Antique Radio Books

Here's a quick list of books that I've found interesting or useful. The list includes price guides, collector ("appreciation") books, history, and guides on repairing old radios and restoring wooden cabinets.

A caveat regarding collector guides: even the best ones don't (and can't) pretend to be complete. And price information is always speculative, at best. Prices can vary widely from one region to another. And certain kinds of radios drift up or down in value as various fads grip the collector community. In the end, a radio is worth only what somebody will hand you in cold, hard cash!

Your public library is another source of technical information. Some of the most useful technical literature has been out of print for years, but may still be lurking in your library's shelves. Fellow collectors are another source of material such as old magazines or technical manuals.

You can buy these books from several online sources, including Antique Electronic Supply, Antique Radio Classified, Amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble.

Antique Radio Restoration Guide
David Johnson; Wallace-Homestead Book Company, Radnor PA 19089
An excellent how-to-fix book, written for folks who are not already experts. This book is invaluable if you're just getting into the hobby, or if you've collected a few treasures but never tried fixing them. In addition to the excellent how-to chapters, it has sections on choosing antique sets, radio theory, safety rules, useful equipment, and other information sources. The book also has pictures of many collectible radios, including Delco, Emerson, GE, RCA, Silvertone, and Zenith sets that I happen to own.

A Flick of the Switch: 1930-1950
Morgan McMahon; McMahon Vintage Radio, Box 1331, North Highlands, CA 95660; 311 pages, black and white photos; ISBN 0-914126-10-5
This collector's guide has a little of everything, from consumer radios and TVs to ham gear and even World War II military equipment. It's illustrated with many small black and white photos, and it includes ads of the times, brief descriptions of manufacturers, and other useful information. The original price is listed for many items. Although this book is a bit dated, I find myself returning to it often. It shows several sets found in my collection, including a Philco 42-350, Motorola 5A5, and Zenith 7G605.

Bakelite: An Illustrated Guide to Collectible Bakelite Objects
by Patrick Cook and Catherine Slessor; contributor, Gad Sassower; Chartwell Books, a division of Book Sales, Inc., 110 Enterprise Avenue, Secaucus, New Jersey 07094 ISBN 1-55521-820-2
A fascinating book that depicts the galaxy of decorative and useful objects fashioned from Bakelite. Everything from jewelry to vacuum cleaners, including a number of lovely (mostly British) radios and TV sets. Not merely a photo book, this volume chronicles the entire "Bakelite age," with a strong emphasis on design. I've never seen most of these objects in life, but I do have the 1930's Magnajector projector shown on page 87, plus a couple of original Baby Brownie cameras shown on page 89.

Classic Plastic Radios of the 1930s and 1940s
by John Sideli; E.P. Dutton, a division of Penguin Books, 2 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10016
The Catalin radio collector's bible, full of beautiful photographs and interesting information. Given the recent price inflation, this is as close as most of us will ever come to these (in my opinion, overpriced) sets. You may find the tone snooty on occasion, but the content is worthwhile, nonetheless.

Classic Microphones on CD-ROM
Classic PIO Partners, 87 E. Green St., Ste. 309, Pasadena, CA 91005
See notes above on the Classic Radios CD-ROM. Matchless image quality, with pictures of 20 classic microphones.

Classic Radios on CD-ROM
Classic PIO Partners, 87 E. Green St., Ste. 309, Pasadena, CA 91005
Not a book, but a collection of to-die-for radio pictures. This CD-ROM contains dazzling, professional-quality images of 20 different vintage radios, with a head-on and three-quarter view of each radio. All of the images are available in high-res and lower-res TIFF format. The high-res images range from 10 to 20 megabytes in size. The CD-ROM is available for $69.95 from Publisher's Toolbox, 1-800-390-0461.

Classic TVs: Pre-War thru 1950s
L-W Book Sales, PO Box 69, Gas City, IN 46933
A thin pictorial collector guide, 80 pages in length. About half of the book is devoted to black and white pictures of vintage ads. The second half contains photos of vintage TVs with price estimates. My edition was printed in 1997, so I take the price estimates with a grain of salt.

