Sparton Nocturne

For some collectors, the Sparton Nocturne is the ultimate radio.  The Art Deco classic was styled by renowned industrial designer Walter Dorwin Teague.  As you can see in the ad below (from 1935), Teague’s name is a big deal, and the design of the radio was to be revealed at a radio industry exposition.

(These 2 ads & all photos can be enlarged with a click.)

The Sparton Nocturne is a large floor model radio made of mirrored glass and chrome.  It came in a choice of blue or peach colored mirrors.  Our son, Paul, took some photos of a Nocturne at the Milwaukee Art Museum:

The radio was displayed with other pieces of industrial art.  Look closely, and you can even see the reflection of a red Air King Skyscraper radio in the close-up photo.

(The practical workings of the chassis and speaker are hidden in a large wooden box behind the beautiful mirror.)

The main reason there are not many Nocturnes is because they were very high priced for 1935.  The $350 price tag was about the same cost as an automobile.  These radios were meant as lobby displays for high class hotels, not for use in typical homes.  The other thing is that it’s likely many of these radios ended up with broken mirrors.  After 84 years, it would be interesting to know how many of the surviving Nocturnes still have their original glass.

Today, that $350 price doesn’t seem very high when you consider that the value of one of these radios is closing in on $100,000.  A Sparton Nocturne sold for $95,000 in 2017.  The cheapest one I’ve heard about was $40,000.  Of course condition is a key factor, along with whether two really serious buyers are at the same auction.

Most Sparton radio buyers in the 1930’s opted for the much smaller table radio, the Bluebird (for about $40).  Paul photographed a pair of those at the museum too (above).  The Bluebird was also designed by Walter Dorwin Teague.  They’re highly collectible, and normally sell for $2,500 to $5,000+.

(Spartons from the collection of Hugh & Jane Hunt.)

The chrome & glass Sparton radio models reflect industrial art at it’s best, and certainly deserve to be in museums.

(Milwaukee Art Museum, photo by Paul Bausch)

World’s Best Radio Collection?

It seems impossible that there could be a greater radio collection than the one owned by Hugh and Jane Hunt of Blair, Nebraska.

(All photos can be enlarged with a click and zoom.)

The first display when you walk into the large “radio room” is the above group of amazing radios.  Collectors will see that the shelves are filled with many extremely hard-to-find radios, and yet, here they are all together!

Take a look at the row of Air King “Skyscrapers”.  Those nine radios from the 1930’s represent some of the most beautiful and colorful radios ever produced. Based on auction and private-sale prices I’ve seen, that one row of radios is worth around a quarter-of-a-million dollars.

(The yellow Air King is 1 of 2 known to exist.)

The second set of shelves (above), has 49 Catalin radios.  Look at them closely and you’ll see a whole row of Motorola “Circle Grilles”, and nearly a row of colorful Emerson “Little Miracles”.  There are a bunch of Tom Thumb radios, and on one of those shelves are these two radios:

These “Split Grille”  Detrola and Symphony radios are extremely rare, as is the Espey radio sitting next to them in the group photo.  Two shelves below is a blue Sentinel “Wavy Grille”.

One of these went for over $30,000 at an auction in New York.  Throughout Hugh & Jane’s collection are so many radios that individually would be the centerpiece of a typical collection like mine.

Next, look at the long wall across from those radios.

It’s hard for the mind to even take in these 87 fabulous Catalin radios!  You’ll have to “click & zoom” this photo to appreciate what’s there.  On this end alone, you can see the Sparton “Cloisonné” sets, Fada “Bullets”, 12 (12!) Emerson Tombstones, and rare Kadette “Clockettes”.

Here’s a shot from the other end of the shelves.  Enlarge & zoom to look closely at the gorgeous Fada’s, Addison’s, Emerson’s, DeWald’s, Sentinel’s, Motorola’s, Garod’s and more.

See anything you’d like to have in your collection?

Here is the last set of shelves on this end of the room:

(At the bottom are 4 ultra-rare Namco Catalin radios.)

(The Blue [oxidized to green] Namco may be the only one in existence.)

