Radio Hunting in the Wild: Swap Meet Edition
Radio Hunting in the Wild: Swap Meet Edition
After scrolling through our inventory here at Retro Radio Farm, you may wonder, “how does RRF find all of these cool radios?” There are many methods to our acquisition and restoration process (some secret!). However, one method all collectors enjoy and those looking to get into the retro radio hobby enjoy is the swap meet.
Swap meet? Isn’t that like a yard sale or flea market? That’s mostly junk right?
This is not the case with radio swap meets! Radio swap meets are usually meetings of local radio collectors clubs that feature presentations by collectors and scholars, a buying/selling time, food, and sometimes museum-like collection presentations.
At these meetings, collectors, restorers, and hobbyists get together to share in their passions for collecting and working on vintage electronics. How cool!
Retro Radio Farm sources many of our radios from these swap meets as well as some private collectors. Here is an inside look at a swap meet.
In the south, the main club of antique radio enthusiasts is the Southeastern Antique Radio Society, or SARS. (sarsradio.com) SARS has month dinner meetings that have themes (such as ‘radios that start with the letter A’). In addition, they host presentations, home visits, and three annual swap meets (in winter, summer, and fall). I had the privilege of attending the winter swap meet held on February 17th, 2018 at the American Legion in Alpharetta, GA.
When I first arrived, many friendly faces greeted me. The members of the club were excited that someone new was attending a swap meet- especially a younger gentlemen such as myself. The first 30 minutes of time when I arrived was a ‘look around’ time- you could look at all the radios for sale but the sales did not begin until 10:00am. I spotted four radios that I wanted and kept them in mind. During this time I got to talk to the sellers about their hobby, the radios they were selling, and the work that they did. Some had their own restoration shops that fix radios locally in the area, others traveled from out of state to sell their radios, and some were selling their collections to make room for more. Some vendors specialized in parts- there was one vendor who only sold radio knobs and another that only sold tubes. I really enjoyed meeting all of the members and sellers.
I thought it was interesting to notice the distinction of kids of radios that people liked. Some liked the radios similar to what RRF sells- 1950’s and 60’s plastic colorful sets. Others like wood cathedral sets from the 1930’s and 40’s, Atwater-Kent TRF units from the beginning of radio, floor model console sets, complicated German stereo multiplex unites from companies like SABA, aircraft radios, and even tube radio test/repair equipment.
After the sales were mostly over, there was a live auction. Sellers could submit radios that didn’t sell initially to be bid on; some auctioned items raised money for the club. At this point I had spent my budget at the first sale so no more radios for me! After the live auction we all shared a meal together. I got to talk more with members of the club, where we discussed marketing and social media to improve visibility.
After lunch, a guest gave a presentation on the radios of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. This was highly fascinating as he had working examples of these radios. He demonstrated how they worked and how Earhart and Noonan used them to communicate with Naval ships. This was an interesting insight into what by today’s standards we would consider very primitive communication equipment. When the presentation was finished, it was time to head home for the day.
For those out there wanting to learn more about this hobby or radio restoration/repair, I would encourage you to seek out these meetings and try and meet collectors and restorers in this fascinating and friendly hobby that is a real niche community! So many collectors and restorers/enthusiasts are willing to help you with your own restoration project and point you in the right direction so that you can get that favorite old radio playing again!
For more information, visit retroradiofarm.com
Southeastern Antique Radio Society: sarsradio.com
Jacob Weinstein is an avid radio restorer and collector and mid-century modern enthusiast in Athens, GA . He is a music education student at The University of Georgia. Here's Jacob with Mike from History Channel show American Pickers.