Craigslist and eBay Antique Radios – Be Careful!

It’s not uncommon to run across antique or vintage radios on Craigslist, eBay and other sales site which are advertised as “working”, “repaired” or “restored”. Many times these are in fact professionally reconditioned items – just like you read about here – but occasionally, there are some critical hidden problems to look out for. Let’s take a look at an underside photo which was included in the for sale posting: Echophone-2

Not too bad! It looks like there’s some new capacitors carefully installed – but there’s a problem. Can you spot it?


Again, with a hint this time! Several original paper capacitors look to be installed in the radio. It’s even believable they might work – by and large they’ll be well past their service lifetime, but through dumb luck you do occasionally find vintage capacitors which are still technically operational. Even if one is working now, though, they are universally all completely unsafe for operation for any length of time. Old vintage capacitors like these can spontaneously fail and short out, which can damage the radio or even start a fire! A repair like this is not in compliance with the best practices for antique radio repair, and I wouldn’t let one out of my shop in such a condition, that’s for sure!

If you’re buying an antique radio or vintage radio and have the opportunity, ask for photos of the underside of the chassis or ask to inspect it personally and check for old parts. If you’re having your old radio serviced, make sure to choose a reputable repair shop or service technician who will follow best practices and replace all components which are subject to spontaneous failure – not just the ones which are bad “right now”. Your radio – and maybe your home – depend on it!

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3 Responses to Craigslist and eBay Antique Radios – Be Careful!

  1. Tom says:

    Great advice here – Cavaet Emptor! Hope my Latin is correct? Buyer beware – take responsibility for your own actions & conduct. Always on the hunt for old Radios, eh!!! Thanks.

  2. Wayne Warner says:

    I have some 30 antique radios that I planned on advertising for sale–Majestic 91, Transoceanic, etc. . Am I liable if someone buys a radio and it catches on fire?

    • jwk says:

      I’m not an attorney so this isn’t legal advice, but in general, I’d say you are probably just fine as long as you make sure your buyers understand that antique radio safety is their responsibility and items are clearly sold “as-is” with no warranties of any kind. If you’re selling them as “working/restored” and they in fact haven’t been fully recapped, so they might have parts that are much more likely to fail, you might fare worse. I’d make sure everything is as electrically safe as possible and sold as-is, and I doubt you’d run into trouble.

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