Collector's Guide to Antique Radios
by John Slusser (formerly Marty & Sue Bunis); Collector Books, a division of Schroeder Publishing, P.O. Box 3009, Paducah, KY 42002-3009
If you go to a radio auction or swap meet, you're likely to see tattered copies of this book in the hands of eager shoppers. A comprehensive guide listing thousands of radios of all eras and types, with hundreds of pictures. You can't take the prices too seriously (see caveats above), but if you can afford only one collector's guide, this one rates at the top of the list. This book is now in its fifth edition. The fourth edition was made available on CD-ROM and contained photos from all previous editions. Dozens of my radios appear here, including the green Westinghouse H-742TA used as the icon for my Plastic Radios category.

Collector's Guide to Novelty Radios
by Marty Bunis and Robert F. Breed; Collector Books, a division of Schroeder Publishing, P.O. Box 3009, Paducah, KY 42002-3009
You'll either love this book or hate it. Hundreds of novelty radios, with color photos and thorough descriptions. Everything from Super Mario Brothers to the "Bone Fone" and radios shaped like countless household items and consumer products.

Collector's Guide to Transistor Radios: Identification and Values
by Marty and Sue Bunis; Collector Books, a division of Schroeder Publishing; P.O. Box 3009, Paducah, KY 42002-3009
An impressive and useful collector guide, with lots of good photos. The handy pocket size makes it easy to bring along on scavenging trips.

Crystal Clear: Vintage American Crystal Sets, Crystal Detectors, and Crystals
by Maurice L. Sievers; The Vestal Press, Ltd.; P.O. Box 97, Vestal, NY 13851-0097; 282 pages, many black and white photos; ISBN 0-911572-96-1
Both a fun read and an authoritative reference, this book covers the amazing number and variety of crystal radios manufactured over the years. With lots of big black and white photos, company and technical information, and about 100 pages of tables and indexes to sets and manufacturers. This book lists original prices, not current collector values. My little Philmore Super is shown on page 82.

Elements of Radio Servicing
by Marcus & Levy; McGraw-Hill, Inc.; 425 pages, many black and white illustrations
My favorite radio repair guide. If you can afford only one repair book, make it this one! Written in straightforward, easy to read English, the book presents a systematic yet wholly practical method for diagnosing and fixing tube radios. Marcus & Levy were well-known authors of the 1940s-1960s and this book went through several editions. Mine is dated 1967 and covers FM radio and transistors, in addition to conventional AM tube radios and phonographs (monaural and stereo). This book is out of print but there are many used copies floating around. Look for one on eBay or through your local used book seller.

Elements of Television Servicing
by Marcus & Gendler; Prentice-Hall, Inc., 70 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY; 587 pages, many black and white photos and illustrations
A classic service guide for tube televisions. My copy is dated 1955; I don't know if it went through later editions. Written when TV was still fairly new, the book has several introductory chapters on TV theory, with other chapters devoted to the budding TV repairman, which explain how to equip a workshop, how to install antennas, etc. These are followed by many chapters on the theory, diagnosis, and repair of the various sections of a tube TV. An advantage of a vintage repair book like this is that it covers early features (such as electrostatic deflection picture tube circuits) which will never be mentioned in newer books. I own several other 1950s TV repair books, but this is my favorite.

Empire of the Air
by Thomas S.W. Lewis; Edward Burlingame Books, New York, NY; 421 pages, 32 photo plates, ISBN 0060182156
An intriguing account of the early history of radio, focusing on the lives of three pioneers: Lee de Forest, Edwin Armstrong, and David Sarnoff. This book served as the basis for a documentary video of the same name, which aired on television and is still available from Antique Radio Classified and other sources. My library has several copies of the book and the video.

Eric Wrobbel Transistor Books
Eric Wrobbel has written several books about transistor radios, toy crystal radios, and toy walkie talkies. A couple of videotapes are available, as well. Click the above link for more information.

