Bonhams offers Catalin radios in Dec. 19 sale

NEW YORK – The Mark Woolley collection of vintage radios will be offered by Bonhams on Dec. 19. The auction consists of more than 200 Catalin radio models designed and created in the U.S. during the 1930s and 1940s. 12R-5118.jpgSeveral radios from the collection were included in a Smithsonian exhibition, “Engines of Change: The American Industrial Revolution,” which closed in 2006.

Motorola 50XC Circle Grille. Cherry red case with yellow knobs, speaker bezel and handle.
Height 5-3/4 inches; length 9-5/8 inches; depth 5-1/8 inches
Estimate: $4,000-$6,000.

Woolley purchased his first radio, an Emerson Patriot, in New York in 1982 for $1,200. 12R-5210.jpgThe collection grew over the years to include as many as 400 examples, and was gradually updated to the current offering.

Symphony Split Grille. Onyx case with emerald green knobs, split grille and handle.
Height 5-3/4
inches; length 9 inches; depth 4 inches.
Estimate: $10,000-$15,000.

Heralded in its day as the gaudy brother of Bakelite, Catalin has since been confused with and often mistaken for Bakelite. Unlike Bakelite, Catalin was cast in its original liquid-resin state and could be manipulated and tinted to any desired color. 12R-5208.jpgCatalin became the material of choice for designers of the day who wished to use color, relegating Bakelite to more utilitarian uses.

Air King 52 retailed in 1933. Red case with red on black knobs and a map of the world dial.
Height 11-3/4 inches; width 8-3/4 inches; depth 6-3/4 inches
Estimate: $10,000-$15,000.


Just as the Catalin radio market was getting under way, World War II forced production to cease. Production of many brands and models was never revived after the war, and several of the models introduced circa 1940 are today among the most rare.

After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, many industrial manufacturers rode a wave of American patriotism that swept the nation. Chief among them was the Fada Radio Corp., which issued red, white and blue examples of two of their most popular models at the time: the 115 Streamliner, and the Fada L56. These patriotic examples were aptly named 12R-5174.jpg“The All American” models. Three examples of this model will be offered on Dec. 19, with estimates ranging between $5,000 and $10,000 for each.

Tom Thumb retailed in 1939. Cherry red case with matching knobs.
Height 5
inches; length 7-3/8 inches depth 3-7/inches.
Estimate: $4,000-$6,000.

Also included in this collection are radios designed by Norman Bel Geddes, Frank Glover, J. Samson Spencer and Walter Dorwin Teague. Of particular interest will be a grouping of 13 examples of the Art Deco Air King 52. Designed in 1933 by Harold Van Doren and cast in three variants in shades of red, white, black, mint green, blue and lavender, these radios carry pre-sale estimates ranging from $1,500 to $10,000 each. 12R-5186.jpg

Emerson 400 Patriot. Red case with blue star knobs, blue and white grille, and blue handle.
Height 7-1/4 inches; length 10-7/8 inches; depth 5-1/2 inches. Exhibition: Smithsonian Museum of National History, Engines of Change: The American Industrial Revolution, Exhibition 1986-2006.
Estimate: $2,000-$3,000.

Among the many models to be offered are the Emerson AX235 Little Miracle (1938), Cyarts B (1946), Emerson BT 245 Cathedral (1938), Fada 711 (1946), Garod 6AU1 Commander (1945), Fada 1000 Bullet (1945), Sentinel 284NI, Addison 2 Waterfall Grille (1940), Kadette K 25 Clockette (1937), Sparton Cloisonne (1945), Arvin 532 (1938), Tom Thumb (1938), and the Symphony Split Grille (1939).

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