Nebraska Radio Visit!

We went to Nebraska in September, and had a chance to get together with some radio collecting friends.        IMG_5283Left to right: Jon Walker, David O’Hanlon, Jeannette Bausch, Jane Hunt, Hugh Hunt, John O’Connor, and Scott Vala.  You’ll never meet nicer people.  We always enjoy getting together with them.

Jane and Hugh hosted.  Here are some photos taken in their radio room.


The last photo above shows how the recently acquired blue Sentinel fits in with some of their other radios.  Obviously, the Hunt’s radio collection is stunning!  You can see their collection at:

IMG_1008Here’s the same group again, but I’m in Hugh’s place, and he took the photo.

Collector David O’Hanlon

One of our collecting friends in Nebraska is David O’Hanlon.  His collecting goes beyond radios, to include phonographs, Vogue Records, drawings & paintings by noted Nebraska artist Kent Bellows, and much more. IMG_5303 IMG_5139IMG_5298IMG_5143

Jeannette & I especially enjoyed learning more about Dave’s phonographs.

IMG_5133IMG_5313img_2719IMG_5146This last one is a coin-operated phonograph with one selection on a cylinder… “Take Me Out To The Ball Game”.  The phonograph takes nickels from the 1800’s.


The above “Jukebox” is a Shyvers Multiphone.  It was manufactured starting in 1939 by a Seattle, Washington company.  This unit was connected to a phone line.  You told a female DJ what number song you wanted, and she’d play it for you through the 4-inch speaker at your restaurant booth or counter.  Kind of the first music “streaming”.


Jeannette & Dave are discussing this historic view of Blair, Nebraska done by Kent Bellows.  It’s an extremely detailed hand-drawn copy of an old photo.  You can click on this photo, or any others in the posts to see them better.

One other thing.  Dave supplied Hugh & Jane Hunt with much expertise and guidance as they built their fantastic radio collection.

We always enjoy visiting with Dave!

DeWald Harp…Dialed In

This 1938 DeWald A-501 Harp is back to it’s original look.  IMG_4960

Below is what it looked like before.CIMG5059

The Catalin radio looks good in both photos.  The difference is that the dial in the top photo is the style that was originally in this radio.  When I got this harp from another collector about six years ago, the original dial had been broken, because the Catalin case had shrunk.  Fortunately, there was no damage to the case.  He was able to find the red & beige dial…which had been in a wooden DeWald model…and looked okay in this one too.

It still bothered me a little that the Red Harp didn’t have the original dial.  Recently, I came across a very broken Plaskon DeWald radio that had the dial I needed.  The only problem was that it wouldn’t fit, since the Catalin case had shrunk slightly from it’s original size.  Here are the two curved glass dials:IMG_3661

A glass company here in Oregon was a little hesitant to grind down the edge of a dial that is 77 years old, but they did a great job.

And now, it’s an even better looking 1938 Red DeWald Harp:IMG_4942

Bonus…here’s our brown one with yellow swirls:IMG_3104

Note: After publishing this article, I’ve heard that sometimes the beige & red dial was used in the various colors of Dewald Harps, even though it was not original to this particular red Harp.

Real & Reproduction Radios (Updates)

One of the most unique & beautiful radios is the Sparton Bluebird.  It was produced in 1936 during the time of other great deco designs.  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 like the original Bluebird, among 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.

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.

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.

A real 1936 Sparton Bluebird is shown here:sparton_bluebird_blue_mirror_radio

And here’s another shot of the reproduction:

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, does 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.  Or, maybe the Bluebird is so unique it shouldn’t be evaluated the same as other radios.


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!


Update 2:  The below Crosley reproduction of a Sparton “Sled” went for nearly $800 in April, 2016.  Definitely not the normal price.

Update 3 (2020):

Finally added a real Sparton Bluebird to my collection:

You can see how similar it looks to the first photo.  Also, you can see the two radios sitting side by side in my new article…Sparton Bluebird.

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.


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.


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:


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.

Blue Sentinel 284-NR…Dream Find (Updated)

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

So I’m checking eBay, and spot a new listing with this radio.


It’s listed as a Catalin Sentinel 284-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.


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.

The purchaser of the Sentinel was friend & collector Ron Stoner of South Carolina.  I learned a lot about radios from Ron when we both lived in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Ron sells a lot of radios, and he sold this one to another of my radio friends.

