Dating Old Radios: The Dial Method
A major problem faced by radio collectors is to determine the age of
some given set.
Several informations can be used; this
document may help you to interpret the collection of station names
listed on the dial.
My experience tells me that the usability of this method is very
limited; usually an uncertainty of several years remains, and the
experienced collector dates a radio to within this precision just by
looking at the cabinet and the tube type numbers!
This document is about European dials; the info on American dials is different.
The Axiom of Dial Soundness
The method is based on the assumption that a radio builder only puts
existing stations (at manufacturing time) on the dial.
Thus, the radio was produced when all
listed stations existed simultaneously.
A radio builder may incorporate an announced service change before it
becomes effective, or observe a change some time after it has become
effective; this causes inaccuracies.
The Axiom of Dial Completeness
No dial is large enough to list all stations existing at the time
of its production, but we may assume that it gives the major stations
from the country of manufacturing at the time of manufacturing.
So if the dial misses a
major station from the producing country, it was not produced when the
station was operating.
This is not true even for the neighboring countries; for example, the
Nordmende Stradella from Germany,
Hilversum 1, but not Hilversum 2, which was also operating in 1965.
How to Use
Print this list and carry it with you to
the places where you find sets.
Match the stations listed on the dial with the stations in the list;
this should be feasible because the list is sorted by wavelength just
like the dial.
The names in the list are followed by the year they started and ended
using the given wavelength, limiting the production year of sets on
which they are found.
Some care is required when using the method.
Please inform me about any errors or omissions you may find.
I would appreciate to receive a list of stations from
your country (if not already listed).
As an excercise and because the method is still experimental, try your
hands on some already dated sets first, and inform me about the
- Name ambiguity.
A station can be listed by various names, e.g., either the transmitter
site or the carried program could be listed.
I have tried to include both in the list.
- Adjacent wavelengths.
The difference in two listings of the same station could be invisible
on the dial.
For example, Fecamp was on 223 meters before 1935 and on 226 meter
from 1935 until 1940.
No exact dating (before or after 1935) can possibly derived from
seeing Fecamp on the dial.
- Erroneous listings.
Try to increase your confidence by matching many stations from the
dial with the list.
The list is experimental and comes without any warranty!
The FM Dial
Most European radios do not list stations on the FM dial; however, if
your European radio has FM some dating information can be obtained.
The FM band was defined to range from 87.5 to 198 MHz during a
conference in 1948, but this band was not fully used from the
Initially only the lower part, 87.5 to 100 MHz, was used for
broadcasting, and the upper half (110 to 108) was reserved for mobile
The first European FM radios appeared around 1950 and their FM
coverage was to 100 MHz; this limit was universal until around 1964.
In the mid sixties it became clear that the upper half of the band
would be necessary also; hence manufacturers started to extend the
tuning range of their FM radios to 104 MHz.
Indeed, it was convened in 1968 that the broadcast use of the band was
extended to the range 87.5 to 104 MHz.
The WAARC conference of 1979 assigned the entire band for
Until the early eighties Philips produced sets with the 87.5 to 104 FM
tuning range; sets produced for intercontinental export already
covered the full range with 108 MHz as the upper limit.
Sets produced later than the early eighties all covered the full FM
band from 87.5 to 108 MHz.
Summarizing, if your set has
- no FM:
no conclusions can be drawn.
- FM was introduced in 1950, but many sets without FM were
produced after 1950.
However, these were mainly
or DIY projects (1995).
A salon-type set without FM such as
this one (1953)
is likely to be older than 1955.
- upper limit 100MHz:
it dates roughly between 1950 and 1965.
- upper limit 104 or 105 MHz:
it dates roughly between 1964 and 1980.
- upper limit 108 MHz:
it dates after about 1980.
- Earlier production is possible in Asia or America.
Thanks to ...
Lennart Benschop, for providing information about the use of the FM
Paul Sexton, for providing all information on British stations.
You, for sending information about stations from your