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!
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!
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?