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Posted-By: auto-faq
Archive-name: antiques/radio+phono/faq/part1

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge Frequently Asked Questions (part 1)

Revision  Date			Notes

1.1	Oct. 20, 94.	Second version---major editing.  Added two new
sections for sources-of-supply list.  
1.2	Dec. 10, 1994.  Minor corrections and revisions.  
1.3     Jan. 8, 1995.  Put in boatanchor mail list info.  
1.4     Feb. 26, 1995  Approval to post on news.answers granted
1.4	May 8, 1995	Charter discussion and revised format notice
1.5	Sept. 3, 1995	Add new newsgroup cross references.
2.0	Nov. 20, 1995	Split FAQ from 5 sections to 9 sections
2.1	March 3, 1996   Revise charter disc., boatanchor pointers

Part 1 - Introduction to the FAQ 
FAQ editor: Hank van Cleef.  Email vancleef@netcom

This is a regular posting of frequently-asked questions (FAQ) about 
antique radios and phonographs.  It is intended to summarize some common
questions on old home entertainment audio equipment and provide answers
to these questions.  

Regular FAQ postings can help save network bandwidth and maintain a good
signal-to-noise ratio in the newsgroup.  However, they can't do it alone - you,
the reader, have to use them.
* If you are a new user, please print and review the FAQ articles and look at
  the instructions in the news.announce.newusers newsgroup before posting any
  articles.  If you don't find the answer in the FAQ and you have tried
  elsewhere, then you have "done your homework" and it is acceptable to ask
  the question on the UseNet newsgroups.  Along with your question, please
  state where else you have looked for the answer so others also know that
  you have done your homework.
* If you are an experienced user, please help by refraining from answering
  frequently-asked questions on the newsgroup if they are already answered by
  the FAQ articles.  Instead, send e-mail to the user who asked the question.
  (It will be helpful if you include the part of the FAQ that answers their
  question, but not the whole thing.)

The FAQ cannot always prevent people from posting repetitive questions.  But
even if hundreds of questions get posted, it saves you from having to answer
them hundreds of times.  Also, a friendly pointer to the FAQ in your first
answer can help that person refer to the FAQ in the future.  That is when we
can begin to get a real savings of network bandwidth.

To reduce the size of articles, the FAQ information is posted in 5 parts:
Part 1 - Introduction to the FAQ and general questions.
	(Editor: Hank van Cleef,
Part 2 - General questions about acoustical phonographs.
	(Editor: George Conklin,
Part 3 - Sources of spares and services for acoustic phonos.
Part 4 - General questions about vacuum tube radios and phonos.
Part 5 - Sources of spares and services for old radios.  
Part 6 - Cosmetic cleanup and cabinet finish questions
Part 7 - Technical questions about vacuum tube radios and phonos
Part 8 - Tools and test equipment
Part 9 - Miscellaneous and other antique home entertainment devices

Please do not E-mail technical questions, requests to identify various
items, or technical questions to the Faq editors.  Post them to the
newsgroup instead.  You will get better answers more quickly by
(March '96)  My mailbox is getting far too many questions that I don't
know the answers to, and I am responding with a form message that says
"I don't know, post to the group."  So I'll repeat:
THE NEWSGROUP.  The FAQ editors read the newsgroup regularly, and
generally respond where they have information.  We have put a lot of
general information in the FAQ, and a lot of it has come from discussion
on the newsgroup, not from our own knowledge.  You'll get more and
better answers from posting to the newsgroup, and if we've got something
to contribute, we'll do it there.  Trying to use us as consultants
simply wastes your time and ours.  

The charter for the rec.antiques.radios+phonos follows immediately,
after which are some of the top frequently-asked questions.  

Newsgroups line:	Audio devices and materials of yesteryear.


Discussion of the use, repair, and collecting of early standard-broadcast
radios, phonographs, and any other similarly-related items designed for home
entertainment sound receiving or sound reproduction.

This group is intended to be a forum for those with an interest 
in sound-receiving and sound-reproduction equipment that was generally
manufactured prior to the widespread use of transistors.  The group's
discussion, however, will not be strictly limited to vacuum-tube and
mechanical devices, and those with an interest in early transistor radios,
early televisions, and other such items that reflect pioneering audio
technology will be welcomed.


