The transistor was invented in 1947 at Bell Labs in New Jersey. In 1954, Texas Instruments of Dallas teamed up with Regency Electronics (its original name was Industrial Development Engineering Associates, or I.D.E.A.) of Indianapolis to manufacture the first pocket-size transistor radio. Generally, the most collectible transistor radios are those made in Japan from 1956 to 1963 and in America from 1955 to 1960, but by the early '60s, many American companies had opted to have their radios made in Japan.
Besides the Regency TR-1, which came in 10 colors and retailed for $49.95, other collectible American brands include Zenith, RCA, G.E., Admiral, Motorola, Magnavox, Philco, Raytheon, Arvin, Sylvania, and Emerson. Collectible Japanese brands include Toshiba, Hitachi, Sharp, Standard, Sanyo, Matsushita (Panasonic), Mitsubishi, Aiwa, Realtone, Global, and Zephyr. And then, of course, there was Sony, which stunned the electronics world in 1957 with its TR-63. Although the radio utilized miniature components, Sony dramatized the radio's small size at a trade show when it had its representatives carry them in their shirt pockets. Turns out Sony had dressed its staff in shirts that had been sewn with larger pockets than normal, which is the reason why the TR-63 fit.
One desirable feature for vintage transistor radios is reverse-painted plastic, popular between 1958 and 1962. In these radios, all of the artwork is painted on the inside of the radio's clear plastic dial cover. Also desirable are brightly colored cases, including cool 1950s hues like robin’s egg blue, seafoam green, and bright red or yellow. Condition also matters to collectors. Finding a radio with its original box, leather case, earphones, owner’s manual, and warranty card or sales slip will significantly increase its value.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
M31 Galaxy of Transistor Radios
Michael Jack's Transistor Radio Photos
Transistor Radio Design
Jim's Antique Radio Museum
The Mid Century Modernist
The Radio Attic's Archives
Herman Miller Consortium Collection
Work of Charles and Ray Eames
Phil's Old Radios
Clubs & Associations
- Antique Wireless Association
- Southeastern Antique Radio Society
- New Jersey Antique Radio Club
- British Vintage Wireless Society
- California Historical Radio Society