Now we turn to the shelves on the other end of the very long room.  There are non-Catalin radios in multiple displays, featuring rare Bakelite, Plaskon, wooden, mirrored, novelty, and some foreign radios:

There are also larger radios not on shelves:

Besides radios, there’s the recently acquired 1942 Rock-Ola jukebox, seen here with Jane and Hugh:

People may choose different types of radio collecting…wooden table radios, consoles, early breadboards, transistors, etc., and tastes differ.  This radio collection includes every Catalin model listed in John Sideli’s famous book Classic Plastic Radios of the 1930’s and 1940’s (and a couple models Sideli missed).  The collection even includes complete color combinations of some of the models, and most of the truly collectible radios made of other plastics.  Plastic was a new medium, and some of the world’s greatest designers developed these 1930’s and 1940’s radios.

(Jon Walker, Philip Bausch, David O’Hanlon, Hugh Hunt, Jane Hunt, John O’Connor, and Jeannette Bausch.  Thanks for the photo Scott!)

When we radio collectors get together at the Hunt house, we love to look at this “museum” of radios.  Is this multi-million-dollar radio collection the best in the world?  It is to us.

Bonus:  Hugh recently added a car radio to his collection.  Attached to it was this 1954 Cadillac:

Radios For Sale (with Price List)

Most of the below radios are for sale.  (Click to enlarge photo)  The second photo shows which radios have sold (updated as sales occur), and which radios are not for sale (NFS).  

If you’re interested in a radio, let me know, and I’ll give you a description of the condition, and follow that up with photos if you wish.   541-543-3489 (in Oregon)

The price list is below the group photos, and has individual photos of the sale radios (click to enlarge).  Individual photos are removed after a Radio is sold, so the radios still available are easy to spot.

Please forward this post to anyone who is interested in radios.  You should be able to just click on the title of this article, and email it.  Thank you!

 Top of Bookcase:

Swirled Plastic Cavalcade RS1A…Sold

Red & Gray Plaskon Emerson 744B…Sold

Lafayette BB-22…$495 Sold

Philco Boomerang…$495 Sold

Fada Temple butterscotch & red Catalin…$950 Sold

Belmont 519 (all original)…$375 Sold

Black Bakelite & Ivory General Television “A”…$275 Sold

Left Bookcase Section:

Ivory Plaskon Kadette 40 Jewel…$425  Sold

Blue Motorola 51A…$350 Sold

Yellow Catalin Emerson AX235 Little Miracle…$1,500 Sold

Catalin Sentinel 177U (248NT)…$1,600 Sold

GE Catalin Jewel Box…$1,700 Sold

Blue Plaskon Gem 955…$295:

Emerson 246 Plaskon D-Dial…$395:

Red Catalin Chip Holder w/200 Catalin chips…$199:

“Radio” Radio…$75 Sold

Plaskon Coronado Racetrack…$399  Sold

Crosley Aqua 10-139 (rarest color, perfect chrome)…$375 Sold

Plaskon Majestic Triple Fin…$425  Sold

Rare Maroon (not brown) Bakelite Majestic “Zephyr”…$249:

 2nd From Left Bookcase Section:

Catalin RCA Little Nipper…$1,200  Sold

Catalin Crosley Split Grille…$1,900:

Blue Plaskon Detrola Super Pee Wee…Sold

Bakelite & Ivory Swirl Detrola 218 Pee Wee…$325  Sold

Catalin Motorola Circle Grille…$2,200  Sold

Catalin Oxblood Red DeWald Harp…Sold

Catalin Brown & Swirl DeWald Harp…$750 Sold

White Catalin Emerson Patriot…$775 Sold

Green Catalin Aristocrat Sold

Blue Catalin Emerson Patriot…$1,200 Sold

Remler Plaskon & Bakelite radio/phonograph…$595  Sold

Remler Black Bakelite & Ivory 5505…$375 Sold

 Center Section:

Air King “Skyscraper”…Sold

Green Catalin Emerson BT-245 Tombstone…$2,700 Sold

 4th From Left Bookcase Section:

