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Art Nouveau
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Art Nouveau was a phenomenon with many faces. Between 1890 and 1910, artists developed a variety of styles from the plant-like forms of the Belgian-French Art Nouveau to the ornamentation of the Viennese Secession. They were all striving to create a new, modern style and pursued a comprehensive renewal of art and, in some countries, a renewed national identity.


                                   
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Listen to That Radio, Mister
by Bob Brooke

QUESTION:  

I’ve been going through old boxes filled with junk that have sat in my attic for years. In the process, I came across several old transistor radios, all of which work. Are these collectible? And are they of any value?

Thanks,
Frank

 

________________________________________________________

ANSWER:  

Transistor radios were the first common electronic device to be downsized. Today, we take miniaturization for granted and have radio broadcasts and music at our fingertips on multiple devices. But when transistor radios first came on the scene, the modern age for many had begun.

Once a worthless, "modern" radio, the transistorized radio has become the foremost radio-related collectible. In the late 1980s, most transistor radios would be left on a dealer's table for $25 or less. Today, many of those same sets cost $50 to $250.



The Regency TR-1, the first transistor radio, introduced for the 1954 Christmas season, could have been bought in 1990 for about $100. Three years later, most TR-1s sold for about $300, and certain rare colors sold for several times that amount. But the market for transistor radios can be volatile. The Zenith 500H, a larger radio from 1957, sold for about $125 to $200. Not only is the styling of the 500H interesting, but the sound is better than many tube-type radios. However, quite a few 500H radios surfaced, so 500H radios often go unsold or for very low prices.

Novelty transistor radios, those shaped like an item or product, started the transistor collecting craze, but few have ever broken the $200 mark. Most sell for $10 to $50
while early transistors have at least doubled in price.

Although some collectors enjoy both the novelty and the early shirt-pocket transistor radios, most collectors have specialized. Dealers generally deal in one type or the but often will cross the line if an interesting transistor shows up, at a good price, that’s outside their normal selling expertise.

f you’re considering collecting or dealing in novelty transistors, you can find early generic examples from the United States and Japan, like the derringer, rocket ship, and owl, or you can look for product-specific transistors like the Tropicana Orange, Mork from Ork TV-inspired set, and the Planters Peanuts can. Generally the typical bottle-, can-, and animal-shaped radios sell for under $25, while the early and interesting household item-shaped sets sell under $75.

Collecting novelty transistor radios has an added advantage that even sets made in the 1990s quickly become collectibles of some value. Although Polaroid 600 Film radios and Coca-Cola can radios have swamped the market, many other recent product and shape transistors had limited in production, and are often sought after by collectors just weeks or months after being sold-out. The Helping Hand, (the Hamburger Helper character), and Master Pad-lock transistor novelties are only two of many recent sets that collectors are after.

You can assemble a good collection consisting of about 50 radios in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and types can be put together for under $1,000. These can be easily picked up at many flea markets, some antique shops and radio meets. While many collectors look for 1960s-made sets of interestingly shaped items, don't ignore the 1970s and 1980s product-type sets, especially if they’re clean or boxed.

New novelty radios in the box are often twice the price of clean, but used, sets. Manufacturers made most of these novelty radios within the last 30 years, and sold or gave away tens of thousands of each variety, so selection and availability shouldn’t be a problem. You should wait and choose only the best examples of novelties, unlike the early transistor radios, which appeared over 30 years ago and often saw considerable use. People considered transistor radios to be disposable and threw many of them away when they no longer worked.

If you’d like to start picking up the early transistors, experienced collectors agree that you should look for nicely colored, clean and complete sets and those that are small, pocket-sized if possible, usually with a plastic or nylon case. Few of the leather sets are popular, although some of the smaller, shirt-pocket sized leather radios from 1955 and 1956 are bought and sold. Look for civil defense markings on the dial. Most collectors choose AM-band only sets, although some AM/FM sets can have a nice look.

After the release of the Regency TR-1, Raytheon, Bulova, Sonora, Mitchell and lots of other manufacturers started selling and shipping transistor sets across the United States. You can collect all American sets, Japanese and American, shirt-pocket only, or just great looking and colorful sets from the 1950s and 1960s.

The most valuable sets today include the early Regency models, especially in colors other than white or black, the Regency look-a-likes by Mitchel, Sonora, Mantola and Bulova, the Raytheon plastic sets, and the solar powered radios by Admiral and Hoff-man. Plus, the smaller sets by Sony, both the 1950s transistor, and the 1960s integrated circuit sets, are collected, as are the smaller AM sets by Standard and Crown.

A collection of about 40 to 50 early transistor sets with some important radios included, may cost you well over $2.000, unless you spend a lot of time looking for bargains. However, if the sets are clean and complete, they should be worth more than the typical asking prices of today, that is if you hold your collection for a few years before deciding to resell. Regardless of your interests, early and novelty transistor radios are “hot,” and getting hotter and are a great item to collect.

 

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