Sunday, May 30, 2010

Antique Radio Reproductions - Does "Real" Matter?

Crosley has made a name for itself in preserving vintage radio, juke box, phone, and record player designs, while updating the electronics to contemporary technology. I've got a Crosley portable record player that's in a very nice leather covered latching case. It works fine and sounds as good as any portable record player I remember from my youth.

This radio sits in our living room on top of a bookcase and is one of the few reproduction units we own. It's very stylish and true to the period for which it represents. The main problem I have with Crosley is that they pay much more attention to design than to sound reproduction. With the exception of my record player, all of their radios and clock radios sound tinny and anemic to me. Still, if you want a great-looking radio for a vintage-themed room or nook, Crosley may be a good way to go. No worries about old tube units burning up or costly refurbishment.

The question then is: Do I consider my Crosley reproduction pieces as true "vintage" collectibles. For me, the answer is "no," simply by the fact that they are mass-manufactured in modern factories. They lack the intrinsic nostalgic value that I identify with authentic pieces. To put this in a different perspective, imagine you're traveling through Ireland and come upon a hill with three castles on it. Two of the castles were built in the 12th Century and one was built in 1980, but has all the architectural elements of its neighbors to the point where all the castles look the same from your vantage point. Do you consider the 1980 "reproduction" a true classic castle? Do you pay the same to take the tour? What's your feeling when strolling through it? To extend the metaphor, does a visit to the Hollywood Wax Museum satisfy your desire to see movie stars up close? Why or why not?

1 comment:

  1. Is a Crosley replica, fresh out of the box from the Christmas Tree Shop or Bed Bath and Beyond, a real collectible? Of course not. But I had the privilege of being given a "Philco" cathedral replica, made in the mid to late 1970s, a few years back after it had sat in an attic for 30 years. It had disappointing sound, which I easily improved by changing some of the capacitors in the tone control circuits. I cleaned up and repaired the case, which was part curved wood and part plastic. When finished with it, I had a surprisingly good sounding radio that also served well as an amplified speaker for a Garrard turntable that was found in the same attic. The guts of the Philco seemed to tell an interesting story, with fairly sloppy looking circuit boards that were probably made in the far east, but mounted on a metal chassis that had hardware, switches and potentiometers that looked like relics of the US car industry, so this might have been a product of Philco-Ford after all. I certainly wasn't of much collector's interest when it was made, but it might well be in the future.



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