Maroon & Butterscotch Catalin Fada Bullet…Sold

Blue Fada 1005…$325 Sold

Red & Butterscotch Catalin Garod Commander…$1,200:

Red Catalin Addison 5 Courthouse (all original)…$2,400 Sold

Red Catalin Sentinel 284 Wavy Grille…$1,900 Sold

Green & Black Catalin Bendix…Sold

Red Catalin RCA 66X8…$695 Sold

Blue & Ivory Plaskon Setchell Carlson…Sold

Plaskon DeWald 555 Cash Register…$595 Sold

 5th From Left Bookcase Section:

Maroon Bakelite & Ivory Plaskon Addison 2…NFS


Catalin Green & Butterscotch Addison 2…$375 (damaged) Sold

Blue/Green Plaskon Addison 2…$1,200  Sold

Majestic Studio 59 Chrome Grille…$735 (original wood finish, restored electronics) Sold

Grunow 450 with perfect Chrome Grille…$395 Sold

World’s Fair Glass Rod Zenith…$595 Sold

Wood Majestic Duo Moderne Chrome Grille…Sold

Wood Jewel R-188 Chrome Grille…Sold

 Not shown in group photo:

Wood Addison 5 Courthouse…$375 Sold

Blue Crosley Bullseye 11-101-U…$195 Sold

Replica of Sonora Excellence 301 by Sharper Image…$75 Sold

 All radios…Buyer pays shipping

Plaskon Radios

Bakelite and Catalin get most of the attention, but Plaskon radios have some of the best designs and colors.  Plaskon was molded with more detail than Catalin, and could be colorful without being painted like Bakelite.  Below are some examples of radios made out of Plaskon.

An elegant ivory Plaskon Kadette model 40 “Jewel” from 1935.  It’s a small radio, about 7 1/2″ wide by 5 1/2″ high.

Here’s a rare cobalt blue Plaskon 1946 Setchell Carlson model 416.  Sometimes people paint other “Frog Eyes” in these colors, but this is an original model made of blue and ivory Plaskon (not painted).

The 1939 Farnsworth AT-11 “D-Dial” is usually seen in brown Bakelite, but the details of the design show up best in ivory Plaskon.

Here’s the Plaskon version of a 1947 Coronado “Racetrack”, model 43-8190.  It’s usually found in painted Bakelite.  The trim is a swirled blue polystyrene plastic that looks similar to Catalin.

This is another radio with a combination of plastics.  The main case is blue Plaskon, the front is Beetle Plastic, and the knobs seem to be Tenite.  It’s a 1939 Detrola model 219 Super Pee Wee.

Another small radio is the 1938 Emerson 246 D-Dial.  It has a very stylized Plaskon case, giving it a really cool look.  It uses the same Emerson chassis as the Catalin Little Miracle.

Rarely seen in Plaskon instead of brown Bakelite is the 1938 DeWald model 555 cash register shaped push button radio.  What an original design.

This Addison 2 from 1940 is made of blue/green Plaskon.  Addisons were manufactured in Canada.

Probably the cleverest and smallest table radio with a record player is this 1947 Remler model 5300.  Much of the radio is ivory Plaskon, but it also incorporates Bakelite.  The lid flips back to allow the 78 rpm records to fit onto a small turntable.

One of the best designed radios ever is this small Emerson tombstone radio, model U5A from 1936.  It’s very detailed molded lines are as Deco as they come.

Speaking of Deco, I was given a book about the Deco era, and the only radio they showed in it was this 1937 Majestic model 651 Triple Fin.  Most of these are Bakelite or painted Bakelite, but this one is Plaskon.

Canada was the source for this light blue Gem radio, model 955.  It was manufactured by the Jewel Radio Company in the 1940’s.

This 1939 Detrola model 274 Split Grille is another small radio with an ivory Plaskon case.  The grille and knobs are colored Tenite.

One of the oldest Plaskon designs is the Air King Skyscraper which originated in 1933.  This one, model 770, is from 1937.  It has the speaker opening in the front, instead of on the top like the earlier models.  (Note:  Radio friend G.R. bought this one from me, and took the photo.)

