Real & Reproduction (Updated)

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One of the most unique & beautiful radios is the Sparton Bluebird.  It was designed in the 1930’s Deco age.  Bluebirds normally sell for about $2,500 to $5,000 depending on the condition.  In the late 1990’s, the Thomas & Crosley companies sold reproductions of the Sparton Bluebird (obviously manufactured by the same company).  The major difference was they used 16-inch mirrors, instead of the approximately 14-inch mirrors used on the original.  They also used chrome feet instead of black, and the dial was not exactly like the original Bluebird, among many other variances.  However, the beauty of the design was all there.  In fact, despite the differences between the real & reproduction, the reproduction radio is as beautiful to view as the original.

Those reproductions are now hard to find…collectors don’t want to part with them.  In April 2016, one sold on eBay for nearly $500.  Not bad for a reproduction.  Later, Crosley made a 14-inch version, but unfortunately it appears they kept the large chrome circle the same size, which made it too big proportionally, and then added their name boldly on the large circle as well.  They also made a mini 8-inch version.  Neither of those versions is very collectible, although they’re still nicely reminiscent of the original design.

The above radio is one of the original 16-inch reproductions, with the feet painted black and a replicated dial.  The purpose isn’t to fool anyone, it’s to make it a more faithful reproduction.  A real Bluebird is shown here:sparton_bluebird_blue_mirror_radio

And here’s another shot of the reproduction:IMG_4795

The real thing is always best, but the beauty of the original design can be found in a well-made reproduction.

The blue mirror on the original Sparton is like the case of a Catalin radio.  The wooden box that holds the chassis is simply utilitarian, and is normally hidden by the mirror.  So, if the original 1930’s mirror breaks and is replaced by a new mirror, doesn’t that make it a reproduction?  Certainly, if a Catalin case is replaced by something newer, the radio would not be considered original, even if the other parts were all original.

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Here are two 1937 Emerson Tombstones.  Only they’re not.  They’re actually full size reproductions made by expert parts provider Kris Gimmy several years ago.  A Washington collector I know owns these two radios, and is very happy to have them mixed in with his original and expensive Catalin radios.

Update: Below is a radio that was made to look like a red Air King.  The chassis is original, but the red case is painted instead of colored Plaskon.  It sold for nearly $5,000!

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Update 2:  The below Crosley reproduction of a Sparton “Sled” went for nearly $800 in April, 2016.image

Fada Bullet…Iconic

In the world of Catalin radios, there are many that are more valuable than the Fada Bullet, but there are no designs that are more iconic.

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Recently picked up this 1940 Fada Bullet in butterscotch & red Catalin.  I already had this color combination, but wanted the pre-war model 115, to go with our maroon 1945 post-war model 1000.

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Besides the older radio having a bit of a darker patina, you can see the dials, knobs, and handles have different designs.

Art is in the eye of the beholder, and for me, the Butterscotch & Red is the best Fada Bullet color combination.  I also like the Maroon & Butterscotch, because of the contrast of colors.  The Green Onyx is a little boring, and the Blue (which is the most valuable), would be the best if it would just stay blue, instead of turning a dirty greenish brown.  So now, we finally have both pre-war and post-war Fada Bullets in our collection:

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It was many years ago when good friend Al Koontz found the post-war maroon Fada…our first Catalin radio.  Anyone who wants just one example of a Catalin radio in their collection, couldn’t go wrong with a Fada Bullet.

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Dream Find (with updates)

It’s a radio collectors dream…to find a rare & valuable radio at a garage sale.

So I’m checking the radios on eBay, and a brand new listing pops up:IMG_4099

It’s listed as a Catalin Sentinel 248-NR, and described as “brown”…no cracks or breaks.  The seller doesn’t know the key thing.  Under that discolored surface…it’s really blue.

The lucky find was made by a person who doesn’t know or collect radios.  It wouldn’t be right for someone to try to steal it by offering the seller an unfair amount.  So I quickly sent an email to the seller letting them know they had a very valuable radio, that it’s blue, and that one like it sold for a huge sum at an auction in 2007.  With both sides now having the necessary information, there could be a fair negotiation.

I found out the seller was a very nice woman named Lori.  She said:  “I was in the garage of a hoarder house on the south side of Chicago”.  “It was sitting on a shelf, and I thought it looked cool, so I offered them $75”.  Soon she was getting lots of emails with offers, she also got a laugh when I mentioned the grille was upside down.IMG_4092

Eventually, Lori settled on a very solid offer of $12,000…not as high as the $30,000 paid at that 2007 auction, but it certainly was a dream for her to have a garage sale item be a true treasure.  Now we need to see the Sentinel when it’s taken back to it’s beautiful swirled blue.

Update:  Found out the Sentinel was purchased by friend & collector Ron Stoner of South Carolina.  Ron taught me a lot about radios when we both lived in Lincoln, Nebraska.  He says he plans to only lightly clean the radio, rather than taking it back to it’s bright blue color, because some collectors prefer their radios untouched…and of course…someday he’ll be selling it.

Update 2Found out another friend & collector eventually bought it, and he preferred that the Blue Sentinel be taken back to its original color:IMG_5286

The owner is Hugh Hunt.  Hugh & his wife Jane have what looks to be the best Catalin collection in the world.  Plus, they have many other rare non-Catalin radios.  You can see their radios at www.goldenhue.net.

Thank you to Lori, Ron & Hugh for letting me tell their story.  So glad we get to see the radio case in all it’s original blue glory!

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