Making Money in Radio

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NRI advertisement 1931
    This is one of thousands of advertisements in various magazines that spanned more than six decades. It is an ad for a National Radio Institute (NRI) correspondence course. Notice the date. In 1931 a radio in your home was a luxury. A radio connected our grandparents to the world. Television was science fiction. The Internet was beyond science fiction, never predicted, not even by Arthur C. Clarke.
Family around radio

    When the radio broke, the link to the outside world was lost. Why? Because you only had ONE. As a matter of fact, in 1931 only 45% of households in the USA had a radio. It was a major investment and it had to be repaired. Who was going to repair it? YOU WERE! You were going to get BIG PAY in the radio industry.

    After World War II the price of a radio dropped to the point where you could have "a radio in every room." Bakelite table radios were relatively inexpensive, and by 1948 85% of households owned a radio of some sort. More radios meant more broken radios. You could make money in radio repair and get "Big Pay" in some ambiguous "radio job" as the ad stated. Can you still do it today?

NRI advertisement
   1948 NRI advertisement. According to their claims, you could make from $3,000 to $7,500 a year in radio and have a nice car and house. An NRI ad implied your wife wouldn't be happy unless you took the course and made more money, like "Bill" did. Do you want your wife to leave you for Bill? Better take the course!

   Other ads showed you being bypassed for a promotion. In the 1960s, an RCA course showed an Atlas missile being launched while "you" sat at the controls but "you" were a silhouette, so every person seeing it could put himself at the controls.

    There were ads from the National Radio Institute, Capitol Radio Engineering Institute, National Schools, Sprayberry Academy Of Radio, Cleveland Institute Of Radio Electronics, Coyne Electrical School and DeForest Training, Inc. They all promised to make you a radio expert, and if you devoted your spare time to the courses, you DID become one.

    In 1987 I found the books from an NRI radio course stacked up in the basement of a house we had just bought. I decided to take the course and build the cool radio that was part of the training. NRI no longer offered the radio course, so I took the computer course and built the cool computer that was part of the training. (I didn't really care about the course, I just wanted the computer.)

    It worked, as advertised! I've been working with computers ever since. I got a promotion, just like they said I would! The placement test for the new job was on logic gates and I had just finished the chapter on logic gates the week before I took the test. We got a nice house and new cars and my wife didn't leave me for "Bill". She left me for "Bob" but that's another story.

NRI comic

ebay radio

There are still a few guys out there who will repair your radio, and a whole bunch of them who restore them for a hobby. One way to "make money in radio" is to sell impossibly shiny ones on ebay, like this one from "oldradiodaze125." People will buy shiny radios even if they don't work. In this case, the radio was restored to working condition. And it was shiny. Who wouldn't want a shiny restored radio from 1940?

Philco model PT-2
Philco model PT-2
Philco model PT-2
Philco model PT-2
The radio that was auctioned is a Philco model PT-2, made in 1940 or 1941.

    During the war all commercial radio production ceased as the manufacturing facilities of our country were devoted to the war effort. In 1946 Philco resumed production with the model 46-250 in the same cabinet. They probably had tens of thousands of the cabinets in storage during the war. They continued to use this cabinet until 1949.

    I wrote to "oldradiodaze125" and asked him how he got it so shiny. He replied that he had sanded it with "Micro-Mesh" sanding pads and there was no coating or lacquer on it.

    As you can see, it went for $281.90 with shipping. So can anybody get in on this and "make money in radio?" Let's give it a try.

Philco model 46-250

Philco model 46-250

I bought this on ebay for $43.92 with shipping. These pictures are from the auction. It is not a PT-2. It's a 46-250, made after the war.
Philco model 46-250
    The chassis was filthy. Where WAS this?? Whose house is so dirty the inside of their radio looks like this? Oh well, maybe it was in an attic for 20 years. It had no power cord, the antenna was detached from the case and I had to blow it out with a leaf blower before it came into the house.

I decided NOT to restore it, just clean it up, add a new power cord, make the cabinet shiny and resell it. None of the tubes were tested. Andrea and I were very surprised when we turned it on and it WORKED. It actually worked quite well, except for a hum.
Philco model 46-250
After cleaning.

Philco knob
Philco knob
The first step in cleaning the cabinet was to soak the knobs overnight. I don't like touching skanky radio knobs, especially when I don't know what plague infected, virus laden, sore covered degenerate touched them last.* These pictures make me a bit peckish for some miniature peanut butter cups!                                               (* No offense to the ebay seller. Just a joke!)
I spent $10.00 on the Micro Mesh sanding pads and $8.00 on some decals for the front. The cost was now up to $61.92.

Philco 46-250
Here it is, cleaned and polished. I spent about six hours on it. Now it was time to ebay it.

Philco 46-250
Philco 46-250
Philco 46-250
Philco 46-250
Here are some of the pictures from the ebay auction. I was very honest in the description and stated that except for the power cord,  the radio chassis was UN-RESTORED and there was a hum due to the age of the filter capacitor. (A strong station would drown out the hum but I didn't mention that in the description.)

These photos don't seem to be as nice as the ones at the top of the page, from "oldradiodaze125." I wasn't able to achieve that look, and the radio was never that shiny even brand new, out of the box. My pictures were a very close match to what the actual radio looks like.

    On September 4, 2016 the radio sold for $152.50 plus $18.00 shipping, or $170.50. So how much did I make? I had $61.92 invested in the radio. I under estimated the shipping by $10.00, so I had to eat that. Then ebay took a cut of $17.97. Profit on the sale was $80.61. I put about 8 hours into it, including driving to the UPS store, so I made $10.00 an hour.

    Keep in mind, this was a 46-250, not a pre-war PT-2. The 46-250 is so common that when we went to the Kutztown Radio Show in September of 2016 we saw no less than eight of them there.

One thing that surprised me was the note I got from the buyer, a guy who lives in California.

Dear Mr. Simpson,
The radio is arrived today with no damage. It work just fine. Thanks so lot for your nice packing.
My parents used have such a unit back to late 1940s when I was a kid.
This unit brought back lot of memories to me.
Thanks again.

So how do you like that? A guy bought it to LISTEN to it! He's almost as old as the radio! I figured some hobbyist would want it to restore it. If I had known some 70 year old guy wanted the radio to LISTEN to it, I would have replaced that filter capacitor so the radio didn't have a hum. As a matter of fact, I would have just given him the darn thing for free, to make the old guy happy.

Philco 46-250
    Now we come to a twist in the story. On the day I posted the above on facebook, an ebay user with a new account and no feedback began to bid on the radio. The price began to shoot up. I wasn't sure if somebody was "helping" me, so I went back on facebook and told them to stop but they didn't.

    We were all new on ebay at one time. Was this legitimate? Did someone join ebay just to get this radio? Hey, it could have been the old guy's son bidding against his father because he wanted to give him a birthday present. Who knows?

    The "make big money in radio" experiment now had an unknown variable. I would have to start over. I needed another radio to shine up, and this time, I wouldn't mention it on facebook.

    Some time in 1988 my brother Chris gave me a box of radios he found in the trash. At the time, he was in college and driving a delivery truck For "Coventry Market" on the side. He said he found the box on Rhawn Street in the Fox Chase section of Philadelphia. It was time to open the box, grab a radio and shine it up.