Amateur radio equipment discussion will be directed to the existing amateur
radio newsgroups and to the boatanchors list.  This is only done because
those groups present an established forum for people with an interest in
classic amateur radio equipment.  Those classic amateur radio collectors who
also share an interest in early standard-broadcast equipment will fully
appreciate the desire to separate the two interests.  Their valuable
expertise will, however, be most welcome in all forums.

Since the summer of 1993, there has been an ongoing discussion among
those interested in antique radios and phonographs (and other related
equipment and materials) about the possibility of forming this
newsgroup.  That small core of enthusiasts has rapidly grown in
number, and now includes representatives of museums, technical
specialists, collectors, and novices with an inquisitiveness about
sound reproducing and receiving equipment of the past.  With
enthusiasm for the preservation and enjoyment of these superb
expressions of human inventiveness steadily increasing, the time has
come to establish a forum through which knowledge of their history,
restoration, and use can be shared by experts and newcomers alike.
This proposal represents the essence of what an Internet newsgroup can
accomplish--it can produce a collective source of knowledge from which
useful information can be drawn for years into the future. 
      Bill Robie, August, 1994

In general, this means:

1.  This newsgroup has the name "antique" in it, and primarily addresses
home entertainment equipment.  It is not a "catch-all" group for 
discussing things not covered by other groups. 

2.  Items of particular interest to readers in this group:
	a.  Acoustic phonographs of all types.
	b.  Early electronic phonographs, primarily for playing 78 RPM
	c.  Radios of the 1920-50's period.  Of particular interest are
Atwater Kent, Philco, and Zenith sets, although all radios by earlier
manufacturers are of interest to the group.  

3.  While much of the discussion the group is about radios and phonos of
US manufacture, we welcome discussion of non-US radios and phonos from
the same period sold primarily to a domestic market.   

4.  There are a great many opinions about what is "antique" and what
isn't.  The focus of the discussion that led to creation of this
newsgroup was on phonograph and radio technology of the 1890-1950 era.
The group does include some discussion of:
	a.  Monaural vacuum tube "high fidelity" equipment.
	b.  Early hybrid and transistor home entertainment designs.
	c.  Early black and white televisions, and a few color sets.  
However, post-1950's technology generally diverges from the focus of
this newsgroup.  We generally regard 1960 as a cutoff date for
appropriateness in this group.  
	d.  Instrumentation suitable for use in design, repair, and 
calibration of antique home entertainment items.  This includes
laboratory-grade equipment as well as service shop equipment.  
	e.  Discussions about technological history, recording and
broadcasting practices, etc., have been interesting areas of discussion
in the group.  

5.  While not originally sold as "home entertainment" equipment, there
is an interest in jukeboxes, early musical devices such as the Hammond
organ, and movie theater audio, particuarly items manufactured before 

6.  We welcome participation by "hams," and include some discussion of 
old tube-type communications receivers, particularly from the '30's and 
'40's in this group.  Amateur radio issues in general are already covered 
by the* groups.  
(March '96).  The "boatanchor" mail list, which was previously mentioned
here, is, according to the list administrator, a paid subscription list
as of March 15, 1996.  

7. Casual buy, sell, swap, and trade, of old radios and phonos, parts,
are within the charter.  Please keep in mind that this is a discussion 
group, with many non-collectors who have one or two items that they 
enjoy.  This is not a place to hawk your wares.  If you have an old radio 
or phono or two, or want to buy a specific make and model of something, 
then post here.  Do not post blanket "WTB (wanted to buy) notices for 
any and all old radios, old transistor radios, phono records, candlestick 
phones, etc.  Also, do not post anonymously (AOL, Prodigy, and Compuserve 
users take particular note, as these systems do not give posters a clear
identity).  Give a geographic location.  

Before posting a buy/sell/swap item here, consider posting to one of the
newsgroups set up for that purpose.  Rec.antiques.marketplace is the
principal group for antique trading, and is regularly read by readers of
this group who want to buy and sell. is a general group
for electronic items of all types.,
sci.electronics.marketplace are also good groups to use, particularly
for post-WW II items.  Consider using a regional marketplace or forsale
newsgroup, particularly if you are talking about something you do not
want to ship.  Remember that this group is worldwide.  

