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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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:

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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A couple of extra angles:

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

Emerson Slant-Front…where?

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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:

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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:

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

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The Project Radio

Why is this radio blue?

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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:

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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:

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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. By the way, the dictionary defines “grille” as the covering of an opening…such as a car grille. And it defines “grill” as a place to eat, even though some Bar & Grills add an “e” because they think it looks fancier. So the proper spelling of the speaker covering on a radio is apparently “grille”.

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

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Radios…1930’s to 1950’s (Radios are now for sale!)

I’m selling most of my radios.  Please scroll down to the article after this main page.  Thanks

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“Radios Past” features collectible radios of the 1930’s and 1940’s, with some from the 1950’s.  The majority are table radios made of Catalin, Bakelite, Plaskon, and other plastics…plus some wooden radios.

The main presentation is a 47 Page iBook (eBook).  It contains lots of photos, comments, and model numbers.

To see the iBook click Here(The book normally loads in seconds.)

After this main page are short articles on various radios or topics.  Article titles are listed to the left of this page.

Note: Photos in the articles can be made clearer & larger by clicking on them.

Contact email: philbausch@gmail.com