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December 10, 2010

Vintage Radios

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Excerpts from Eve M. Kahn's "Antiques" column in today's New York Times follow.

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Michael Schoeman, a retired clothing manufacturing executive, ran out of room this summer for the 1930s and ’40s radios he kept at his home on the Upper East Side.

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His three cats kept squeezing between the 100 machines on his shelves and threatening to knock them over.

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[Bonhams] will auction them on Tuesday.

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Mr. Schoeman and his wife, Diane, purchased the pieces through dealers in a decade-long buying spree that ended about four years ago.

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Mr. Schoeman was always drawn to "something I didn’t have yet, in a color I thought was amazing, in prime condition," he said.

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The Bonhams lots are mostly made of Catalin, a formaldehyde mixture, sometimes combined with tinted mirrored glass and iridescent enamel.

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Product names like Air King, Duchess, Temple and Cathedral reflect pre-World War II optimism that radio would keep dominating the news and entertainment market.

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Estimates range from $700 for a marbleized green 1946 model from Bendix Aviation Corporation to $35,000 for a red 1933 Air King that looks like an Art Deco ziggurat skyscraper.

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The radios often have their original frayed cloth cords. Mr. Schoeman never had them rewired; he also said he never turned any of them on to hear the AM programs that they were built to receive. "I’ve always been afraid," he said.

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He said he knows a collector whose wife once distractedly switched on a vintage machine worth over $10,000, "and the tubes melted the radio," he said.

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The auction starts at 11 a.m. ET next Tuesday, December 14, 2010.

Catalog here, from which the exemplars above and below are pictured.

Bonus: you can bid online.

email Jo Barber (jo.barber@bonhams.com) to find out how.

Fair warning: there goes the day — and your savings account.

December 10, 2010 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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Comments

Fantastic collection, when things had personality and uniqueness. I love the radio, and use it heavily everyday.

Posted by: Frisky | Dec 10, 2010 9:46:38 PM

I still have a nice, wood case, AM/FM tube radio - a Dumont. I love that beast....

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Dec 10, 2010 2:39:49 PM

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