Yet another AWA Radiola 517M has been acquired to take its place in a collection which has expanded very slowly of late but has expanded on a particular theme - they've mostly been made by AWA and were made in the late 1940s. The spread of the coronavirus seems to have got people spending money on things other than radios and this has brought prices down in most cases. There is also the other unfortunate aspect of the presence of the virus, where a lot of people are now out of work. Again, this will bring a halt to the expansion of hundreds of collections and the big reduction in competition at auctions, online or otherwise, will have a downward effect on prices. I wish everyone who is looking for work the best of luck. I know what it's like to be out of work and I do hope that the national economy improves as quickly as possible so that those whose jobs have disappeared because of the coronavirus can get back into work as soon as possible.
This radio (on the left in the photo) is a very rare colour, probably because it would not have been in great demand by buyers. "Ugly!" would have been the word used by most when browsing their local department store for a new radio for the kitchen. But from a historical perspective, radios in these rare colours are like finding gold bars.
One thing worth noting is that many of this model came out with an all-states tuning dial, where the stations from each state were marked. This radio is slightly different in that the stations from New South Wales and Queensland have been omitted. This radio may have simply been sold in Western Australia or South Australia or it could be from the latter end of the lifecycle, where more stations would need to be squeezed on the dial, thus a need to reduce the number of states represented.
The last thing I need to bring to the attention of readers is that I have discovered two recent instances where images have been lifted from this site without my permission and used in a commercial setting. This is not on. I will reserve my right to take action against those doing this. Do not take images from here assuming that it will be okay because it will most likely not come with my approval. Ask for permission first or refrain - it is that simple. In future, images are being watermarked. I apologise to those who are doing the right thing and will have their experience here compromised by the water marks but the thefts have to stop and this is the only way of achieving it as far as I know.
Over the past six months or so I have managed to acquire three AWA mantel radios in the seldom seen burgundy colour. As can be seen, the actual colour differs, depending on the model and the time the radio cabinet was formed at AWA's huge bakelite presses.
The first is a Radiolette 516M, the second version of the 500 series, which included a smaller power transformer, built-in moulded feet on the cabinet and the AWA logo stamped on the dial glass. The radio in the middle is a Radiola 524M and has a similar circuit to the other radios but with an added tone control. The radio on the right is a Radiola 517M. This uses a circuit very similar to the 516M though is fitted with concentric control knobs, giving the radio a bit of a space age appearance. There is a power switch on the back of this set.
I have one other burgundy radio, which is not featured here, a Healing L401E, which is a similar shade to the Radiola 524M. It will be shown in a later article. Other AWA radios in burgundy include the Radiola 520M, also known as the Fridge, due to it being an upright model, and the later Radiola 429M, also known as the Champion. Examples of these are still yet to become a part of my collection.
All three of these radios were made at AWA's mighty Radio Electric Works in the Sydney suburb of Ashfield.
I've been the owner of the green Astor Baby for a long time now, however last weekend I had to make sure it's twin sister came into my collection and I attended the final auction of the year in Melbourne to get this job done. I was well armed and was prepared to survive on cans of spaghetti for a fortnight to call this radio my own, though fortunately, the diet was not necessary.
I was amazed to see that this radio runs on only two valves! The valve compliment is quite simple - 1 x 12B8GT and 1 x 32L7GT. The radio is working well aside from some slippage on the dial cord, which I will attend to soon and provides good volume for a set that doesn't have much in the way of amplification, unlike the later Model BR (the green radio above is a BR), which included a third valve, a 6V6GT and a 6X5GT instead of the 32L7GT, which is a combined rectifier and output amplifier.
There is a third and fourth colour in this model series, one of which has a dark brown cabinet with matching coloured feet and control knobs and the other being an apparently rare plain white cabinet with red feet and knobs, but acquiring these will have to wait until 2020.
Due to the small number of valves, these radios would have appealed to those with some serious budget constraints or maybe someone who wanted to hear their local station but didn't want any bells and whistles.