Fixing Up Nice Old Radios!
by Ed Romney; Box 487, Drayton SC 29333; (864) 597-1882; 1990; 186 pages, softcover, profusely illustrated in black and white; ISBN 1-886996-56-3
If you can't fix old radios after reading this, you're just not trying! Reflecting the author's lifetime of experience in radio, this book is encyclopedic in scope, yet it's aimed at a reader who starts with little or no electronics knowledge. After covering basic electronics theory, the book takes you on a romp through radio history, from the earliest crystal sets, to tuned regenerative frequency receivers, superheterodynes, classic radios of the 1930s and 1940s, multi-band sets, all the way to complex high-end radios such as E.H. Scott and McMurdo Silver, and even communications equipment. Ed Romney is a former radio instructor, and his book uses a "case history" approach. The book describes actual restorations done by the author, rather than theoretical situations. Each case history includes schematics, many illustrations, and photographs of the work in progress. Also interspersed throughout are many tips and tricks from the author and even his father, who was also a radio builder and repairmen. The result is a highly readable, as well as practical, book. If you're interested in transistors, you'll have to go elsewhere, however. This book deals exclusively with "hollow state" (tube-powered) radios.

Genuine Plastic Radios of the Mid-Century
by Kenn Jupp and Leslie Pina; Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 4800 Lower Valley Road, Altglen, PA 19310; 1998; 219 pages, hardcover, profusely illustrated in color; ISBN 0-7643-0108-X
A beautiful picture book of plastic and Bakelite radios from the 1940s through 1960s. The book includes the authors' opinion of values, as well. This book portrays many of the radios in my collection, such as the Truetone D2017 and Belmont 6D111.

The Golden Age of Televisions
by Philip Collins; General Publishing Group, Inc., Santa Monica, CA 90405
Another of Philip Collins' luscious pictorial guides, showing a fortune's worth of collectible televisions from the USA and Europe. Mostly pictures (some of the finest you'll ever see), with brief historical commentary here and there. The book cover features a Philco Predicta just like mine. I also own a few other sets shown inside, such as as the Motorola VT-71.

Guide to Old Radios: Pointers, Pictures, and Prices
by David and Betty Johnson; Wallace-Homestead Book Company, Radnor, PA 19089
This book has a bit of everything, from radio history and repair tips to a rather sketchy price guide in the back. While it doesn't have great depth in any area, it's not a bad book for a beginner or casual collector. And, like all collector books, you'll find info on some radios not mentioned in other books.

How to Repair Old-Time Radios
by Clayton Hallmark; Tab Books, Blue Ridge Summit, PA
This book may be out of print, but my local library has a copy, and yours might, too. Written in the late 1970s, it's an excellent practical guide to repairing old radios, written in a folksy tone.

Le Grand Livre de la TSF
Jean-Michel Bourque; Retro-Phonia, Association loi 1901, BP 1462, 25008 Besancon Cedex (France), Tel 81 48 93 98 (Tel/Fax), 250 pages, hundreds of black and white illustrations.
An extensive guide to European radios, published in French. I don't really read French, but I love paging through this book to savor all the unusual shapes and designs. Many European radios resemble their North American cousins. But others explore very different, sometimes startling, directions. For instance, the Radio Celard "Radiocapte" from 1958 has a Predicta-like profile, with a low streamlined base topped with a circular concentric speaker, surrounded in turn by a circular antenna made of two heavy wires. Or, how about "Le Club," manufactured by R.M.T. in 1958, a wooden radio-phono about the size and height of a boomerang-shaped coffee table. Meant to resemble a grand piano, the radio dials are on the "keyboard" face of the console, while the phonograph swings out from a drawer concealed in one side. I could go on, but I think you get my drift. Lest you ever feel like you've collected everything, remember: it's a big wide world!

Made in Japan: Transistor Radios of the 1950s and 1960s
by Roger Handy, Maureen Erbe, and Aileen Antonier; photography by Henry Blackham; Chronicle Books, 275 Fifth Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
If this luscious art book doesn't convince you to collect transistor radios, nothing will. It's a visual feast, highlighting the many novel and charming designs from the golden age of shirtpocket transistors. Not a collector's guide (it lacks prices or technical info), this book does a good job of placing these design elements within their historical and artistic context. My little Zephyr AR-600 transistor appears on pages 93 and 94.

