Sure, current generations prefer their smartphones to vintage radios, but some 100 years ago, this invention was one of the best that happened to mankind. Seriously speaking, vintage radios are among my favourite, because they not only add a touch of class to your interior design, some are even workable.
Radio waves were discovered in the later part of the 19th century, but it was not until 1910s and 1920s that radios went into mass production by Guglielmo Marconi, and they became standard appliances in every household. According to Collectors Weekly, radios were designed in wooden boxes so they could blend in with other furniture, though materials such as Bakelite was also used.
There are a lot of different types of vintage radios – and obviously, some styles were popular such as those that were influenced by the Art Deco movement, and also cathedral radios born during the Great Depression. The age, make, model and condition will make which one you want to purchase a difficult task, and it would be better that you get a price guide to help you.
Some features that you need to know in order to identify a good, vintage radio set during the purchase cycle:
- Design – Different eras gave rise to different types and makes of radios. For instance, plastic was not used before 1937, cathedral designs were not seen frequently until after 1929, slide rule dials were not popular before 1937, and plastic portable radios did not become popular until 1946, according to the Radio Museum.
- Manufacturer – You can find out the manufacturer and model of the radio, which is often displayed on the set’s front, on the dial, or on the rear panel. If the information is not on these areas, try the components or parts that could have markings on them. Some of the more popular manufacturers include Philco, RCA, Crosley, Atwater, Emerson and Zenith.
- Model Number – The radio should have a model number displayed on it, usually in a mixture of numbers and letters, together with the manufacturer’s brand.
- Radio Name – Some radios could have actual “names” printed together with the brand.
Unfortunately not every model is listed, even less illustrated. If you have an old radio and wish to identify it, you can check it against guide books such as ‘The Collectors Guide to Antique Radios’ by John Slusser, ‘Radios of Canada’ by Lloyd Swackhammer, for instance. There is also an online site for antique Philco radios. There are definitely many more online sites dedicated to each individual brand – there are vintage radios for sale on eBay, on Etsy and many other sites. Because radios have been manufactured in so many different types, models and makes over the past 20 years, it is definitely important to do your research properly to avoid getting a bad deal.