Lucille Ball and Rod Serling aren’t the only great names of vintage TV. There’s also DuMont Chatham and Philco Predicta. Antique TVs have become a collector’s bonanza, with prices jumping from flea-market to free-market levels. ”Common mid-1940s TVs sold for under $50 four years ago,” says John Terrey, editor and publisher of Carlisle, Mass.-based Antique Radio Classified. ”Now they’re $100 to $300.”
Most sought-after are prewar electronic sets-such as the seminal 1939 RCA ”TRK” series — which can fetch anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000. Other favorites include JVC’s retro-hip Videosphere from the ’70s, a bowling-ball-like set that hangs from a chain; and Philco’s 1959-61 Predicta, with its Jetsons-style swivel screen.
As with all collectibles, prices fluctuate like an EKG reading. Specialty shops are now getting from $800 to $1,000 for a trapezoidal DuMont Chatham — though it’s listed as being worth between $75 and $125. For the best deals, tune in to the ads in The Antique Radio Gazette of the Washington, Pa.-based Antique Radio Club of America. Or start collecting those little plastic souvenir TVs, which haven’t caught on as collectibles — yet.