Old Time Radios! Restoration and Repair
by Joseph J. Carr; Tab Books, Blue Ridge Summit, PA, ISBN 0-8306-7342-3, 256 pages with black-and-white photos and diagrams
A comprehensive radio restoration guide, written by a professional repairman. This book strikes a nice balance between electronic theory and practical troubleshooting techniques. If you master everything covered here, you shouldn't have much trouble getting your old radios back into tiptop working order.

Philco Radio 1928-1942
by Ron Ramirez and Michael Prosise; Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 77 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310, 185 pages with many color photos
A comprehensive reference to pre-war Philco radios, including historical information along with photos of each model and technical data. This is the Bible for fans of Philco's "golden age." Includes a rarity scale for each model in place of dollar value estimates.

The Portable Radio in American Life
by Michael Brian Schiffer; The University of Arizona Press, 1230 N. Park Avenue, Suite 102, Tucson, AZ 85719, ISBN 0-8165-1259-0, 259 pages with many black and white photos.
I can't decide whether this is a stunning piece of scholarship or a clever way to finance a serious collector addiction! Either way, this large, fascinating book is a must-have for tube portable and transistor collectors. It brings an archaelogical approach to history, chronicling the portable radio from earliest days to the present. Exhaustively researched, yet highly readable, there's enough technical info and social history to interest just about any radio collector.

The Radio Amateur's Handbook
American Radio Relay League, West Hartford, CT, USA 150 pages with many black and white photos and illustrations.
Subtitled the "Standard Manual of Amateur Radio Communication," this is the official yearly handbook of the ARRL, updated and republished every year since 1923. It's a technical book with a little bit of everything, starting with basic electrical principles, going on to topics such as tube theory, many construction projects for receivers and transmitters, antenna theory and construction, how to operate a ham station, many charts and data tables . . . well, you get the idea. Not for everyone, but if you're at all interested in amateur radio, look for one of these at the next radio swap meet. They are all different!

Radio and Television: RAI Museum Collection
by Giuseppe Romeo Scribani; Itinerari di Immagini, Via Teocrito 50, Milano, Italy
Published in Italy, this 115-page book highlights the collection of the Italian Radio and Television Museum, located in Turin. The museum contains everything from early electrical devices to TVs. Gorgeous color photographs, with commentary in Italian and English. The design flair of Italy is evident in many of these vintage devices. This is a chance to view items that you'll likely never see in the US!

Radio Art
by Robert Hawes; photography by Paul Straker-Welds; The Green Wood Publishing Company, Ltd., 6/7 Warrn Mews, London WIP 5DJ, Great Britain
Published in England, this handsome book portrays dozens of astonishing and beautiful sets from every era of radio history. Especially interesting to US collectors, who may never have a chance to see Continental sets like this in the flesh. My humble Emerson Model 558 tube portable appears on page 120.

Radio Collector's Guide 1921-1932
by Morgan McMahon; Vintage Radio, Box 2045, Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA 90274
First published in 1973, this is a seminal guide to early radios. Basically devoid of photos, but the book makes up in detail what it lacks in visual appeal, listing information for hundreds of early manufacturers whom most of us have never heard of.

Radios of Canada
by Lloyd Swackhammer, RR# 2, ALMA Ontario, N0B 1A0; (519) 638-2827; 164 pages with photographs; ISBN 0-9732347-0-9
The only Canadian radio collector guide that I'm aware of. Lists Canadian crystal and tube radios from the 1920s through 1960s. Click the link above for further ordering information.

Radios by Hallicrafters
by Chuck Dachis; Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 77 Lower Valley Rd., Atglen, PA 19310
The authorative volume for Hallicrafters collectors. Pictures and information of every Hallicrafters set ever made, including some factory prototypes and other oddities. Includes company history, as well. A very interesting book, and well worth the price. I do think this publisher needs to break down and hire a real editor, however. Much of the book's text is printed ENTIRELY IN UPPERCASE LETTERS LIKE THIS, WHICH BECOMES VERY ANNOYING TO READ. The book is sprinkled with hilarious typos like, "This paper machete safari hat . . ." (should be papier mache). And, like many Schiffer books, it lacks a true index, making it hard to find some kinds of information.

