Bonhams New York to auction the Richard Balsbaugh Collection of Vintage Radios

On December 11th, Bonhams will conduct an auction of The Richard Balsbaugh Collection of Vintage Radios, an event that will serve as yet another benchmark in the collecting history of the popular collecting field of vintage radios. The auction will begin at 11:00 a.m. at the Bonhams New York flagship gallery located at 580 Madison Avenue at 56th Street.

Air King Skyscraper 52. Designed by Harold Van Doren, circa 1933

This important private collection consists of 133 radios designed in America during the 1930s and 1940s. Richard Balsbaugh lived and breathed radios since he was a young man. Starting in the radio business as a salesman in 1972, he quickly rose to sales manager and then manager. He went on to form Pyramid Communications and was extremely successful in acquiring failing radio stations, updating format and content, and thereby increasing popularity and profitability. In 1996, he sold the firm for $300 million.

Richard Balsbaugh caught the collecting bug in the 1980s while on a business trip to Los Angeles. In search of an antique radio as a present for his morning deejay in Boston, he found himself in Off The Wall Antiques, a popular antiques shop on Melrose Avenue. Already a fan of 20th Century Design, Balsbaugh was instantly drawn to the modernist design and bold color found in Catalin radios. He bought one for the deejay, and one for himself- a Fada Bullet, and there one of the finest collections of vintage radios was born. Over the years, Balsbaugh considered several criteria in selecting radios for his collection – first and foremost was condition, followed by form and then color. With the guidance of Michael Lawlor, Balsbaugh’s collection grew to number over 200 prime examples.

Of particular interest in the Bonhams auction is a spectacular grouping of 6 prime examples of the Art Deco Air King Skyscraper 52 radio. Designed in 1933 by Harold Van Doren, these radios are considered by many to be the epitome of successful architecture-influenced design. Colors include a rare crystalline white radio with its original carrying case purchased by the collector at the landmark sale of the Mark Woolley Collection held at Bonhams New York in 2007, as well as almond, brown, and exceedingly rare lavender and mint green examples. These radios carry pre-sale estimates ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 each.

Among the many models to be offered representing a diversity of design are: the Emerson Ax235 Little Miracle (1938); Emerson BT 245 Cathedral (1938); Fada 711 (1946); Crosley G-1465 Split Grille (1938); Garod 6AU1 Commander (1945); Fada L56 (1939); Fada 1000 Bullet (1945); Sentinel 284NI, Addison 2 Waterfall Grille (1940); Kadette K 25 Clockette (1937); Arvin 532 (1938); and the Tom Thumb (1938).

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