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Collecting Vintage Radios

Collectors of vintage radio receivers have seen a phenomenal increase in their numbers in the past few years. The number of collectors in North America is currently estimated at 1700. In Canada there are possibly 200. The Antique Wireless Association in Holcombe, N.Y., which has 500 dedicated members, was established a number of years ago and has had a remarkable increase in membership in the last few years.

Who are these enthusiasts? What motivates them to spend countless hours restoring an old radio receiver? Their ranks include people from all walks of life, and perhaps their motivation lies in Keats' line: 'A thing of beauty is a joy forever'. Indeed if we take a close look at some early radio receivers, they are truly beautiful masterpieces of gleaming bakelite, mahogany, and shiny brass.

The Latest Radio Instrument, a Combination Reflex Set and Player Piano

A great number of today's collectors are young people in their late teens and early twenties, who have discovered that collecting and restoring antique radios is an interesting and rewarding pastime. Another factor contributing to the amazing growth of this hobby that we must not overlook is that today's trend in electronics, with integration and micro-miniaturisation of solid state circuits, has all but eliminated the enjoyment of building-it-yourself. A good example is the modern solid state integrated circuit, where a complete audio amplifier is manufactured on a simple chip smaller than a postage stamp, which cannot be modified or tinkered. Indeed a far cry from yester-years radio equipment which was often handcrafted by artisans.

There are unfortunately few antique radio collections on display to the public in Canada. The National Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa does not yet have any of its large collection on display. The Canadian Bell Museum in Montreal includes in its collection an exceptional display of early tubes and some radio equipment. The most recent display of antique radios can be seen in the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto. Across the border, there are a number of displays of early radio gear in such places as the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C., the Ford Museum in Dearborn Mich., and the Antique Wireless Association Museum in Holcombe N.Y. Most of the equipment in these places is restored and in excellent condition.

A dedicated collector of old radios, Mike Batch's Toronto basement probably contains one of the best private collections in Canada. Among his more than one hundred items are many that required hours of restoration.