The Arvin ‘Playmate’ Portable Radio



The Arvin ‘Playmate’ Portable Radio

Duke University Ad*Access

The original Arvin ‘Playmate’ portable radio 1953 advertised in the Saturday Evening Post 

Made by Arvin Industries of Columbus, Indiana, the Playmate was made in 1953 as a portable AM radio. The set was advertised as a “3-Way” portable, able to run on AC, DC and battery power. The radio also boasted of five (5) tubes and the “mighty Magnetenna.” These features were highly touted for their ability to pull in radio station broadcasts and creating a velvety sound.


The handle folds flat and the model has a thin, sleek design.

2016 photos of Arvin ‘Playmate’ Portable Radio


Today, most people agree the sound produced using vacuum tube technology provide a superior sound experience to digital and transistor radio sound. The Arvin Playmate advertisement above references that preference.

The base model originally sold in 1953 for $29.95. Versions with gold trim like the one pictured above sold for between $32.95 to $34.95 for the upgrade.

Although Retro Radio Farm has characterized the radio as having a “Snakeskin” finish, the original ad describes the finish as “cloth-o- gold.”

To the right you see an ad from the 1950s (exact date unknown). Though the colors are different, the radio seems nearly exact to the ‘Playmate’ of 1952. This radio sold for $44.95 with an insulated vinyl picnic case.

She shall have music wherever she goes"


This radio design demonstrates the portable style of radio. In the 1950s radios were made smaller and more compact. Portable radios became a natural iteration as Television took over the center of the home and the table-top radio lost some of its luster.

This radio has a decidedly feminine look. With this design we see a nod to women’s high-end hand bags, with the ‘snakeskin’ finish. The gold accent on the dial and handle give the radio elegance. The radio was marketed to women in charge of household purchases and looking for “convenience” and “glamour."

Arvin began as a company producing air filters for the American Car Industry. Like many companies, Arvin diversified into radio production to capitalize on the un-ending thirst for radios by the American public. Radio by the early 1950s had reached the pinnacle in production and content available for consumers.


Television was now in vogue and had supplanted much of the market. In response, radio producers had to create new models each year to impress customers. This Arvin model shows how the company tried to attract a new niche market, women; interested in the “convenience” of being able to take their music with them, wherever they go.



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