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Often Asked Questions

From time to time I am asked various questions about collecting and restoring antique TV sets. Perhaps you have also been curious about these same issues. 

WHERE DO YOU GET VACUUM TUBES?
When I first started collecting and restoring TV sets, I was very fortunate to win an auction for about 10,000 used vacuum tubes.  They came from a TV repair shop that was going out of business.  The owner of the store would remove the tubes from used TV sets that were traded in when a customer purchased a new TV set.  Most of the time the vast majority of the tubes he pulled out of the trade-ins, were perfectly usable.  I have the tubes all sorted and placed on shelves in my repair shop.  In addition there are a few companies that sell NOS (new old stock) vacuum tubes.  They have web sites on the internet listing the tube numbers they have and the prices.  These companies have collected their inventory of tubes by purchasing the inventory from TV repair shops and industrial companies that were disposing of their stock of new vacuum tubes.

CAN YOU STILL BUY PICTURE TUBES?
Since the invention of flat screen displays, production of conventional picture tubes has ceased.  The last picture tube rebuilder, who was in France, closed their company in 2014.  There exist a small number of NOS picture tubes in the hands of various sources, but the selection is very limited.  Basically, NOS picture tubes are difficult to obtain.  Usually you have to get a good used picture tube from a used TV set.  Sometimes I buy a TV set in very poor condition just because it has a useable picture tube.  I will scrap the cabinet, strip the chassis of any hard to find parts, and save the picture tube and all vacuum tubes for my own inventory.  I usually pay no more than $50 for a junk TV set just to get the good ROUND picture tube it has.

CAN YOU STILL BUY REPLACEMENT PARTS FOR ANTIQUE TV SETS?
Yes and No.  Common parts like resistors and capacitors are still manufactured and can be purchased easily.  Specific replacement parts that were custom designed and manufactured are hard to find.  On rare occasions you may find one on Ebay, or from another TV hobbyist.  Often if you need a deflection yoke, transformer, or some other very specific part that is no longer available, you might find it in the TV chassis that has been scrapped.  Sometimes you can find the part quickly, and sometimes it may take months or years of searching to locate a very rare part.  We call parts like these “UN-OBTANIUM”  Over the years I have amassed a large inventory of common replacement components (resistors, capacitors, controls, etc) in addition to thousand of used TV and Radio knobs.  I also have a large pile of old TV chassis that I can get used parts from.  I also have an inventory of over 100 good picture tubes. 

WILL YOU SELL ME A REPLACEMENT PART FOR MY SET?
Maybe?  To be determined on a case by case basis.  Use the “Contact” link and let me know what you need to buy.

HOW MUCH IS MY OLD TV SET WORTH?
First of all, I am not qualified to appraise your set as a certified appraiser could do.  However, if you wish to email me a couple of good photos of your set through the “Contact”  link at the left, I will be happy to tell you what I would pay for your set.

There are many factors that determine the value of an un-restored old TV set.  Condition and rarity are the most important factors.  IF the tv set has a round picture tube, it is more collectable.  If the picture tube tests good it is more valuable.  Black and white sets from the mid 1950’s and later have very little collectability.  Although I will not bother with this type of TV set;  there are some TV hobbyists that collect them because they are cheap to buy ($50 or less)  and they are easy to find.  Serious collectors such as myself, feel these sets are not collectable and have no value.   All that being said, the most valuable sets are those that were built before World War One began.  Some of these “Pre War” black and white sets can command prices from $10,000 and up.  After WWI, in the late 1940’s,  television sets started being mass produced for the consumer.  It was during this period from 1945 to 1955 that families purchased their first TV set.  The first sets usually had a 7” screen and by 1950 they had progressed to as big as 19”.  Earliest sets were table models, and as the screens got bigger, full consoles became more common.  The small screen 7” and 10” table model sets from the late 1940’s can bring as much as $300 in excellent condition.  Console sets with round picture tubes can bring as much as $500 in excellent condition.

Color is a whole different story.  Color TV was introduced in 1954.  The first generation 15” color TV consoles are very rare and sought after.  They can be worth several thousand dollars with a good picture tube.  Rare 21” color sets produced prior to 1957 can be worth a few hundred dollars and up depending condition.

DO YOU REPAIR OLD TV SETS AND RADIOS FOR OTHER PEOPLE?
As a general rule No.  I do Television Restoration, not TV and Radio Repair.  I only work on Vacuum Tube electronics.  If you have an antique TV set that you wish to have fully restored I have done that.  (see the next question)

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO RESTORE AN ANTIQUE TV SET?
The price to restore an antique TV set can vary greatly.  If the cabinet is in poor condition and needs to be refinished it will need to go to a furniture refinisher.  The cost to refinish the cabinet alone can be $500 and up.  Complete electronic restoration, which includes replacement of all capacitors, out of tolerance resistors, and any small tubes starts at $650 and up.  Decorative metal trim that needs to be restored is extra on a case by case basis.  If the picture tube is in need of replacement, that will be an extra cost depending on availability.  In general, the set needs to be seen for an accurate estimate.  If the cabinet and decorative trim is very nice, and the picture tube is good, you can expect to do just a full electronic restoration.  Restoration time frames vary from a couple weeks to more than 1 year depending on how extensive the restoration is.

ARE YOUR RESTORED TV SETS FOR SALE?
Generally NO.  But there is an old saying “EVERYTHING HAS IT’S PRICE”  If someone wants something badly enough, and they have money to spend, you can usually make a deal.  I usually have some un-restored sets in my inventory that I am willing to sell.  Those sets can be purchased, and I will restore the set for that client for an all inclusive price.

WHERE ARE YOU LOCATED?
I am located in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, a suburb just north downtown Milwaukee

HOW CAN I CONTACT WITH YOU?
Click on the “Contact” link in the menu to the left.

I HAVE AN OLD TV SET.  WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN BUYING IT?
Maybe….But only if it has a ROUND picture tube and is 1957 or older!  Take some good photos, then go to the “Contact” link and attach the photos to the email.  I will let you know if I am interested and what I would offer.