One of the main reasons Plaskon radios can be hard to find is that the cases are pretty thin, making them susceptible to breakage, stress lines and cracks.  Of course their rarity makes them that much more attractive to collectors.

Motorola Circle Grille

Among the most desirable Catalin radios is the 1940 Motorola 50XC, which is known as the Circle Grille.

It’s a fairly small radio, about 10-inches wide, 6 high, and 5 deep.  This particular radio has a rich butterscotch patina with that deep Catalin shine.  The colors of cases for this model also include red, turquoise, green, & brown tortoise-shell.

In his book “Classic Plastic”, John Sedeli calls the Motorola Circle Grille “One of the most appealing radios”…and says “The cabinet and dial face are both beautifully designed and very Deco.”  The large round speaker bezel and the wrap-around horizontal lines are distinctive features.

As you can see, this radio was rough-looking when I got it.  The bezel attaches to the case with screws, and someone had over-tightened the bottom screw and split the circle.  Fortunately, that was the only serious problem.  While the speaker bezel was being professionally repaired by Dan Blake, I cleaned the entire radio, and hand-polished the cabinet with Simichrome.  When the bezel was done, I replaced the grille cloth, and also had the electronics completely restored by Northwest Vintage Radio Society member Blake Dietze.

It was a bit of a project, and I needed “a little help from my friends”, but it’s nice to have a Motorola Circle Grille in the collection!

Radio Swap Meet

The Northwest Vintage Radio Society had a sale this April in Portland, Oregon.  It was mostly a swap meet with members selling radios and parts to other members, even though the event was open to the public.

My wife, Jeannette, helped bring in all of the radios from our vehicle, and took care of our table while I checked out the other tables.  Unfortunately for me, only a limited number of club members are into collecting Catalin, Bakelite, and other plastic radios.

Above are some of the radios we had for sale.  We sold three radios and a Catalin poker chip holder…none of which are pictured…because the photos were taken after the sales.  We’re starting to reduce our collection again, and we were happy to sell three radios, but it looks like we’ll have to use eBay for more sales.  The radios we sold were a black Bakelite Philco TP7, an ivory Plaskon Remler Scottie, and a Canadian blue Beetle Plastic GE C400…all shown below.

Emerson Tombstones…Catalin, Plaskon, Wood

Emerson Tombstones from 1936 to 1938:


Emerson Tombstones are among the coolest table radios ever designed.  Sometimes they’re called “mini-Tombstones”, because they’re only about 10-inches high and 7-inches wide.  That’s definitely “mini” compared with the large wooden Tombstones of the 1930’s.  The oldest of these radios are the Wooden 110 and the ivory Plaskon U5A, both from 1936.img_2766This version features some beautifully grained & inlaid wood, along with acorn knobs.  It’s slightly larger than the Plaskon version, even though they use the same chassis.

p1040438The 1936 ivory Plaskon Emerson is the most Deco version, with a lot of great design touches that are simply too intricate for Catalin or wood.

It was a year later, 1937, for the first Catalin version:img_2153The 1937 Model AU-190 has a sculptured front, features a distinctive grille cloth, a sunburst dial, and chunky Catalin knobs.  Another year later, there were some major style changes.

img_3473The 1938 Catalin Model BT-245 case is similar, but it drops the sculptured front, and most dramatically it has a contrasting off-white louvered grille, and matching knobs.  In his book “Classic Plastic”, about Catalin Radios, John Sideli says “This is probably one of the most successful design updates that you could ever find.”  He also says the beautiful colors were accented by the contrasting grilles and knobs.  I’m also partial to the contrasting colors of the 1938 model, with the above red being my favorite version.  However, many collectors prefer the 1937 model.  My guess is because the plastic is all Catalin, and those Catalin knobs are definitely more impressive than the ivory plastic ones.

IMG_3380Catalin shouldn’t be left in the UV rays for long!

Lafayette BB-22…how rare?

