How to Start Collecting transistor radios

When I first started collecting transistor radios, I bought anything that I thought was neat, without giving much consideration to the condition or brand.  Well, guess what.  There are alot of neat radios out there and also a lot of junk.  Most of my purchases were through online auctions where there is an abundance of radios offered.  However, as easy as it is to buy them, you need to spend wisely, and when it comes to determining value, one of the most important factors is condition.  There is nothing that beats being able to hold a radio in your own hand to be able to determine a radios condition.  That is why I like going to radio shows and swap meets whenever I can.  But there are not many opportunities for that without spending alot of time traveling.  Therefore, I still buy on-line, but I am very selective.  I suggest that if you are going to buy on-line that you follow these steps to minimize the risk for disappointment and to help assure that your purchases will be ones that you will be happy with for many years before laying out that green.      

  1. Determine what it is that you really want to collect.  With literally thousands of transistors to chose from, you could never collect them all.  The earlier you can narrow down what you want to be in your ultimate collection, the less money you will waste buying radios that you will just end up unloading later.
  2. Once you identify your passion, learn everything you can about them.  Gather information from the internet, service manuals, books, and contact other collectors so you can learn from their experiences.  The goal here is to avoid the expensive lesson of learning by making mistakes.  Hopefully, if you collect Zenith transistor radios, you will find the detailed information on this website helpful.  But for general advice, reading the next section “What to watch out for when buying a transistor radio” will help.  Another good way to learn is to join a radio club.  Search google to find one that meets in your area.  
  3. Patience is a virtue so try to practice it.  Don’t jump at the first example you see or you are likely to have radios that you will want to upgrade later.  There is no shortage of radios out there, but there is a limited number of collector quality radios that get offered for sale.  Therefore, it is much smarter to save your money and be ready to pay a little extra to get that collector quality example you will be proud to own.
  4. Get to know the seller.  Is this radio being offered by a fellow radio collector who has a reputation for being knowledgable, fair and honest, or is the seller a vendor who picks up all kinds of items cheap with the intent of turning them over quickly for a profit?
  5. Try to understand the criteria the seller uses to determine condition.  If it is described as an excellent example, be sure that you know what that means.  Too many times it means “excellent for how old it is”.  Not the same!
  6. If you still need more information, ask questions.  This is tough to do in an auction format where there is a time limit.  Usually it is ineffective as well because many auction sellers state “I know nothing about radios so feel free to ask questions”.  To who?  Certainly not them!
  7. Realize that transistor radios in truly excellent condition are the exception and not the norm.  Most excellent radios have resided in collections for many years and are seldom offered for sale.  Once in a great while you will run across the unused set that was “found in Grandpas drawer unused”.  Therefore, the supply of collection worthy radios is drying up.  However, some collectors are starting to sell transistors from their collections now that transistors are technically antiques.  So be ready and don’t miss your chance to get the one you want when it does get offered for sale. 

Now you are ready to start to build your collection by making smart decisions for yourself.  Have fun and happy collecting!                   

13 thoughts on “How to Start Collecting transistor radios”

  1. “Determine what it is that you really want to collect. With literally thousands of transistors to chose from, you could never collect them all.”

    ….well, I’m going to try! 🙂

  2. Gary,
    I have an AM FM Zenith transistor radio model that I don’t seem to find in your web site lineup (o by the way…excellent web site). It has an ivory (front) enclosure with black (back) cover…both plastic…and plastic grill. Radio measures three and one-eighth in. by four and seven-eighths in. by about one and a half in. deep. Tuning window area basically black w white and blue alphamerics w logo saying: ZENITH SOLID = STATE and the circled crown. Inside the back cover is a very miniature diagram showing 8 transistors and a few components and indicating Model #RE-20. Takes a ZENITH Z216 or equivalent battery. Trademark Registered-Marca Registrade; Zenith Radio Corporation; Chicago, Illinois U.S.A.; Made in Korea. Can you tell me more about the radio? What is the “equivalent” battery (has what appears to be a standard 9V battery connector; but I don’t want to assume that and potentially damage it with overvoltage). Would like to light it off see how it performs. Thanks. jv

  3. I wish to sell 8 individual transistor radios Grundig world ban short wave portable radio new inbox with instructions
    Sony world ban weather transistor radio new in box with instructions. Emerson transistor radio in box with instruction sheet? Who buys these transistor radios????
    Please advise.

    1. Collectors mostly but some will retail them out for profit if they can obtain them reasonable enough. I deal in the pocket-sized vintage radios. In the Chicago area try reaching out to Paul Drake in Arlington Heights. Thanks for reaching out, Gary

  4. I have the magic number in my head for collecting, that being the number 1. A 1936 Zenith Stratosphere, RCA TRK-1 TV circa 1939, a CLEAR Case Regency Tr-1 salesman sample works, although originally a poor performer, and a1936 HMV British TV, working and converted. We have come a long way haven’t we Wilbur?

    1. Wow Phil. Impressive collection. Let me know if you ever consider letting go of your clear TR1 sample. I have a black one. Gary

  5. My husband passed away and he has a huge transistor radio collection. I’m now looking at a Cree color zenith 500D. He also has many novelty transistor radios. Any idea on how I can sell these?

    1. Hello Llona and I am sorry for your loss. The fastest and easiest way to liquidate a collection is through auction. I suggest contacting the radio club nearest to you for help with this. They usually hold their own auctions annually, or can put you in contact with private auctioneers who can help you. Gary

  6. Hi Gary,
    I hope you may be able to help. I am looking for a Grundig Majestic Radio. I would like to buy it from a dealer and preferably someone who also repairs them.
    Do you know either someone who sells and repairs or just sells and or just repairs.

    Thanks,
    Jody

  7. I acquired many transistor radios a few years back probably 100 in all I’m am sure they are mostly crap but there are some zenith radios and many in boxes some may work but most probably wont due to there age. There is also some short wave radios as well. I would like to sell them as a lot. Any advise?

    1. Hi Charlie,
      Selling a group like you have as a single lot can be challenging. Buyers usually like to “Cherry Pick” the best and leave the rest. However, if you can provide me with a list of what you have, I would consider taking the whole group. Thanks, Gary

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