Dealers of parts, supplies, and services for home entertainment items
are listed in sections 3 and 5 of this FAQ.  

8.  Binary postings.  Please do not post binary files (picture files,
uuencoded data, mime attachments, etc.) to this newsgroup.  This is a
Usenet convention, not a charter issue.  A number of system
administrators run software that detect and cancel binary postings in
non-binary newsgroups.  If you want to post a binary file, find a group
with "binaries" in the name, post there, and post a pointer to it here.
Keep in mind that binary groups are not available on many systems,
because of the traffic volume involved, and are poorly propagated.  

Some of the things that don't seem to fit well with this group are:
1.  Stereo from the 60's and later, particularly things with bookshelf
speakers.  The* newsgroups are the place to discuss these.  
2.  Computers. Usenet has hundreds of newsgroups devoted to computers,
including old ones.  
3.  Tape recorders other than vacuum tube reel-to-reel units.  
4.  Video recorders.
5.  Guitar amplifiers. 
6.  Amateur radio equipment except for older general coverage 
receivers that sold to non-hams as home entertainment SWL 
(shortwave listening) sets.  
7.  Phonograph records---trading should be done in the newsgroups.
8.  Off-charter and commercial buy and sell postings.  This includes
"wanted to buy, old radios" postings from individuals, and any
buy/swap/trade postings from anonymous accounts where name or location
are not given.  Repetitive postings are also unwelcome to most of the

The above are general guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules.  If you
receive a response posting or E-mail indicating that your post was off
topic, it will generally point to a more appropriate group.  This group
has been historically free of flames.  There are some very honest
differences of opinion about many topics, and some of the discussions
are lively.  The focus of this group is on positive things.  Ad hominum
attacks, flame wars, along with attempts to use the group for commercial
purposes, are not welcome here.  Your questions, and your experiences
with old radios and phonos are the lifeblood of the group.  Work to make
this group a happy and positive place.  

A note on safety:  Virtually everything we discuss in this newsgroups
can present safety hazards of one sort or another.  In particular are
the energy stored in phonograph springs and the voltages and currents in
electronics equipment.  In addition, processes such as soldering
components can cause fires and serious burns if improperly done.  

While the subject of safety hazards and safe operation, troubleshooting,
and repair practices is a topic of discussion on the newsgroup, such
discussions are generally far from comprehensive.  Additionally, many of
the processes discussed presume knowledge of safe practices, and do not
go into detail about possible hazards.  Safety is your responsibility.
While we may discuss techniques and practices that work well for us, and
that we can use safely, we are not prepared to give supervised
instruction or to audit people's safety practices.  If you are unsure of
your ability to work in a safe manner, seek out local assistance and

Q.  What other newsgroups cover similar items?

A.  There are several newsgroups covering broadcast and amateur radio;
and audio equipment.  Acoustic phonographs, player pianos, etc. are less
likely to be covered in other newsgroups.  

Notable among other newsgroups with similar interests:

rec.antiques    General discussion of antiques.  

rec.antiques.marketplace	Buy/sell/swap antiques of all types.	 Discussion of later vacuum tube audio.*  Phonograph records.  This hierarchy has both
		discussion and marketplace groups.	Buy and sell any electronic equipment, new or old. This
		includes test equipment and accessories.	Specific to ham radio equipment.		Discusses shortwave programming,
				stations, and receivers.	Repair information, primarily for modern
			equipment.*  		Discussion of audio equipment.  This hierarchy 
includes several categories, as well as a marketplace newsgroup.  

rec.woodworking  	Discussion of woodworking, finishes, veneering,
etc.  If you are working with an old cabinet, read this group.  

Q.  Where can I get needles for my Victrola.

A. Contact the Antique Phonograph Supply Company, Route 23, Box 123, 
Davenport Center, NY 13751.  Phone 607-278-6218.  Remember to change 
your needles after every play.  The engineering concept was simple:
the needles are softer than the record, and will wear without
stressing the record.  Some records had grit in the mix to
wear the steel needle.  

