In my 35 years in broadcasting, I’ve made the dashboard radio your entertainment while your hands were at 10-and-2; used your clock radio to get you out of bed; kept you pumped at the gym over those little buds in your ears; and even made your kitchen radio beep when hurricanes were on the way.
But I don’t think you’ve ever heard my voice come through something as pretty as this:
It’s one of several Sparton radios created in the mid-1930s by designer Walter Dorwin Teague (think, “the Eames Chair of radios”). This one is actually waist-high, and sits in the Wolfsonian Museum at Miami Beach. Editor Alan shot this, and shared with me when we were talking about my Beyond Non-Sport column, appearing in the current issue of NSU.
The history of radio kind of follows the history of Art Deco, so you can find a lot of interesting receivers worth showing off…and building a collection with. Some like the early portable, pocket-sized transistor radios, others find shelf worthy value in eye catching tabletop models. My colleague, Bill Shannon, went the floor-console route, with this 1938 Zenith, a fixture in any fine living room of the era:
Bill swears it plays as well today as the day it was sold. Only now, with more GEICO commercials.
I also talked talk with a couple of gurus from Minneapolis’ Pavek Museum of Broadcasting (if it ever played, they’ve probably got one: www.pavekmuseum.org). It’s a mecca of exotic and historic media treasures to discover for radio geeks and gadget freaks alike.
Pavek’s Managing Director Steve Raymer offers consultation to a lot of collectors seeking value and significance in their questing. His suggestion is to pass on the post-WW2 floor models. And sure enough, there’s an uptick of interest in those very models, according to his collegue, Museum Specialist Karl Evisson.
And the introduction of early plastics such as Bakelite and Catalan, just raised the bar for more creative designs:
These are from the collection of Phil Bausch of Oregon. He’s produced a free e-book, chock full of luscious pictures of colorful tabletops that you can download right here: http://radiospast.com/
To a newer collector, many of these pieces display a beguiling design quality they hadn’t encountered in their young lifetimes, and may not realize how prevalent, and common, these may have been long after radio ceased to be “[I]the[/I] medium”. Many perfectly good radios may have been shuffled off to the garage or basement not because they were broken or damaged, but because they became obsolete. So the first time you see a lime green tabletop model with a $200 asking price at an antique store, it doesn’t mean you might not run into one at a yard sale some day with a $20 sticker on it.
Stretch your collection a step further; Beyond Non-Sport is in Non-Sport Update Vol 27 No 4, on sale now!