Air King Skyscraper radio from 1933 in a green plaskron case designed by Harold Van Doren, $26,000 (£20,970) at Heritage Auctions.


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A case in point is the domestic radio. With the advent of new plastics as suitable material for its casing and the increasing focus on technical innovation, industrial designers could let loose on newly fashionable styles.

The radio evolved from large wood veneered pieces of furniture to smaller portable objects with Deco’s trademark streamlined forms.


Air King Duchess radio from 1946 in yellow and maroon catalin measuring 8 x 12½in (21 x 32cm) which sold for $950 (£765) at Heritage.


Golden age

On June 6 in Dallas Heritage (25/20/15% buyer’s premium) offered the first slice of a large private collection as part of its design auction, “…a testament to the fact the Golden Age of radio was also the pinnacle of radio design,” said

Samantha Robinson, Heritage’s consignment director of Decorative arts and design.

The focus here was on North American models.

The collection featured no fewer than four examples of the Air King Skyscraper radio in different colours measuring 12 x 9in (30 x 22.5cm). This was designed in 1933 by Harold Van Doren, president of the Society of Industrial Designers, and its distinctly Deco form mirrored the shape of the newly constructed Empire State Building.

The most expensive example proved to be a green plaskon version, one of two examples featuring an Egyptian insert (Egyptian motifs being much favoured in the Deco era). This sold for $26,000 (£20,970).

A version in lavender coloured plaskon, also with an Egyptian insert, realised $6000 (£4840); a black cased version featuring a clock inset in a ‘waterfall’ facade to the front made $2000 (£1610) and a white cased version, possibly with replaced knobs, realised $3000 (£2420).


Emerson Tombstone radio in a red catalin case, $22,000 (£17,740) at Heritage.


Another of the top-priced lots in the collection was the Tombstone radio from the Emerson Radio and Phonograph Corporation, a design of c.1937 in a striking tomato red catalin case measuring 10 x 7¼in (25 x 18cm).

This sold for $22,000 (£17,740), while a version in a butterscotch yellow catalin case made $10,000 (£8065).


Sparton Bluebird radio from 1934 which realised $2500 (£2015) at Heritage.


A 14½in (37cm) diameter circular blue cased radio in chrome, painted metal, wood and glass, was the distinctive Bluebird design of 1934 by Walter Dorwin Teague for the Sparton Company.

The example offered here realised $2500 (£2015).

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