Feature: Antique Radios: Many people were involved in the invention of the radio, but just after the turn of the century, Italian physicist Guglielmo Marconi was the first to put it all together and make a successful transatlantic communication. Most early radios were ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore wireless models, communicating from one point to another point using crystal detectors. These experimental-looking open-board sets with exposed works often required headphones. The first actual radio broadcast wasn't until November 1920 on KDKA Pittsburgh; within a year 30 stations had sprung up across the nation.

 

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Chatelaine's Antiques & Appraisals Magazine > Collectibles > Feature: Antique Radios: From A Golden Age
Soaring Popularity of Collecting Antique Radios
 


The Market for Antique Radios

Old Radios Condition

Old Radio Values

Old Radio Speakers

Old Phonographs

 

 
ANTIQUE RADIOS

 

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
Many people were involved in the invention of the radio, but just after the turn of the century, Italian physicist Guglielmo Marconi was the first to put it all together and make a successful transatlantic communication. Most early radios were ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore wireless models, communicating from one point to another point using crystal detectors. These experimental-looking open-board sets with exposed works often required headphones. The first actual radio broadcast wasn't until November 1920 on KDKA Pittsburgh; within a year 30 stations had sprung up across the nation.


A 1934 RCA

A 1934 RCA "cathedral" radio.

Radio production boomed from 1924 until the Depression. Sets powered by large electric batteries, using a separate horn-type speaker, were followed in 1928 by the first electric sets. Some radios were housed in elaborate cabinets, and later consoles. After the Depression, affordable tabletop "midget sets" shaped like "cathedrals" and "tombstones" became popular.

During World War II, radio production for the general market ceased. Military radios produced during this time are gaining in popularity, especially spy radios built into a variety of things like suitcases.

SOARING POPULARITY
Up until the early 1980s, most collectors pursued only the earlier radios by such makers as the American Marconi Company (bought by RCA in 1919) and Atwater Kent. The market spiked in the '80s with a surge in popularity of colorful Bakelite/Catalin, mirrored, novelty, and art deco radios, and again in the '90s with transistor radios (first produced in 1955). FM radios are still too new to be considered collectible.

Collectible manufacturers include GE, Federal, Sparton, Philco, and Zenith (originally Chicago Radio Labs). Zenith's well-made radios are collectible early to late, from 1921 to the 1950s. Two highly desirable radios are the Zenith Stratosphere and the Sparton Nocturne. The Stratosphere was Zenith's top of the line in the mid-'30s, with a large black dial and a beautiful, inlaid wood cabinet. The highly sought-after Sparton Nocturne is a mirrored art deco floor model in peach or blue.





REFERENCES
In addition to various books specific to particular manufacturers, valuable references include:

 


Collectors Guide to Antique Radios:
Identification and Values, 5th Ed

by John Slusser, Kathy Slusser

Complete Price Guide to Antique Radios:
Tabletop Radios Vol. 3, 1933-1962
by Mark Stein

Antique Radio Restoration Guide
by David Johnson

The Complete Price Guide to Antique Radios:
Pre-War Consoles

by Mark Stein

Complete Price Guide to Antique Radios:
Tabletop Radios Vol. 2,
1930-1959

by Mark Stein

Antique Phonograph: Gadgets, Gizmos, and Gimmicks
by Timothy Fabrizio, George Paul