I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOUR RADIO IS WORTH! [you may just want to stop reading now and skip the rest of the page....]
I get many requests from people wanting to know the values of their radios. Appraising a radio's value takes time, and it would take more time than I have available to try and fulfill all the requests I get. But more important than the time it would take to research these requests, the subjective nature of radio valuation makes it something I am just not qualified to do. One could make a stab at it with the radio and references in hand, or with a detailed description of the radio's cosmetic and operating conditions, but you're always guessing. Trying to place a value on a radio with just a photo or two or a verbal description is really impossible. Tied for my "favorite" requests are (1) "What's my Juliette DF-2332X worth?" and (2) those with a small, blurred photo that doesn't even include the whole radio. The former because, your radio may be "worth" $0 if it's a beat-up, water-damaged hulk that doesn't work; how can anyone make an informed judgment on a radio's value with just a model number? The latter because, if I can't see it, do I even know it's a radio? Anyone who has priced the same radio using both a Bunis and Stein reference is probably still wondering what the radio is "worth." The "value" of a radio eventually becomes simply what one is willing to pay for it. Or what someone is willing to part with it for. Ask three people and you'll get three answers. Gosh, we're still trying to figure it out!
Here's a good example of what I'm trying to
say. You go to a swap meet with a bunch of radios, including your favorite
(got to make room). One price guide says it's worth $200, another says
$300. You split the difference and put a price of $250 on it. 300
people go by your table on day one and you get no offers. Day two, you lower
the price to $150; no offers all day. Day three, after you have your table set
up, you decide you want to keep the radio after all but don't want to rearrange
your table. So you change the price to $450 so no one will buy it.
Twenty minutes later, someone says, "I've been looking for one of those for
YEARS!" and thrusts $450 into your trembling hand. So what was the radio worth?
$450? Not on day one. Not on day two.
If you tell a buyer you want $100 for a radio and he agrees, you got it right: it was worth $100.
A good number of people who ask me to appraise a radio turn around and list the radio on eBay or craigslist. Please forgive me if I don't want to spend time doing free research for you so you can make a buck. I don't attempt to appraise radios even for those who sell their radios at the Radio Attic (for real). So please don't ask.
There are several excellent and respected value guides available. Marty Bunis and Mark Stein put out several over the years; while the most recent is several years old, you can get an idea of your radio's value relative to other radios. All these books are out of print, so you will have to find them in libraries or in the used book section of amazon.com or someplace like that. At used book prices, they are an excellent investment for anyone who collects old radios. But remember (even if you or someone else gets a "value" for your radio from one of these references) that every cosmetic defect, every missing tube or non-original part, every whistle or hum that is not supposed to be heard, subtracts from that restored-and-operating value printed in the book. If your radio is cracked, if it has aluminum knobs instead of the original carved wood, if it has a piece of carpet for the speaker grille, or if it has mud-dauber nests or smells of rodent urine, throw the book value away, as you likely have a piece of flea market junk. Maybe with many hours of careful cleaning and restoration, it will be "worth" something, but for now... junk. Potential value as a restored radio simply can't be figured into the value of a broken or rotting hulk, no matter what your neighborhood antique dealer or your Aunt Minnie says. You can't sell a radio with water damage, rodent infestation, a missing speaker, or burned wiring for $500 just because that radio's "book value" is $500. It's still junk until someone puts hours of effort and probably many dollars getting it to an acceptable condition.
If you have a post-World War II stereo console, none of the above applies. These are not listed in any price guide, and they are not considered collectible by the antique radio community. While I hate to say it, because most of the people who ask me this question have them, these are flea market fodder for the most part. Make a wine cabinet out of it.
If you stumbled on a nice old tube radio that's complete & undamaged and want to make a quick buck, send it to me and I'll give you $20. THAT was quick!
If you don't want to find or purchase a value guide, see the Radio Attic's guide to sold radio prices to see what radios sold at the Radio Attic were listed for at the time they sold. Or check the Radio Attic's Links page (or A.R.C. magazine) for a radio club near you. Someone there may be willing to hazard a guess or research the radio's value. There are many nice folks at the Antique Radio Forum who may help also. If you want an approximate value, check Antique Radios Online's value guide to see if your radio is listed there.
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