Hugh Hunt (and his wife Jane) bought it to add to their world class collection of Catalin radios.   They preferred that the Blue Sentinel be taken back to its original color.  Here’s a shot of the radio I took when my wife and I visited Hugh & Jane in Nebraska.

Here’s the side-by-side comparison.  It hardly looks like the same radio.

Update, July 2021:  After reading this story three years ago, collector Vernon Shatwell set out to find another blue Sentinel, and he did it!  It’s the open grille version, and he sent these photos.  Look at that swirl!

This radio looks beautiful without taking it all the way back to its original blue color.

Grunow Chrome Grille…Redo

(Note: Clicking on photos improves clarity & enlarges.)

BEFORE & AFTER(shot-for-shot comparison)

This cool designed 1938 Grunow Model 592 (594) was rough:


This radio is too rare for me to do an amateur job.  Fortunately, I know some talented people.  Dimensions: 13″ W, 8″ H, & 6″ D.


It had to be decided whether to repaint in white, or to restore the wood.  Once the paint was removed and the walnut wood was revealed, it was decided that refinishing would look better than a re-paint job.


This shot solidifies the decision to reveal the wood grain:IMG_3692


Amazingly, it didn’t need a re-chrome, I just used metal polish.IMG_3698

The refinishing of the cabinet was done by Gary Marvin of Creswell, Oregon.  He’s well known in the Northwest for restoring large floor model consoles, and he even has a very good customer in China.  The electronics were restored by Jerry Krocker of Salem, Oregon.  Jerry works on all types of electronics, and has his own brand of tube-type guitar amplifiers.



A couple of extra angles:



And now it’s on a shelf with some of our other wooden radios:IMG_3673

Emerson Slant-Front…where?


Bought this 1937 Emerson AT 170 “Slant-Front” from friend and collector Gary Marvin.  There aren’t many of these around.  I see it listed in one book as a Z-159, and there are other numbers for similar models, but this one has AT 170 imprinted right into the wood on the back of the cabinet.  My plan was to display this next to a similar-sized 1937 Crosley 656.  But, the best laid plans ended up with the Emerson being about one-inch too deep to fit into the display cabinet…as you can see:


So, for now, the Emerson sits on a stand near the fireplace, but it will probably end up somewhere else.

There are some unique features with this particular model of the “Slant-Front”.  Obviously, the tele-dial stands out.  It can be turned by hand to tune-in stations, or one can use the regular tuning knob.  Another knob flips the dial from the AM display, to the Short Wave display.  Also, the dial moves back-and-forth left-to-right to display the frequencies, instead of the usual pointer moving across the dial.

One of the more deluxe features of this Ingraham-designed cabinet is that instead of the normal grille cloth, it has curved-wood louvers as the speaker opening:


I sure like the radio…now…where to put it?  Maybe a corner end table.


Motorola 51A…The Project Radio

Why is this radio blue?


The 1939 Motorola Model 51A only came in brown Bakelite and ivory painted Bakelite. This small 9×6-inch radio is one I’d been wanting to add to our collection for some time, but they’re hard to find. Recently, I found this one:


I didn’t have any repainted radios in the collection, but this one was well done… and since I might not find another one…I bought it.

Incredibly, about 3 weeks later, I found a brown Bakelite one at a radio swap meet. The radio case was in bad shape, with multiple cracks and repairs with glue flaking off, but the price was right, so it became a “project”.  I had to bond the cracks from inside the case, and fill them from the outside. Then I spent hours of sanding to try to get the cracks to disappear. Next, I painted it black:


I already had an ivory one, and black was a fairly common color for 1939 radios. Unfortunately, the paint job wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, and some of the cracks still showed. So…I stripped the paint off and started over. After more filling and much more sanding, I made a bold choice (some might say wrong choice).  I painted it to look like the blue Plaskon radios of the late ’30’s. The radio’s design features show up better with the lighter color, and I didn’t want another ivory one. It’s probably a poor choice if I were planning to sell the radio, but I wanted to enjoy it for the design. One bonus is that the chassis was working great.

The speaker grille reminded me of an old microphone, but my research found that mics that look like that actually came after 1939, so it probably was designed to look similar to some of the car grilles of the ’30’s.

The two Motorola’s…and a blue Plaskon 1939 Detrola: