a Model 59 Federal Radio that has been in the same family since it was purchased way back in 1923.


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Chatelaine's Antiques & Appraisals Magazine > Collectibles > Feature: History of One Family's Radio

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 We were scanning through some recent Appraisals when an interesting one caught our eye.

It was for a Model 59 Federal Radio that has been in the same family since it was purchased way back in 1923.

That certainly piqued our interest today, we would never think of passing on our CD player so we thought we should talk to its owners.

"They all gathered around it... and it only got one station," said Mary Lew Thomas, relating the family ritual described by her father. 

The Thomas family's 1923 radio,
with horn, headset, and label.

 Turns out, her grandfather, H.H. Hale, bought the radio from the Bluefield Hardware Company in West Virginia. He paid a total of $443 dollars for the radio and all of its parts quite a sum in 1923! Not surprisingly, for many years the radio occupied a prominent position in the living room of the Hales' West Virginia home.

 Federal was known for making a high quality product that was priced considerably higher than other brands on the market at the time. This was because of the extra time it cost to produce these beautiful sets and the cost of higher quality parts.

Well, Mr. Hale must've known what he was buying, and the family certainly appreciated it. As Mrs. Thomas recalls, the radio remained prominently displayed in the house long after it was the pinnacle of modern technology.

But Mrs. Thomas might not have rediscovered the radio or the dozens of other treasures stored in her grandfather's house had it not been for some unfortunate luck.

Her uncle, who now owned the house, became ill and had to be moved to a hospital. Not expecting to return home, he's given the house and its possessions to Mrs. Thomas and her husband.

So, not only has the radio remained in the same family for 77 years, but it's remained in the same house!

That's important when determining its current value. The radio has its original horn and paperwork, as well as a history of where it has been since originally purchased. This is virtually unheard of in the world of antique radio collecting and certainly adds several hundred dollars to the final value. This is a striking radio with great provenance.

Will it stay in the family? "We're absolutely keeping it," said Mr. Thomas.

And if the Thomases ever change their mind? That old radio could fetch $1,500!


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