SAN DIEGO — You've heard about Top 10 listings of current records, movies, TV shows, books, investments and best--and worst--dressed celebrities. Here is a Top 10 of collectible radios, subjectively compiled by the local hobbyists interviewed for the accompanying story.
These highly prized relics of the Golden Age of Radio are ranked, in descending order, by their estimated current value--by how much they are likely to fetch in antique shops and at the quarterly Southern California Antique Radio Society (SCAR) swap meets in Burbank.
Prices are for fully restored, working radios.
1. Sparton Nocturne Model 1186, 1936: The shell of this circular Art Deco radio, which is 4 feet in diameter, is made of mirrored blue glass. New, this limited-production radio sold for $350; today, the going rate is anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000.
2. Zenith Stratosphere Model 1000, 1934: This 30-tube, wood encased radio features a round, 12-inch black dial with inlaid walnut frequency numbers. "Back then, it was kind of like the Rolls-Royce of radios, and today, I don't know of any collector in Southern California who has one," says San Diego collector Bob Breed. The Zenith 1000 originally cost about $100, but Breed said he has heard of people paying as much as $6,000.
3. Emerson Mickey Mouse Models 410 and 411, 1933: With a relief of the popular Disney cartoon character projecting from the cloth speaker grille, this five-tube set is one of the first novelty radios ever produced. The case of the 410 is carved entirely out of brown syroco wood. The more colorful 411 features painted metal trim. Today, either model sells for upward of $1,000.
4. Majestic Charlie McCarthy Model 1, 1938: The shell of this novelty radio is made of Bakelite, an early plastic compound. Two colors were available: natural brown or painted ivory. A molded metal effigy of the puppet is perched on a ledge in front of the speaker grille. Again, you'd be hard pressed to find one for less than $1,000.
5. Atwater Kent Model 5, circa 1922: This early radio is one of the "breadboard" series, so called because its components are set out on a flat board of polished wood rather than being enclosed in a cabinet. Like most radios built before 1930, it has a remote speaker and runs on batteries. Today, the average price for a top-condition Atwater Kent Model 5 is $1,000.
6. Scott, mid-1930s: The unique feature on this family of rather plain-looking, wood case radios is their polished chrome chassis. Forty-inch consoles typically sell for $800 to $1,000.
7. Fada Streamliner Model 1000, 1946: This table-top radio is shaped like a bullet, with a round dial on one end. Its shell is constructed of Catalin, another early type of plastic that came in a variety of marbled colors. The most common Fada 1000 is yellow with red trim; the rarest, all-red. Prices range from $650 to $1,000.
8. Philco Model 90, 1933: An all-wood cathedral radio familiar to anyone who's watched a movie about life during the Great Depression, the Philco 90 today sells for anywhere from $450 to $600.
9. Trophy Baseball, circa 1941: One of the very first "disposable" radios, this novelty set is encased in a molded cardboard baseball and features a brass speaker grille and matching knobs. Prices start at $500.
10. Zenith consoles, 1938-1941: These elegant wood-case radios are known for their excellent cabinet work and round black dials. Prices range from $350 to $450.