The Search for Collectible Radios and TVs. By Smitty.
Looking for antique and collectible radios? Look here for some ideas and suggestions.
If you are looking for vintage radio and TV equipment you know the thrill of the chase, looking in different places for these items can be a lot of fun, but it can also be time-consuming. Here are a few suggestions on places where we can look for vintage electronic equipment.
Almost everything you can imagine is available for purchase on-line. This includes old radios and TVs. Internet auction sites such as Ebay usually have many pages of vintage radios, TVs, hi-fi gear, and all manner of collectible electronic gear. The advantage of purchasing a vintage item through an internet auction is that someone has done the legwork for you. You don’t have to travel around and search for those gems you are looking to add to your collection. Competition can be fierce for an item, especially if it is a rare or highly desirable item. Competition during bidding means ending prices for something could be considerably higher than if it were found in a flea market somewhere. However, having a nation-wide forum such as an internet auction, exposes many items that you may not even get a chance to see in years of traveling around. The ability to see a huge number of diverse items from all over the country is appealing. The other sticky point on buying through an auction or through the mail is shipping. A small item can usually be shipped easily. Larger radios or small TVs begin to be more costly as far as shipping goes. Large consoles and elaborate sets may require a substantial cost to ship including crating and shipping via a freight carrier. If the set is desirable or particularly rare, it might still be a good deal when you factor in packing and shipping.
Swap Meets have always been a good source for old and collectible items. Radios are no exception. A large well-attended swap meet will always have some collectible radios for sale. The days of finding 1930’s sets are scarce. Once, you would see at least a few old tombstones or maybe a cathedral or two. Very old sets like this do still turn up, but most sets now would be 1940s and 50s wooden or bakelite sets. Sets from the 60s and even later are common now too. Don’t discount these sets even if you are looking for older items. There are many later collectible sets. Newer collectors are urged to begin a collection with sets from these later eras while keeping an eye out for older sets if that’s what one is looking for. Swap meets can yield nice clean sets at very affordable prices.
Garage Sales and Estate Sales.
Like swap meets, these venues offer a chance to pick up a nice set or two, possibly for a bargain price. The interesting thing about a garage or estate sale is that you really can’t predict what might turn up. You might find an old radio from the 1920s or maybe a collectible TV from the 50s. Scour newspaper ads and on-line advertisements for news of these events happening in your area.
Old radios and TVs do turn up at antique stores. You may have to pay more for an old set at an antique store than you would say at an estate sale. This of course is because the dealer has an overhead to meet and usually has expenses connected to any item they are selling. Basically, I think that if you purchase an old set from an antique store you are paying what we might call a "retail" price. There’s that overhead that has to be covered. Whereas at a swap meet or garage sale, we could call that a "wholesale" price, since there’s usually not a mark-up in price to cover the upkeep of a store front. Again as with an online auction, buying something at an antique store may be well worth it because someone has done the legwork of hunting that item up and bringing it to a storefront for your shopping convenience.
Antique Radio Stores and Specialty Dealers.
There are stores around the country and on-line that specialize in the sale of antique radios. Many of these individuals who sell vintage radios also repair and service them. So if you are looking for a particular old set, and you want it working or refinished, buying from a dealer might be a good option. Prices would tend to be higher for a restored set, since the labor to bring the set to a restored and operating or presentable condition has been done for you. Another factor to consider is that most of these antique radio stores offer some type of guarantee on their service work, and that can offer piece of mind to a non-technical person who would normally rely on someone other than themselves to keep their old radios going. Many of the larger dealers have connections with shipping companies and freight handlers and can offer discounted shipping on larger items.
Publications and Antique Radio Clubs.
There are a number of national publications dealing with vintage radio and electronic collectibles and some have "for sale" ads in them. Many times buying this way, you are buying collector to collector and thus may have someone on the other end that can accurately describe the condition and status of an old set you are considering. Again shipping can be an issue if the distance is far away. There are many antique radio clubs in the United States and in a growing number of foreign countries. Becoming a member of a club and attending their meets would be a great way to not only find collectible and desirable sets, but also to network and meet fellow enthusiasts who share your hobby. By getting to know other collectors and letting them know what you collect and what you are searching for, you can often get leads and info on sets that might be for sale. Likewise, if they tell you what they are searching for, you can give them a hand in searching for the gems they want. There’s a whole social and fraternal feeling if you find the right club to join. Look on-line to search for local and regional clubs in your area.
There are those folks who enjoy traveling around and looking for old sets, not only because of the thrill of the chase, but also because they get to meet a lot of interesting people that normally they might not have met. There is nothing quite like poking around a dusty garage, attic, or barn, and finding a hidden treasure lurking behind a pile of stuff. There are those who don’t have time or the ability to travel around and devote time to searching and for them the internet might be a way to find a particular type of set without expending too much time searching for it. Many enjoy swap meets and garage sales, and looking through a variety of interesting items in the search for an old radio. Whichever way you choose to do your hunting, good luck, and always remember to have fun and keep your eyes peeled…you never know what might come your way!