Where Can I Find Old Radios?

Like other used items, radios might pop up just about anywhere. Here are some places to look.

Radio swap meets. One of the best sources of old radios at reasonable prices. Swap-meet prices are generally fair because sellers assume they're dealing with savvy collectors. If you haven't hooked up with a local club, check the club list at the Antique Radio Classified website. The ARC website also maintains a radio events list, which is updated monthly. Note that some clubs hold informal "tailgate" swaps from time to time, in addition to their annual or semi-annual organized events.

Garage sales, flea markets, thrift stores. If you're keen for bargains, these sources can yield some amazingly cheap goods. For example, once I bought a perfect Zenith TransOceanic 3000-1 for $5 at a garage sale. A nice 3000-1 can easily sell in the $100 range in a "retail" setting. Of course, you never know what you'll find, and you have to be willing to slog through acres of junk, as well. But if you enjoy this kind of hunting, sifting through the flotsam and jetsam is all part of the fun. Since I launched this website in 1995, some thrift stores have become "corporatized," leading to higher prices and fewer truly vintage items.

Antique stores. Antique stores often have a few old radios, for atmosphere if nothing else, but don't expect any bargains! Dealers are in business to make money and they may price radios at or above (sometimes far above) the "book" values given in radio collector guides. Most antique stores sell radios as-is, with no form of guarantee or right to a refund.

Antique radio dealers. Radio merchants are also in business to make money, which means charging "retail" prices. If radios are their sole business, however, they should be willing to take returns if you're not satisfied and offer guarantees on sets they have restored.

Internet forums. Prior to ebay and craigslist, Internet discussion groups provided the only way for people to buy and sell radios and TVs online. Nowadays, that traffic has largely moved elsewhere. However, some such forums have a Classified ad section for the convenience of members. Before placing such an ad, read the forum's rules. In most cases, their ad page is intended for informal, non-commercial member-to-member transactions, not as an extra place for Internet peddlers to publicize their eBay auctions.

Online auctions and sales. When I launched this website in 1995, there was no such thing as eBay or craigslist. Since then, online auctions have exploded and armchair shoppers around the world can bid on a few thousand old radios on any given day.

In my experience, many people pay more for old radios at auction websites than they would at other venues such as swap meets. Nevertheless, online shopping is a boon to people who live in an isolated area or who are looking for something very specific. I'm a bit of a cheapskate and I think it's more fun to find things the old-fashioned way. Of the hundreds of radios and televisions that I've owned, only a handful came from an online auction. All the others were purchased at swap meets and the other venues listed above.

©1995-2023 Philip I. Nelson, all rights reserved