Normally when you go to Google Image and put in the name of a radio, you get lots of photos.  When I Googled the Lafayette BB-22, I got one photo and one graphic from an old price guide.  The photo was from the Radio Museum, and that radio had the wrong knobs.  Here’s the Lafayette I recently acquired:img_7085

It was made in 1940, and has the bold streamlined Deco look of the era.


The one from the Radio Museum is black, as is this one.  This particular radio was saved from extinction by someone who did a great job of repairing some cracks (which can be seen only from the inside) and doing such a professional paint job that at first I thought it was black Bakelite.  It’s only the second repainted radio in my collection, and I’m more than happy to add this distinctive design.



It has a very cool dial that’s obviously a Deco design.  These original knobs had some crazing, but most of it polished out, after I took those first photos.  The knobs go nicely with the dial and the grille cloth.  The BB-22 is about 10-inches wide, 7 high, and 5 deep.  It’s a good-sounding AM radio.  This Lafayette was purchased from Dick Bosch, along with these two near-mint radios…a Fada 845, and a Belmont 519.



You can see more of Dick’s collection in the article below.

The Dick Bosch Collection

Most of the members of the Northwest Vintage Radio Society know Dick Bosch.  He’s a NWVRS member, a collector, a repairer, and a seller of radios.  Recently, he’s been actively selling his personal collection.  If you weren’t lucky enough to see it in person, here are some photos.  The main display is in a neat set of bookshelves along his office wall.  Here’s a general shot, and the individual sections follow, so you can see the radios better.  In fact, clicking on the photos will not only make them larger, but clearer too.


Definitely a lot of great radios!  The one blank spot on the shelves was normally occupied by a Beetle Plastic Addison A2, but that day, Dick was working on the electronics in his shop.  Dick and his wife Shirley, who live in Vancouver, Washington, collected many more radios over the years, and have sold over 400 of them that Dick restored.


A couple of fun facts.  As a Marine in the early 1960’s, Dick worked at the top secret Area 51.  While visiting nearby Las Vegas at that time, he got to see Frank Sinatra and the rest of the “Rat Pack” perform.

Air King Skyscraper (2019 update)

The 1933 Air King “Skyscraper” is so innovative and cool, it’s included as the first radio in John Sideli’s classic book on Catalin radios…even though it’s not Catalin!

Some Air King Skyscrapers made of colorful Plaskon, like the four below, have gone for $40,000 to $50,000 each in auctions and private sales.

img_5112 img_5110img_5113

A dramatic example of the crystalline finish in black:img_5111

All of the above Air King Models 52 & 66 are owned by Hugh & Jane Hunt.  In 1933, it was unprecedented to offer radios in such an array of vivid colors.  According to my research…Plaskon versions were available in red, blue, green, yellow, lavender, ivory, and white.  Bakelite versions were available in brown and black.  And the crystalline finishes were only available in black and ivory…you saw the black above, and now the ivory:img_9813The crystalline finish is a smooth clear-coating that at times oxidized to show copper or gold tones.  Some collectors call it a “Flake Finish”.

fullsizerenderHere’s an elegant pure white.  Thanks to GR, a collector in Florida, for the two impressive examples above.

A close up of the speaker grille on top:fullsizerender-1

img_6911This is my one lonely Air King Skyscraper.  It’s the Model 770 from 1937.  Not as cool as the 1933 versions, but still a nice collectible radio.  The older models had the speaker grille on the top of the radio.  This model obviously has the speaker in the front, and has an added tuning eye.  Skyscrapers tend to look bigger in photos than in person.  They’re only about 12-inches high, 9-inches wide, and 7-inches deep, but according to Sideli, it was a major step forward to mold a plastic case of this size in 1933, when most radios were made of wood.  The design is by Harold Van Doren.  He had many excellent streamlined industrial designs in the 30’s, 40’s & 50’s, including the first two-door refrigerator.

Update 1:  Here’s a real find.  GR from Florida obtained this extremely rare green Air King 770 that was an export model.  This one was discovered in South America.

Update 2:  More impressive finds from GR.  First is the wonderfully dramatic ivory and black “Egyptian” model.  The second one is the “didn’t know it existed” red model 770.  Rare examples indeed…Thanks GR!