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Art Deco debuted at the International Exhibition of Modern and Industrial Decorative Arts in:

London in 1900.
Berlin in 1916
Paris in 1925
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ART DECO
1910 - 1939
by Charlotte & Tim Benton

Art deco—the style of the flapper, the luxury ocean liner, and the skyscraper—came to epitomize the glamour, luxury, and hedonism of the Jazz Age. After bursting onto the world stage, it quickly swept the globe, influencing everything from architecture to interior design, fashion jewelry, and radios. Above all, it became the style of the pleasure palaces of the age—hotels, nightclubs, and movie theaters.
                                   
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Tune Into Old Radios
by Bob Brooke

 


Radios have been an essential part of life for nearly a century. When they first appeared, they literally opened up the world for thousands of people. Like many collectibles, radios offer a piece of nostalgia. In their heyday, they were the primary source of home entertainment, delivering music, drama, news and even soap operas to people's living rooms. The radio also gave birth to many famous names including Jack Benny and The Lone Ranger. And it was radio that brought about near panic with Orson Welles’ 1938 broadcast of the H.G. Wells drama, "War of the Worlds."

Radios attract collectors fascinated with this early, primitive technology. Some buy old radios to accent Art Deco interiors. Some buy them from a particular period while others collect radios made by a specific company. And some even collect radio parts, such as tubes and knobs.

A Brief History of Radio
Although radio transmission had been possible as early as 1865, it wasn’t until 1927, with the introduction of the radio tube and AC power that radio became convenient and widely available. By 1940, just about every home and even some cars had a radio.

Nikola Tesla demonstrated the transmission and radiation of radio frequency energy in 1892, proposing that it might be used for the telecommunication of information. In 1895, Guglielmo Marconi built a wireless system capable of transmitting signals at long distances and demonstrated that radio could be used in commercial, military and marine communications. In 1901, Marconi conducted the first successful transatlantic radio communications. The U.S. Patent Office awarded Marconi a patent for the invention of radio in 1904.



Reginald Fessenden and Lee de Forest invented amplitude-modulated or AM radio which enabled more than one station to send signals at the same time. On Christmas Eve 1906, Fessenden made the first radio audio broadcast from Brant Rock, Massachusetts.

On March 8, 1916, Harold Power conducted the first continuous broadcast, lasting three hours, from Tufts University under the call sign 1XE. The company later became the first to broadcast on a daily schedule, and the first to broadcast radio dance programs, university professor lectures, the weather, and bedtime stories.

Edwin Howard Armstrong patented three important inventions that made today's radio possible— regeneration, the superheterodyne circuit, and wide-band frequency modulation or FM. Regeneration or the use of positive feedback greatly increased the amplitude of received radio signals to the point where they could be heard without headphones. FM gave listeners a static-free experience with better sound quality and fidelity than AM. In October 1920, radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, received its license and became the first U.S. licensed commercial broadcasting station.

Old Radio Styles
When most people think about radio collecting, they probably picture the "tombstone" style radio with its vertical rectangular shape. The cathedral is another popular style, but its case is pointed or rounded on top. Radios come in a variety of styles and manufacturers employed a variety of materials including wood and several kinds of plastic to make them.

Many collections contain a variety of radios. One of the most interesting is the 1948 Westinghouse Little Jewel, made in the shape of a refrigerator and given away with the purchase of one. They came in different colors, to match the refrigerator purchased by the customer. Today, they’re selling for about $150.

In the 1930s, many radio makers began using Plaskon or Catalin, both early types of plastic. Among the cheapest available at the time, they’re now among the most desirable and most expensive to collect. . Certain Catalin radios in excellent condition can be quite costly because Catalin was very brittle and cracked easily.

Radios with chrome-plated chassis are also popular with collectors. The price of a 1941 Scott Laureate chrome chassis radio compared to the price of a Dusenburg car. Only wealthy people could afford them since they cost as much as $1,000. These were among the first high- performance radios, with some models containing as many as 30 tubes.

The development of the transistor allowed manufacturers to create novelty radios like the 1956 Crosley transistor radio, designed to look like a book, entitled "Enchantment," "Musical Memories," or "Treasure Island." These now sell for about $95. There are also radios in the shape of a Coca-Cola can and even a toilet. Transistor radios like the Zenith Royal 500B, made in 1959 and popularly known as “Owl Eyes,” tend to be more popular with younger collectors.

Hundreds of manufacturers. including RCA, Zenith, and Philco, produced radios. Other names familiar to collectors include Atwater Kent, Arvin, Fada, Bendix, Emerson and Magnavox. There were also companies who made only a small number of radios, such as Maco and Revere.

 

How to Tell the Age of an Old Radio
Dials and tube styles both provide clues to a radio's age. Makers installed small window dials in their radios in the early 1930s. Radios sported larger, round dials by the mid 1930s. But the familiar rectangular dial, known as a slide rule dial, didn’t appear until the late 1930s.

A look at the tubes inside an old radio will also provide clues to its age. From the late 1920s to the mid 1930s, tube bases had four to six pins. The tubes from the mid 1930s have eight pins and a plastic center key. Some metal may also cover the glass. Tubes dating from the 1940s to 1950s are generally smaller than their older counterparts and have seven to nine pins.

Restoring Old Radios
Radio collecting is for people who like to fix old machines. Because people used radios heavily, restoration is as much a part of the collecting process as purchasing a radio. It's better for collectors to fix their own radios than send them for expensive professional repairs. One of the attractions to radio collecting is that buyers can still find the parts necessary to fix them. While most radios can be fixed, finding the old tubes is getting more difficult. A good how-to book, a voltmeter, and some experience and knowledge about the workings of these old machines are the main tools a collector needs to restore old radios.

But getting an old radio to work is only half the problem. Many are in desperate need of restoration. Paint may have to be removed before the original cracked and buckled veneer can be replaced. To restore wooden radio cabinets, a collector needs a sander, veneer salvaged from the cabinet of a junk radio, glue, varnish, and a number of woodworking tools.

How Much is it Worth?
While some old radios sell for a considerable amount of money, most are reasonably priced. For example, a 1947 General Electric 180 table radio, made of wood with a right-hand dial and a cloth grill with horizontal knobs, lists for $30. A 1936 RCA 5T1 wood tombstone with a center dial, upper cloth grill with cut-outs and a tuning eye sells for $150. A 1940 Zenith 6-D455 wooden bookcase radio with an inner dial and controls, fold-down front and two lower shelves, lists for $200. The Zenith Royal 300, marked tubeless and made in 1959, which sold for $80 new, now sells for $75 to $150 while the Zenith Royal 500B, made in 1966, sells for about $75. On the more expensive side is the Fada Catalin Model 1000, Bullet Deco Radio, selling for $2,250. Some radios even come with their original instructions.


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How to Recognize and Refinish Antiques for Pleasure and Profit

Book: How to Recognizing and Refinishing Antiques for Pleasure and Profit
Have you ever bought an antique or collectible that was less than perfect and needed some TLC? Bob's new book offers tips and step-by- step instructions for simple maintenance and restoration of common antiques.

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