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Appraisals: Steps necessary to prove radio’s provenance

Complimentary antique appraisals (for entertainment purposes only) from the Antique Trader staff of appraisers is a service reserved exclusively for Antique Trader magazine subscribers. But that doesn't mean you can't learn from recent appraisals.

By Susan Mullikin

Appraisal Inquiry:

First let me say that I am such a fan of Antique Trader and I look forward to the “Ask the Experts” section every time the magazine arrives in my mailbox.

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I am excited to ask you about my Bakelite radio. Although it looks like an ordinary worn radio from the early ’40s, it happens to have come from the home of the Shirelles – the historic first girls singing group of the 1960s. This is the radio – the only form of home entertainment at the time – that the girls sat around the kitchen table singing along to at home when their friends and mothers discovered their true talent. They sat around and sang along to the radio.

I know this because the sister of one of the group members was a best friend to my best friend. She gave me the radio and told me the story. It must hold some historic value for certain. But to that end, the questions I have for you are as follows: How do I go about obtaining written provenance to prove this radio is the radio from the home of the Shirelles? And once I am able to do so, does it, in fact, hold any monetary value? I anxiously await your response.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

— D.F.


Providing the provenance of an item gives the item credibility as to facts relating to its past, and may or may not increase the item’s value. A Certificate of Authenticity from a reputable firm given with the item is the surest way of stating an item’s provenance, who in particular owned this item previously. An original receipt showing when purchased, by whom, and listing a description of the item is another way of showing provenance. A handwritten note or autograph along with a photograph perhaps of the Shirelles with the radio would show that indeed the Shirelles owned the radio. An expert can also be brought in to do research to in the end prove provenance of your radio. Lastly, a letter of authenticity from your best friend who gave you the radio and told you the story to go along with the radio would help establish its provenance.

I do question the story as told by your best friend since the information was passed down from a sister of a group member that was a best friend to your best friend. In regards to determining value for your 1940s Bakelite radio perhaps owned by the Shirelles, we need to consider demand in the marketplace. We know that a radio owned by Elvis Presley, for instance, with established provenance for sale would incite much demand and the high price paid would be due to its provenance and not just the value of the radio. But in your case would a radio once owned by the Shirelles drive up the price much beyond its actual price? Until true provenance is established, that the Shirelles definitely owned your radio, I value your radio at between $55 and $75.

Appraisal Inquiry:

I’m a long-time subscriber and need your help to identify the object in the photo I have supplied. In 1937, I was helping my dad clear a wood lot he purchased. We found the figure half buried. From the hole in the base, I assume it was for an electrical wire. The top has 1/4-inch pipe tread. At first I thought it was for gas, but the hole in the figure would only accommodate an electrical cord. The arrows on the photo indicate something was soldered there.

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I would like to know what it is and the value. I think it is brass. Look forward, and receiving your “Trader” is a joy. Thank you,

— E.W.


A Mystery since 1937!

It’s amazing what one finds in the woods, especially in 1937! From your photos and your description what you have is a brass lamp base shaped as a man with a long top coat. You talk about an electrical cord and yes a cord would have gone through the center of the man and come out at the bottom to thereby be plugged in.

A top piece is missing which I believe would have held a light bulb. The area where you feel was soldered was where a push type switch would have been to turn the lamp on and off. Thank you for being a long time subscriber to Antique Trader magazine. I would place a value of $125 on the lamp if complete and in working order.

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