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Jean McClelland: Collecting vintage radios is an intriguing hobby with local help

Sep. 08, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Imagine it is a Sunday afternoon in September 1935. Most families would have been gathered around the radio listening to their favorite shows. The listening fare would have been equal to what we watch on today's television. Soap operas, variety shows, ball games, news and quiz shows would have dominated the airways. Families often wiled away the hours listening to their favorite entertainment when they had a day off.

Today those family entertainment boxes called radios are very collectible. There were thousands of styles produced and numerous companies manufacturing the product. Many of the names such as GE, RCA, Emerson, Motorola and Westinghouse are readily recognized even today.

Many times those who collect vintage radios are tinkerers who like to restore them to their former glory. Those old radios of the past are much easier to understand and fix than the iPod of today. It brings great satisfaction to these folks to bring a broken piece of history back to the present in perfect condition. A word of warning here in that some older radios used a high voltage that could give a body quite a charge if the fixer didn't know what he or she was doing. Long story short, read up on your vintage radio before taking a screwdriver to it.

There are three basic types of radios that collectors covet. They include crystal, tube and transistor. Most times a collector will concentrate on one or the other. This is such a broad field that narrowing down a particular radio or category to collect only makes sense. Again before becoming a radio aficionado read up on each of the categories to see which one best suit your taste.

A visit to our own Museum of Radio and Technology located in West Huntington might be a good start to this hobby. If you Google them you will find they have a great website that includes a virtual tour, slide show and a link to the Facebook page. Stepping out of our own community a much broader site that might interest and direct a person with this interest is www.radiomuseum.org. It seems to have worldwide connections that might be of interest.

Amazon.com lists a plethora of books on collecting radios and most look to be very informative. This is a topic one would want to read up on before jumping into the fray because some of these entertainment centers can be quite costly.

Jean McClelland writes about antiques for The Herald-Dispatch.