Saturday - 30 August 2014

When it wasn’t quite enough to be-in-time

10 June 2003Written by ATG Reporter

Canadian-based eBay seller gstark didn’t need to include the words “extremely rare” in his auction listing for a jade green Sony TR-55 transistor radio. Fifteen ardent bidders already knew that.

Made in 1955 when the electronics giant was known as Totsuko (Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo Ltd.), or TTK, the example in the online auction is one of relatively few known to have survived. Transistor radio collectors consider it the ultimate acquisition, but there is seldom an opportunity to bid on a TR-55.

It is historically important because it was the world’s first electronic portable, pocket-sized radio to be built entirely by one company from inside out, including the transistors. “Only a handful of these (were) made, and only for internal consumption within Japan, other than the 50 to arrive in Canada” said gstark. The latter shipment to which he referred was delivered in 1955 to retailer Albert Cohen, who founded General Distributors of Winnepeg, Manitoba.

Although not in working order, the radio offered on eBay was described as being in “almost perfect condition” with the exception of a few very fine cosmetic scratches and nicks, and a small amount of stain to the label inside the back cover. It opened at $10 and attracted 28 bids, with the top bid of $11,100 lodged in the last six seconds by be-in-time. He is a radio enthusiast in Japan who has collected radios for the past 10 years and restores both transistor and battery-operated tube portables as a hobby.

Unfortunately for the bidder – who already owns an inferior TK-55, which he had purchased a few years ago on yahoo.com – $11,100 was not enough to meet the reserve. He said there are probably 20 examples of the TK-55 in the world, seven of which are in Japan. “One is in the NHK (Japan Broadcasting Service) historical museum, two are in the hands of two different private collectors, another two are owned by a single collector, one more is in the collection of Mr. Okamura, the most famous Sony collector; and the final one is the one I own.”

While he didn’t post a winning bid, be-in-time is hopeful that gstark could contact him regarding an after-auction sale.

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