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December 10, 2010

Vintage Radios


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



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.


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


[Bonhams] will auction them on Tuesday.


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


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.



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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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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