Q. Where can I get replacement vacuum tubes for my radio?

A.  There are several suppliers of tubes.  Best known is Antique
Electronic Supply, 6221 S. Maple, Tempe, Arizona 85283, telephone
602-820-5411.  See the FAQ section for electronic parts and supplies.  

Q.  I would like to get an old radio or an old phonograph.  Where can 
I find one?

A.  Generally, these items are where you find them.  There are dealers
who specialize in old radios and old phonographs, and these may be the
best source if you want something that has been restored to good working
condition as well as cosmetically.  Second hand stores and thrift shops,
estate sales, moving sales, garage sales all can produce interesting
items, and it is possible to find some real bargains.  Keep in mind that
the source of supply is attics, barns, storerooms, where these were
tucked away, maybe as much as fifty or seventy years ago.  They may or
may not have been working when they were stored.  

Keep in mind that acoustical phonographs have parts in their reproducers
that deteriorate over time, and that lubricants deteriorate as well.
Electronic equipment also has components that deteriorate over time as
well.  What you are looking at may have been stored in working condition
forty or fifty years ago, and look clean as a whistle, but be in need of
major work before you can use it.  

Q.  I found an EtherSnarf model YU4Q radio at an estate auction and got
it for $125.  Did I get rooked?  It looks complete, has ten tubes and a
big oak cabinet with spool legs and lots of gewgaws, and has four
shortwave bands.  I don't find it listed in any old radio buyers'

A.  First of all, keep in mind that there were literally hundreds of
radio manufacturers in the US in the 1920-1960 era, and there were some
manufactures who built "trade" radios to be sold under a store's brand
name.   Part 3 of this FAQ will help you figure out when this radio was
built, even if it isn't listed in any of the buyers' manuals or in any
of the maintenance manuals that were published at the time.  

What an old radio is actually worth depends on many things.  First of 
all, what is it worth to you?  While there is supposedly a market out 
there, what a specific radio is actually worth is, in reality, what 
someone is willing to pay to buy it from you.  You want to keep in 
mind the following:
	a.  The radio may need a lot of work before it will
operate as it was designed to operate.  
	b.  Most radios were "lo-fi" in modern terms.  Many of us
actually enjoy the sound,  and many of the consoles, cathedrals, and
tombstones were tuned very nicely to the programs sources of the day.
	c.  While the number of tubes may give some indication of the
quality of the radio, and a big console cabinet is more likely to house
a good radio than a plastic table cabinet, keep in mind that "number of
tubes" and "big cabinet" both were selling points in the 1930-50 era
that meant "high retail price."  Some mid-priced consoles look as though
they have a lot more radio in them than they do.    

Some people swear by the Bunis "Collectors' Guide to Old Radios" series
written by Marty and Sue Bunis.  Others do not feel that their prices
are particularly supportable when trying to sell.  Most collectors do
not buy for resale, and buy because they want the item.  

Q.  My neighbor's grandfather left him a Victor spring-powered
phonograph he wants to sell me for $100.  Should I buy it?

A.  As with old radios, the "worth" of an old phonograph is its "worth
to you."  There are "price guides" and general ideas of what things can
be bought and sold for.  However, there are substantial variables, such
as geographic location, condition of the unit, etc.  

Keep in mind that you are going to need some records to play on
your machine, and that they are also definitely "lo-fi."  Edison fought
electrification to the bitter end, so some of the later Edisons, as well
as the Victor Orthophonic of the mid-twenties, did incredibly well.  

Q.  I got an old Westinghouse cathedral radio from my neighbor when he
cleaned out it his attic.  He told me he put it up there when Fred Allen
left radio, but that it was working when he stored it.  I plugged it in
and turned it on.  All of the tubes glowed, but nothing came out of the
loudspeaker.  After a few minutes, one of the tubes got very red inside
and then, suddenly, liquid shot out of one of the aluminum cans, hit the
bright red tube, and it broke.  When I turned the set off, it was
smoking, and this liquid got all over everything like tom cat pee.  What
do I do now?

A.  Never ever plug in an old piece of electronics gear that hasn't been
used for a few years without checking it out first.  Part 4 of this FAQ
describes some of the things to check.  Fred Allen left radio in 1949,
so that radio has been stored 45 years.  
What I am describing here actually happened to me around 1948.  The
problem was a shorted wet electrolytic condenser.  The plates of the
rectifier tube, an 80, glowed red, and I shut the radio off, but the
electrolytic boiled, squirted the electrolyte (nasty stuff) onto the 80,
which promptly shattered.  Cleanup was a soap-and-water job.  

