Some radios offer more than music, news

Sunday, June 25, 2000

Radio broadcasting as we know it today started in 1920, probably with the report by KDKA of Pittsburgh on the Harding-Cox presidential election returns. The first receiving radios were made under an agreement with Howard Armstrong, who held patents related to the new technology. Armstrong licensed many major manufacturers, and a variety of radios soon appeared.

The early battery-operated radios were large and unattractive. By 1928, radios were being offered in attractive cabinets made to resemble the furniture of the day. The first figural radio was "Monte Blue," a 1920s crystal set showing a man in an overstuffed chair.


Current prices are recorded from antique shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.Fostoria cake plate, Colony pattern, clear, 10 inches, $25.Fort Orange Radio Distributing Co. 1957 calendar, woman posing like Marilyn Monroe in the nude, 22 x 39 inches, $55.Quick Draw McGraw Private Eye board game, Milton Bradley, 1960, 9 1/2 x 19 inches, $130.Mechanical bank, Destination Moon Spaceship, metal, Vacumet Company, box, 1950-1960, $300.Van Briggle figural bowl and frog, kneeling woman perched over rocklike pool, center holds flower frog with turtle and leaf, 1930, 10 inches, $375.Wedding dress, graduating rows of Chantilly lace, spaghetti straps, bolero jacket, train, 1939, $490.Arts & Crafts oak library table, rectangular top, 1 drawer, hammered copper pulls, c.1912, 30 x 48 x 30 inches, $520.Bakelite pin, drum major, jointed, ivory pants, red coat and hat, brown head, 4 inches, $610.Dirk Van Erp copper-and-tile bookends, sailing ship, square, blue, brown and green, rectangular base, Windmill stamp, c.1915, 4 inches, $1,265.Popeye the Sailor Man doll, wooden, composition socket head, painted features, jutting chin, googly-like eyes, King Features Syndicate, 1923, 11 inches, $1,500.

Vacuum-tube radio sets were also made in novelty shapes by the 1930s. Mickey Mouse was one of the earliest. But the era of novelty radios favored by today's collector started with the transistor radios of the 1950s.

Today's radios use the newest electronic methods and often have added features, like headphones. The cases are made of colorful plastic in almost any imaginable shape. Cars, insects, advertising figures, sports memorabilia, even copies of "antique" radios can be found.

Look for cases that are not damaged or faded. The radio must still play to have collector appeal.

I found an old Mickey Mouse bowl in my dad's attic. A large Mickey is in the middle of the white plate, and five smaller Mickeys are walking around the inner edge. The rim is decorated with letters of the alphabet in black. The factory mark on the back is blacked out. Under it is a small picture of Mickey and the words, "Mickey Mouse trade mark, authorized by Walter E. Disney, Made in Bavaria." Does the dish have any value?

Your Mickey Mouse alphabet cereal bowl was made in Bavaria, Germany. It was one piece in a large line of Disney dishes imported from 1932 to 1934 by Schumann Brothers, a New York City wholesaler. Schumann had been granted a sublicense from George Borgfeldt, a more famous importer and a Disney licensee. Schumann probably blacked out the Bavarian factory mark, then sold the dishes to department stores, small shops and movie theaters. Theaters offered the dishes as prizes. Your bowl sells for $100 to $400, depending on its condition.

I am decorating a wall of my kitchen with old kitchen clocks. I have six so far. They are all electric and made of plastic. Two date from the 1930s, and the rest are from the '50s. Can you tell me when the first wall clocks were specially made for use in the kitchen? Were the oldest ones electric?

The first clocks specially designed for use in the kitchen date back to the 1890s. These were small wall clocks made of colorful ceramic, enameled metal, or wood. Their shapes imitated the shapes of traditional parlor clocks. Most of these early ones were mechanical. They had small brass pendulums and had to be wound every few days. Middle-class housewives started taking an interest in their kitchens after the Civil War. Servants had become hard to hire because factories were paying higher wages. The housewives wanted to make their kitchens more livable, and colorful details like wall clocks helped.

Where I grew up in the upper Midwest, we called the long, upholstered piece of seating furniture in our living room a "davenport." When I moved to the East Coast, I learned that everyone called it a "sofa." Of course, another alternative is "couch." Which is right?

The three words have become synonyms in the United States. However, the use of each word varies by region, and even from family to family.

If you check an English furniture dictionary, you will find that in England the three words refer to three distinct pieces of furniture. A "sofa" is a long, comfortable, upholstered seat for two or more people. It has a back, and arms at each end. The term "couch," in England, refers to a sofa with a half-back and head-end only, to be used for daytime rests. The word "davenport," in England, refers to a small writing desk. And a "davenport bed" is defined as a "couch that may be unfolded to form a bed."

There are even more terms for types of sofas, like settee, love seat, settle, chaise lounge, chair bed and recamier.

I collect lithographed tin sand pails. I only have a few, and I never even thought about who drew the designs on them. A local dealer has some pails designed by Elaine Ends Hileman. He doesn't know much about her. Do you?

Elaine Ends was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1919. She did freelance drawings for Children's Playmate magazine and American Greetings before she married George Hileman in 1944. From 1945 to 1951, she worked freelance for Ohio Art Co. of Bryan, Ohio. She drew cute designs that were used on lithographed tin tops, watering cans, tea sets, drums, shovels, sand pails and more. Most of her drawings feature children playing. Her sand pails sell for $65 to $100.


Clean metal with a back-and-forth motion, not with a circular motion. Use a soft, clean, lint-free cloth and turn it often to avoid reusing a soiled part.

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