Old time radio

Featured in:
September 2019

By William Gregory MRICS, Golding Young and Mawer.
Bygone and ephemeral items from a previous age are a regular staple at auctions. Nostalgic reminders of childhood in items can evoke memories in all but the most focused auction goer – the radio or wireless is one such item. With its history dating back to the late 19th century, even the original name, “wireless”, has been lost to modern technology and changing fashions.

These once large, and sometimes smelly, items held pride of place in households. Designs developed with technology and fashions from early mahogany boxed crystal sets, to table top and larger free standing radiograms. Materials such as Bakelite and plastic allowed designs and colours to replicate modernistic ideas and movements. Art Deco is an obvious example from the late 1920s and 1930s as the radio reached out to households throughout the land.

Radios regularly appear at auction and with modern internet catalogues, collectors can be found bidding from all parts of the world. With the exception of one or two very rare models, prices tend to be in the tens of pounds and low hundreds. Although caution should be taken with regards to modern health and safety regulations, a professional electrician may be required before you plug it in and you find the Top 40 has just gone off with a bang!

Main image: A Murphy red Bakelite portable radio, with cream coloured knobs.

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