Guest post: Trip Down Shortwave Memory Lane via Vintage RadioShack Catalogs

RadioShack-CatalogMany thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN), for the following guest post:

Trip Down Shortwave Memory Lane via Vintage RS Catalogs

-Mario Filippi (N2HUN)

Attached is a wonderful website containing archived Radio Shack catalogs and sales flyers going back to 1939, surely of interest to SWLs, hams, and other electronics hobbyists. Most of us have fond memories growing up and visiting our local Radio Shack when it was the place to go for ham, shortwave, and scanner radios. My hometown Radio Shack was located on North Avenue in New Rochelle, NY and I purchased an electric guitar (could not afford a Fender) from them in the late 60’s which had three pickups and included a case for $29.95!

Radio Shack Catalogs

You see, back then Radio Shack had a much more diversified line of products, including musical instruments, power tools and even scientific stuff like microscopes and slide rules. These archived catalogs are a treasure trove of information not only from a historical perspective, but for anyone who is interested or who is contemplating purchasing vintage equipment such as shortwave radios, because you can look up the original sales info in the RS catalog which contains the original price, photo, description, and accessories available at that time.

For example, last year I purchased a “tech special” Realistic TRC-450 AM/SSB CB radio on Ebay that needed LED repair, so I looked up the original sales ad and got the price, photo (this helps to see original condition), and product description. Below is a picture of my restored Realistic which originally sold in 1980 for $269.95!


The classic Realistic TRC-450 AM/SSB CB radio. (Photo: Mario Filippi)

Nowadays most people don’t realize how expensive electronics were a few decades ago. A comparable new AM/SSB CB radio sells for about half that price nowadays!

Lastly, as one progresses chronologically through the catalogs, you can see technology (and even fashion) trends – the large 8 track tape decks of the 60’s and 70’s progressed to smaller cassette players of the 80’s and 90’s, then DVD/CD players made their entrance, ultimately giving way to higher tech forms of entertainment such as satellite radio and Internet-based entertainment. Well I hope you enjoy this totally entertaining and informative website and I thank the individual who took the time and effort to preserve for perpetuity these priceless annual time capsules for everyone to enjoy.

Mario, many thanks for this trip down memory lane!

As you state, these catalogs are actually an excellent reference source when trying to determine pricing and features of RS radios found on the used market.

I think they’re also so much fun to flip through as they’re chock-full of nostalgic value. When I was a kid, I could care less about toy store catalogs–the RadioShack catalog was my toy store!

Indeed, when I open the online catalog copies at Radio Shack Catalogs, I can almost smell the ink on the pages! Am I the only one?

Spread the radio love

6 thoughts on “Guest post: Trip Down Shortwave Memory Lane via Vintage RadioShack Catalogs

  1. David

    Yes Sir, I can remember looking at the Allaid Radio Catalog. Their brand was Knight Radios and they included kits. I would dream about ordering one of the radios one day. You could loose yourself in listening to the radio bands !

  2. robert

    Yes I remember well, and can smell the ink too.we wished n dreamed.I had a big airline cabinat radio dad bought at a farm sale in 1958 for $5. I had a long wire on top of our was best I’d get for many years but it had shortwave aircraft and am.remember going to grocry store n checking tubes n beggin mom to buy me what ever tube burned out or was weak.
    Then new rs catalog would arive by mail n I’d drool…

  3. Michael Bailey - NSW Radio & Communication

    Many thank for posting this, I had forgotten how amazing these wonderfull catalogs were to read and then dream about various radio and audio products.
    Here in Australia, we were blessed with having 3 main electronics branches… Tandy Electronics, Dick Smith Electronics and Jaycar Electronics…
    Now sadly only Jaycar is still around. Dick Smith sold out to Woolworths and has become another crappy ‘we sell tvs’ store, no love whatsoever.
    Thanks for reminding me of the good ol days

  4. Robert AK3Q

    You are not the only one – I can smell the ink, feel the pages, and even remember the placement for some of the items of given catalogs! It was my ultimate wish-book, and the DX-160 was my first shortwave radio. I still have two or three of those rigs which I have picked up from eBay or that have been given to me. I poured over page after page, and every new catalog was a treasure.
    I do not think that time in history can ever be repeated with something comparable. Maybe it was my age (early teens back then) and the excitement of youth and the radio/music/electronics hobby, but I believe it was a unique time in history. I treasure the memories. Thanks Mario and thanks Thomas for a flood of good memories!


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