In 1932 AWA created the C87 Radiolette, which at the time was housed in the world's largest Bakelite moulding. This cabinet was the only notable Art-Noveau radio cabinet produced in Australia, with most manufacturers sticking with the Victorian look of the coffin boxes, moving later to Art-Deco timber and Bakelite. The Radiolette theme continued with the C104 in 1933 but by 1934 AWA's love affair with this radio waned and future Radiolettes would be small five-valve mantel receivers before WWII and after the war they'd be cut back to four-valve sets, being marketed as budget receivers.
The R24 was to become a precursor to the longer-running Empire State series that closely resembled the shape of the Empire State Building in New York City, USA. A similar circuit was used in the R24 and a very similar chassis was also used with the main difference being that the loudspeaker was mounted a little lower, slightly buried in the chassis and a smaller tuning dial in place to permit the lower profile. Unknown to many, AWA continued to build rebadged Radiolettes for the Australian General Electric Company (AGE) and there was a plain-looking timber variant made with plain brown knobs for this purpose. The Radiolette was fitted with marbled knobs.
This particular example presents quite well. It is in good original condition and is awaiting restoration of the circuit so it is safe to use. This will be a good project for the near future and should be easy enough to overhaul although AWA had a habit of mounting components in clusters in this series of receivers and that makes replacement of capacitors a bit time-consuming.
The tale of the tape
Make/Model: AWA R24 Radiolette.
Chassis: Nickel plated steel.
Valves: 80, 78, 6A7, 6B7, 42.
Bands: AM, 540kHz - 1680kHz.
Being fortunate enough to possess a reasonably large collection of valve radios that are either in very good condition, working or both often brings people to ask me what my favourite radio is. It's not often an easy question to answer for the simple reason that the answer has changed on so many occasions over the time I have been a collector. At this point in time, I guess my favourite radio would be a marbled white AWA Radiola, model 520M, also known as 'the fridge'. I purchased this radio at a recent auction held in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. Such auctions that deal mainly with radios, test equipment and memorabilia are quite rare now but there are several per year in most states.
Getting back to The Fridge, this radio is an upright version of standard mantel-sized Radiolas and Radiolettes of the 1940s, hence the nickname. The chassis is simply mounted on its side to fit in the cabinet. Such radios are fairly rare and one has to bring quite a few pennies with them to win the bidding war. I literally had to just keep my hand raised to avoid straining my elbow but my persistence paid off. This model is quite attractive and whilst the cabinet has a style of its own it would be quite suitable in a setting from many previous periods - Victorian, Art Deco, Retro, 1960s, etc.
Before taking a liking to this radio my favourite radio was the Monarch model DKL. It's a dark brown radio but in mint condition and with one of the best tones I've heard from a valve radio, even before allowing for the small size of the loudspeaker - YES, it is that good. Before this my favourite radio was an AWA Radiolette model 500M. These were one of the most popular valve radios in Australia - common as house flies and there'd not be many radio collections in this country that didn't sport at least one. I have six of the
seven eight available known colours: walnut, ivory, burgundy, cream, jade and turquoise. The other two are a very light brown and marbled white - one day...
I could go on about my favourite radio but as you can see the answer will always change. There's other worthwhile questions too:-
Q. What radio appears the most in your collection?
A. It's a tie, between the AWA 500-series Radiolettes and the Healing 401Es of the 1940s. I have six of each of the available colours in each of these radios. I am still hunting other colours for each one.
Q. What radio has been in your collection the longest?
A. A HMV model 441 timber table radio of the early 1940s.
Q. What is your oldest radio?
A. A Udisco (United Distributors) coffin radio with separate horn speaker, circa 1925.
Q. What is your biggest and heaviest radio?
A. An AWA Radiola radiogram from the late 1940s. Ten valves, huge 12 inch speaker and three speed turntable. I can't remember the model number.