Suggestions for New OTR Collectors

by Jack French

Copyright 2004 (Some of this information may be out of date)

Here are a few tips that will assist you in enjoying your new hobby more and expanding your knowledge and your audio holdings:

  1. Read the articles by Terry Salomonson on starting, archiving, and trading in OTR, found at the Vintage Radio Place .
  2. Join an OTR club with a good rental library and informative newsletter. There are 20 clubs in the US so if there is not one in your town, join one that has mail-in members. I'd recommend SPERDVAC, Metro Wash OTR Club, and OTR Club of Western New York among others. Not only will you be kept up to date by newsletter on obituaries, new acquisitions, and conventions, but you'll also be able to rent tapes and dub them. (Some clubs also have books and magazines to rent). Webmaster note: You can obtain a list of some of these clubs by checking my OTR Clubs list)
  3. Try to get to one of the big conventions held annually. The Newark one is in October, the Cincinnati one is April, the Puget Sound one in July, and SPERDVAC one in November. The latter prohibits tapes from being sold, all the rest have numerous dealers present selling tapes at about $ 3 each.
  4. If you have a passion for a certain series, you could join a fan club (there are such for Jack Benny, Popeye, Lum 'n Abner, Vic and Sade, the Shadow, and a few others). Webmaster note: See the longer OTR Clubs list)
  5. Whether your collection is large or small, try to obtain a log for every series you're collecting so you can get the correct dates, titles, etc so you don't get trade for duplicates you already have. The Vintage Radio page above has a listing of many logs, several of which you can down-load from that site.
  6. Get on the mailing list for at least five dealers who carry the stuff you like to collect. There are over 40 in the US and most will put you on the mailing list for a buck (and keep you on once you order tapes.)
  7. Try to get access to at least one or two of the following reference books:
    1. New, Revised Ultimate History of Network Radio Programming and Guide to All Circulating Shows by Jay Hickerson (privately printed, 3rd edition, 1996) Over 500 pages of data on over 6,000 network shows, including dates, sponsor, cast leads, network, and most importantly, episodes in circulation. Cost is $50 plus P & H. Inquire at Webmaster note: See Jay Hickerson's Sponsor page for more info on this book
    2. North American Radio Archives (NARA) OTR Source List. A six page folder containing the names, addresses, phone and e-mail of 20 membership clubs, 9 OTR pubs not related to clubs, 12 fan clubs, 9 state archives, 42 dealers, 8 nostalgia merchants, 10 antique radio clubes, 19 museums & libraries, 6 regional conventions, and many web sites. Cost is $2 to NARA members (cash or stamps, no checks) $3 to non-members. Available from me.
    3. Tune In Yesterday by John Dunning (Prentice-Hall, 1976) The "bible" of the hobby, an encyclopedia of 700 pages discussing nearly a thousand shows. Out of print for 15 years this book, which retailed originally at fifteen bucks, is now going for $100 to $300 a copy if you can find it. Another edition is at the printers and supposed to be released this year; will probably retail for about $80. Most public libraries have a copy of the first one.
    4. There are several other source books of value, including Buxton & Owens The Big Broadcast and Swartz & Reinehr's Handbook of OTR, but the first three I mentioned will handle most questions in our hobby.
  1. If you decide to trade tapes with other collectors, consider a few common-sense guidelines to prevent unanticipated surprises when trading with a stranger:
    1. The initiator of the trade must send his stuff first. In other words, if you are contacted by a collector who wants 16 episodes of "Bobby Benson" of yours, you ask what he has to trade. You select an amount equal to what he wants, advise him, and wait until your order arrives before you start dubbing "Bobby Benson."
    2. Both agree in advance as to method of transmittal, type and quality of tape (i.e. 60s, 90s, wrap-arounds or not) and sequence. It's important to be honest about your time and capacity to handle dubs so other has realistic expectations in the trade process. Except for the big traders, it's best to stick to under-twenty cassettes per trading session.
    3. Trading may continue until either partner can no longer find things he wants in the other guy's collection.
    4. Nothing terribly complicated, just common sense spliced with caution.

Any questions? You can reach me at

Jack is editor of Radio Recall the newsletter of the Metro Washington Old Time Radio Club. Annual dues for membership in MWOTRC are $20 for local folks, and $15 for members residing outside the local area. For more info, send an email to Jack, or send him a snailmail letter (enclose a SASE if you want a reply) at PO Box 2533, Fairfax VA 22031. This article was printed with the express permission of the author. Jack is the author of "Private Eyelashes: Radio's Lady Detectives", published in April 2004, bu Bear Manor Media. It may be ordered from"