My Ultimate Transistor Radio “Score"
- Amazing Finds
By Neil Gallensky CRC Member
The Flash May/June, 2014
I collect early vintage transistor radios among other things. On weekends, I often spend mornings exploring our local (Denver, Colorado) outdoor flea market, if for no other reason than to get a little fresh air and exercise and to swap stories with some of the other local collectors.
This market is a huge general flea market which occupies several acres, and it is not unusual to see most anything for sale, including hot tubs, auto parts, fruits and vegetables, hand crafted items, clothing, antiques, collectibles, and other assorted "junque". Once in a while even a collectible radio shows up (although not nearly as frequently as most of us would hope!). In the spirit of friendly competition, several of the local radio collectors anxiously await the rare opportunity to "pounce" on a collectible set!
One summer Saturday a few years ago, I was making my rounds through the flea market, and experiencing my typical frustration due to lack of success in finding anything of interest. It was now mid-morning, and since it was a clear day the mercury was already soaring. Given my total lack of success, I was beginning to question my sanity in continuing to search for anything on the flea market's large expanse of baking asphalt. After already having walked a few miles that morning, my feet were sore, and I was seriously considering abandoning the day's effort and instead engaging in more productive pursuits (such as going home and mowing the lawn).
Ah, I figured one more "round" of the flea market couldn't hurt. All of a sudden, my heart nearly stopped. From a distance, I spotted an item on one vendor's table that looked very familiar, almost at an instinctive level. Nah, it couldn't be. But the gold dial was in the right place. No - it would have been already snapped up by this late in the morning. Something in my gut told me I needed to see this item up-close and QUICKLY. To this day, I still can't recall how I got to the table, whether I simply ran or actually flew through the air. In a matter of seconds, I was holding a red Regency TR-1 transistor radio in my hands, which I was able to purchase for the total sum of one dollar! My hands were shaking so hard, I could barely retrieve my billfold and present the money to the seller!
For those not familiar with vintage radios, the Regency TR-1 is the very first commercially produced transistor radio, and the TR-1 first came to market in the fall of 1954, at a hefty price of nearly $50 at the time, making it very expensive for the typical consumer back then.
The introduction of this Regency pocket radio really did begin the headlong rush into developing and marketing portable electronic devices that are so prevalent today. As “the first,” these radios are highly sought-after today, and command a premium price from both radio collectors and students of technology history. The Regency TR-1 is on display at the Smithsonian and in many other collections displaying the most significant break-throughs in applying technology to meet consumer needs.
The radio I found that morning a few years back is not quite in perfect shape, yet it is exhibited proudly on my shelf as a treasured item in my collection. I'm personally convinced that sequence of events which I have de-scribed here and the ultimate "triumph" in finding this radio are every bit as important to me as the actual pos-session of the radio. In other words, I would not have experienced nearly as much fun if I had simply pur-chased the radio from another collector for big bucks.
So, to all of my fellow collectors, the dream remains alive! You too could come across that ultimate treasure when you least expect it!