FAQ

I have an old tube radio, TV set, hi-fi component, electric instrument, or vintage electronic test set, and I want to know if it is safe to plug it in?

Short answer:

No, we do not recommend you plug it in before it has been checked out electrically by an expert. There are possible dangers of electrocution or fire if you are not careful.

Longer answer:

True, if it is from the 1950’s or later it stands a fair chance of working as is. A bad hum usually just means that certain components called filter capacitors need to be replaced. Beware, sets made in the 1950’s and earlier were not made with such safety devices as three-prong grounded or polarized plugs. In fact, polarized plugs were rare even into the 1970’s. Some are even wired so that the chassis is electrically “hot”. Be careful not to touch the metal chassis inside the cabinet or the knob shafts without the knobs when these radios are plugged in, even after they have been checked by an expert.

Older radios than that often develop more extensive problems as old parts age. Sometimes they might work for a short time but most likely nothing at all will happen if they are plugged in, including no sound. You might get static, or the aforementioned humming. Worst case, you might get smoke, yes, there is a remote chance you could cause a fire. In any case, you risk damaging other components of the radio, such as the power transformer, for which it may be difficult to find a replacement.

Be especially careful of the dusty, dirty, and beat up old sets found in attics, basements, garages, and sheds. No matter where they are found, if they are missing any tubes they will not work and there is really no point in plugging them in. If you want to investigate getting it fixed up, click here.

I have an old tube radio, TV set, hi-fi component, electric instrument, or vintage electronic test set, and I want to know if it is safe to plug it in?

This is sort of a subset of the second question above but we get asked it a lot. In fact, I’m going to send you back to the second question answer to use the email contacts there. But first, keep in mind that most old radios and related equipment are not worth a lot. You will not be retiring to the South Pacific after selling Grandma’s old Philco. Radios in antique stores are frequently over-priced, probably due to ignorance or wishful thinking on the part of the dealer.

There are some radios worth in the hundreds of dollars to collectors, and many fewer in the thousands of dollars range, and a rare few in the tens of thousands of dollars. Chances are your radio or other electronic device is none of these, but, hey, it doesn’t hurt to check. Also know that condition plays a big part in the value of a radio or vintage electronic device along with rarity and age. That is why the prices you may see in price guides or on ebay® may not apply to your set. By the way, if you are thinking of selling it and it has not been restored, do not plug it in!

Send the description of what you have and photos to News@MAARC.org

Also check both sections of our Interesting Links page that have links to web sites that contain all manner of searchable information about old radios. Click here for Radio Information and Radio Picture Galleries.

I have an old radio, hi-fi component, TV, electric instrument, or electronic test set, and I want to know if it can be fixed?

Yes, most likely it can be made to play again. Perhaps you have a family hierloom or a neat flea market find that would make a dandy conversation piece in your home. It is fun to have them working again. Warning, if it has not yet been restored, do not plug it in! Follow the link to the left as to why that is not safe nor advisable.

Understand that restoring old electronics is custom work and may cost more than the set itself is worth, especially if the cabinet requires work as well as the electronics. We collector hobbyists do this for fun and rarely worry about that fact. But it may be an issue for you if you are paying for it.

There are professionals who hire out for such work. Check out the Services Offered section of our links page for some we know of. Some do both electronics and cabinet refinishing. If they are not local you will likely need to ship your set to them.

If you feel you have the skills to do part or all of the restoration yourself, check our Useful Links page for help with sources of parts and getting started. If you find out you really enjoy it, you should consider joining MAARC! You can also contact the MAARC members listed in the second question above for advice.

I should give a nod here to the historic purists. A growing subset of collectors feels that if you encounter an old radio or electronic device that is fully original, in other words, never had repair work done or parts replaced, it should be left as is to preserve the historic record. Such sets may not play again but can still make a fine display piece, which is usually what old radios and other sets are most of the time anyway.

Pre-WWII era sets like this are not so common anymore, but if your set is one of these you might want to take it into consideration. The National Capital Radio & Television Museum has a radio restoration shop and repairs radios for Museum members.

I have an old tube radio, TV set, hi-fi component, electric instrument, or vintage electronic test set, and I want to know if it is safe to plug it in?

We’ll try to help. Use the email link below to ask your question. Please tell us the brand and model number, if you can find it. Look for the model number on the bottom, or back of the radio, if there is one. If there is no back, check for a label inside the cabinet, or the model number could be stamped on the chassis. Sometimes the model number is just no longer there. The next best thing to do is email a couple small pictures of the set and there is a fairly good chance we can identify it, or at least get close. We will do our best but realize that we are volunteers and do not have time or resources to do extensive research. However, we should be able to give you some basic information.

