fact that there are still a few companies that manufacture them though they can be costly.

Where to Look For Vintage Radios

There are also many different ways that one can acquire vintage radios. Flea markets are a great place to look. This is especially true of flea markets that are located ina or around rural areas. Garage and yard sales can also be a good place to search for old radios. Estate auctions can sometimes be a good source for old radios especially old farm houses and places located in small towns or rural communities. Visiting these real world places can be great way to score a vintage radio for way less than what it would cost for one online.

Online resources are also great if you don't mind paying a little more for your vintage radios. Sometimes you can find a good deal on eBay for a vintage tube radio. Etsy is also a good website to search for Bakelite or even Catalin radios on. There are other places where you can shop for vintage radios online. In fact there are entire websites that are dedicated to buying, selling, and trading vintage radios. Some older antique radios can also be found on these websites.


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