Radio Era Archives
2043 Empire Central, Dallas, Texas 75235; Orders Only: (800) 684-3912; Inquiries: (214) 358-5195; Fax (214) 357-4693
This unique company offers radio books, service data, and magazines on CD-ROM, as well as schematics and restoration services. Among other offerings, they sell the entire Rider Perpetual Troubleshooter's Manual online, all 23 volumes and 35,000 pages.

Radios: The Golden Age
by Philip Collins; Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA
A gorgeous photographic record of one man's amazing personal collection. One of the most beautiful collector books available. I think these are the best radio photos I've ever seen.

Radios Redux: Listening in Style
by Philip Collins; Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA
A second, equally enjoyable, photo book from Philip Collins. My collection includes Emerson and Philco models shown on pages 68 and 94 - 95.

Radiomania Collector Guides
by Mark Stein; Radiomania Books, Department 1ED, 2109 Carterdale Road, Baltimore, MD 21209
Mark Stein has published several large radio collector guides, including Machine Age to Jet Age, volumes I-III and Pre-War Consoles. One advantage of these books is that every radio has a photo. Some people think that the prices estimates (especially for consoles) are inflated, and the quality of the artwork is not that great. These are good books to have, however, when you don't know the manufacturer (or model number) and want to make a visual ID.

RCA Receiving Tube Manual
reprinted by Antique Electronic Supply, Tempe, AZ
This classic tube reference should be next to the workbench of every radio restorer. Comprehensive data about hundreds of tube types, along with introductory articles about tube theory and even construction plans and theoretical discussions of common tube devices such as oscillators, radio receivers, TVs, and so on. This book went through many editions. I have the current reprint from AES, which covers more recent tube types and applications. Keep your eyes out for older editions, which will cover tube types considered obsolete in later years.

Shortwave Receivers Past & Present
by Fred Osterman; Universal Radio Research, 6830 Americana Pkwy, Reynoldsburg, OH 43068
A masterful, comprehensive guide to communication receivers made from 1942-1997. Nearly 500 pages in length, the book includes a photo of every listed receiver as well as technical specifications, a list of features, and value estimates. If you are interested in "boatanchors," this is a must-have reference.

The Weekend Refinisher
by Bruce Johnson; The University of Arizona Press, 1230 N. Park Avenue, Suite 102, Tucson, AZ 85719, ISBN 034-5358-66X, 296 pages with black and white photos.
My favorite book about refinishing wooden furniture. Written by a pro with years of experience, this book is highly readable, with an informal tone. Contains especially good advice about reviving original finishes and preserving the authentic character of your piece. If you have only one book about refinishing, this should be it.

Transistor Radios: A Collector's Encyclopedia and Price Guide
by David R. Lane and Robert A Lane; Wallace-Homestead Book Company, Radnor, PA 03221 ISBN 0-87069-712-9
An impressive reference by two long-time collectors. Descriptions of over 2,000 radios, with many black-and-white photos.

Tube Substitution Handbook
by William Smith and Barry Buchanan; Prompt Publications, Howard Sams & Company, Indianapolis, IN
This inexpensive little reference book can be invaluable at times. It's basically 150 pages of chart data showing which tube types can be substituted for other types. Why would I want this, you say? Picture yourself at 10 PM on a Saturday night, working on your favorite radio. You discover that its problem is a dead tube. You have a few dozen (or a few hundred) spare tubes in the workshop, and you wonder, "Hmm, would any of these work?" Case closed.

Zenith TransOceanic: The Royalty of Radios
by Bryant and Cones; Wallace-Homestead Book Company, Radnor, PA 03221 ISBN 0-87069-712-9, 160 pages with many color and black-and-white photos
The Bible for Zenith TransOceanic owners. Whether you're curious about the history of this fabled set or need technical information, this book has just about everything you'd want to know. Very thoroughly researched, based on Zenith company records and interviews with Zenith employees. Includes technical details for every TransOceanic model (and companion AM sets), plus advice on cosmetic and electronic restoration.

Zenith Radio: The Early Years 1919-1935
by Bryant and Cones; Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen PA 19310, 223 pages with many color and black-and-white photos
Another comprehensive Zenith guide from the authors of the famed TransOceanic book. Extensive historical information in addition to photos, technical data, and price estimates. An invaluable reference to early Zenith sets.

©1995-2014 Philip I. Nelson, all rights reserved