No, we do not recommend you plug it in before it has been checked out electrically by an expert. There are possible dangers of electrocution or fire if you are not careful.

Send the description of what you have and photos to News@MAARC.org

Also check both sections of our Interesting Links page that have links to web sites that contain all manner of searchable information about old radios. Click here for Radio Information and Radio Picture Galleries.

I have a vintage electronic device, such an old radio, TV, vacuum tubes and parts, hi-fi component, electric instrument, or electronic test set, and I want to sell it.

The club does not buy vintage electronics directly, but we do offer several venues to help you sell it to our members or other collectors. Each of our monthly meetings offers a free flea market and a small auction. There is a small commission for auction sales. Of course, there is no guarantee that items will sell in the flea market. Three times a year we offer larger meets with bigger flea markets and auctions.

The larger auctions are more likely to garner better prices. These three events, RadioActivity, RadioFallFest, and Radio WinterFest, are normally in June, October, and January respectively. Check the Calendar Page for dates and details. (If you have a lot of stuff to sell see the answer for radio estates below).

You can also put a classified ad in our monthly newsletter, Radio Age. Contact the editors, Ed Lyon, Brian Belanger, or Domi Sanchez for details.

Or check the Services section of our Useful Links page for web sites that let you list old radios for sale.

Antique Radio Classified is another publication where you can buy a listing for a reasonable fee.

While we do not endorse them, and do not always even like them, we have to admit (and sometimes even shop) online auctions such as eBay®. They can be very effective places to sell old radios and vintage electronics. By the way, if you are thinking of selling it and it has not been restored, do not plug it in!

I have a vintage electronic component such as an old radio, TV, hi-fi component, electronic test set, electric instrument, vacuum tubes or other repair parts, or other related stuff that I just want to get rid of.

And we appreciate you contacting us rather than just trashing it. It is true that many old radios, other vintage electronics, and their parts and pieces are not worth much, especially if they are in poor condition. If it looks like junk, it probably is, but you never know when you might have “another man’s treasure”, and we do want the chance to check out what you have. Assuming you are in the Mid-Atlantic region (greater Washington, DC/Baltimore area) we have Radio Rescue volunteers who can visit you to take a look and let you know if it is worth us taking it off your hands.

Frankly, we usually do so as a service, particularly if it isn’t worth much. And we will let you know if it is valuable enough that it would be worth your while to sell it instead. Contact one of the volunteers listed below. If you live outside the Mid-Atlantic region we will try to hook you up with a local antique radio club. You might find one yourself on our links page under Other Clubs.

MAARC welcomes donations, which gets the items off your hands easily and puts them in the hands of interested collectors. But be aware that MAARC is not an IRS 501(c)(3) charity organization. Therefore donations to MAARC cannot be claimed as a tax deduction for those who are able to itemize deductions. Please let us know if you wish to have a tax write off as there are local radio museum charities we can refer you to.

To contact the MAARC Radio Rescue Squad, email News@MAARC.org

I have a lot of old radio, TV, hi-fi, electrical Instruments, electronic test equipment, tubes, or other vintage electronics or components from a collection or estate to dispose of.

Perhaps you had a relative or friend who was a fellow collector or who was a radio or television repairman “back in the day”. Maybe that describes yourself and you are looking to down-size your holdings. MAARC is honored to assist in such efforts. We recognize that as collectors we are merely stewards of items of historic value and want to help pass them along to those who will continue to preserve them.

If you have just a few items, we will sell them at one of our regular auctions as described under the question on Can I Sell It? above. If you have a large number of items we may set up a special auction or try to feature the estate items as a special emphasis at one of our big event auctions. These three events, RadioActivity, RadioFallFest, and RadioWinterFest, are normally in June, October, and January respectively. By arrangement with you, we can handle pick-up, hauling, and advertising for such events.

For this effort we typically ask a 15% sellers commission on the auction sales, which we feel is very reasonable for our time and trouble which can be considerable. MAARC welcomes donations, which gets the items off your hands easily and puts them in the hands of interested collectors. Below are MAARC’s auction policies (in .pdf format, requires Adobe® reader software). Please contact one of the volunteers listed in the second question above for more information.

To contact the MAARC Radio Rescue Squad, email News@MAARC.org