Q.  Can I get spares for restoring my Edison phonograph---for my Atwater
Kent radio.  

A. Parts 2 and 4 of this FAQ list suppliers of spares for phonos and
radios, respectively.  In addition to spares support, there are
people who rebuild phonograph transducers and other subassemblies.  
Availability of specific spares depends on several things.  OEM spares
support for pre-1930's items was discontinued before WW-II, but in many
cases, items of new manufacture are available.  In other cases, such as
the 6U5/6G5 tuning eye tube, commonly used from the '30's to the '50's,
your best bet is to substitute (and there is an adaptor for this

Q.  I've never worked on vacuum tube equipment before, but I'm a ham and
I have worked on lots of transistor equipment and small computers.  Can
I just jump in and fix my old radio?

A.  No.  There are some serious differences between old tube equipment
and modern solid state electronics.  Here are a few things to consider:
	a. DANGER! HIGH VOLTAGE!  We are not talking about 110 volts AC,
we are talking about 250-500 volts with plenty of "oomph" behind it.
You generally won't find any fuses in old electronic equipment, and no
protective circuits.  
	b.  Vacuum tube circuits have components and circuitry that
isn't used in solid state equipment.  

While the basics of physics regarding voltage, current, resistance,
inductance, and capacitance haven't changed, you'll want to study old
texts that explain the theory of operation of the circuits used.  While
developing the skills needed to trouble-shoot and repair vacuum tube
circuits is not difficult, it is very different work from working on
solid state equipment.  And, as noted, the presence of genuinely high
voltages for someone used to working with 5 and 12 volts means that you
will need to develop new safe working habits.  

Q.  I'm all thumbs around mechanical and electronics devices.  Can I
find people who know how to make these things work?

A.  Yes.  You may find someone locally who still does work on tube
electronic equipment, and a few telephone calls to service shops will
point you in the right direction if there is someone in your area.  

There are a few people who specialize in repairing and restoring old
phonographs and old radios.  While none are listed in this revision of
the FAQ, we may include a few if there is a demand for this information.
For a price, you can have almost any antique "high-tech" device restored
to like-new condition, if not better.  

Q.  What's the difference between this newsgroup and

A. was created to move discussion of acoustic
phonos and old radios (primarily 1920-40 era) from rec.antiques.  The newsgroup was created a year later as a place to
discuss use of vacuum tubes in "high fidelity" and guitar amplifiers.  

Q.  How do I subscribe to the boatanchors mailing list?

A.  (March '96).  The following instructions are the last information I
have, and have been in this FAQ since this version of the mail list was
set up in the fall of 1994.  However, this list is being converted to
"subscription only" as of March 15, 1996.  "Subscription only" means
"send money."  I do not know how the listowner plans to handle new
subscribers after March 15.  

To subscribe to the boatanchors mail list send e-mail to  Put the following in the body of the mail

subscribe boatanchors

(the following is abstracted from the listproc response from
Please *do not* submit such administrative messages to the whole
list!  Such messages only irritate the readers. If you remember
only one thing from this message, remember that a "Help" message
to the list processor ( will get you
instructions on how to unsubscribe or change your address.

This subscription is available in two formats. The first, also the 
default is to have each posting to the list mailed to you seperately. If
you want it like that, you don't have to do anything. The second option
is to receive digests which means the messages are collected and mailed
out to you only if it exceeds a length limit or a time limit (one day).
To change to the digest form, sent email to with
the following:

     set boatanchors mail digest

If you want to temporarly suspend receiving the list but don't want to
sign off the list, you can set your mail to postpone by sending email
to with the following in the body of the mail:

     set boatanchors mail postpone

This will stay in effect until you change your mail status to one of:

     ack  noack or digest (ack the default reflects your posting to
                           the list back to you)

If you want to read the FAQ for the boatanchors mailing list please
send email to with the following content:

     get boatanchors FAQ

Problems that cannot be resolved by sending e-mail to the list processor 
should be addressed to:

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:11 PM