This directory is one of my secret weapons! The information isn't
secret really but you'd be surprised how many people don't know
where to go, in particular for specialist and hard-to-find parts
Dealers are the obvious first port of call; although bargains can
sometimes be had in general antique shops, their merchandise is
frequently suspect in condition or authenticity and often overpriced.
Specialist dealers, who rely on repeat business, cannot afford to
be so lax. Swapmeets are another excellent source of plunder, as
is the National Vintage Communications Fair held twice yearly at
the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham. Details of all these
are to be found within these pages.
For specialist military and avionics radio equipment the specialist
swapmeets devoted to these hobbies (aerojumbles and the like are
well worth visiting (read Flypast magazine for dates and
locations). Autojumbles are good for car radios and enamel signs
from the time when automotive garages were also wireless dealers,
whilst some interesting items also turn up at toy fairs (don't ask
me why but they do!). Your local paper and the specialist hobby
publications have details.
Don't be afraid to do some lateral thinking when you are trying
to source uncommon parts. The high voltage wire used in television
sets and some transmitters is readily available from electronics
parts supplier such as Maplin but it does of course look modern.
If you are seeking something that looks older, how about trying
auto ignition wire? Not the kind with carbon filament but the old-fashioned
type used in earlier cars up to the 1980s. This stuff was designed
to handle voltages of 15,000-plus without breaking down and you
might try car breakers, autojumbles, a long-established car repairer
(or marinas or airports where they do repairs). Rubber feet for
telephones... today's neoprene ones look too fresh and shiny? Then
what about the black rubber bumpers for protecting doors at your
local hardware shop? A good hardware store or a specialist furniture
shop is where you will find felt feet. They're just what you need
for the older type of wireless or to add to a telephone whose original
rubber feet have dried rock solid.
Ignore the fact that several of the dealers listed in the pages
which follow are in the USA, not in the British Isles. Apart from
the novelty of phoning, faxing or writing to the States, there's
no reason why you too shouldn't buy from the USA. They have a lot
of products not available here and often the price is still low,
even after accounting for the postage. Small shipments seldom attract
the attention of H.M. Customs, by the way, so don't worry about
having to pay duty. Most of the businesses mentioned accept British
credit cards, so you don't have the problem of getting hold of American
money, and if they don't, you can always buy dollar bills from your
bank and send these in a letter; it's a lot cheaper than buying
international money orders.
Another thing. Because the market is larger over there, many of
the American dealers issue free or low-cost catalogues that are
a revelation to European eyes. These catalogues contain useful information
and are well worth requesting.
Lastly, there is a notion that dealers are parasites and genuine
collectors should not patronise them. Ah yes. The American author
Mark V. Stein has some very apt words on this subject.
He says: A word about dealers and dealer prices: expect to pay
a premium when purchasing from a dealer. The dealer offers you the
luxury of eliminating the time-consuming hunt through yard and estate
sales, flea markets, antique shows and the like. It is he who goes
through the trouble of rooting out those hard-to-find items—ones
you might not happen upon except after years of hunting yourself.
Dealers' inventories represent long hours and related expenses,
and so their prices must reflect those additional costs.
Do please note that inclusion in this list does not imply any endorsement
of the firms concerned. Please be understanding, too. It is inevitable
that this information will go out of date and there's not a thing
the publisher can do about that! New suppliers will come along,
others will change address or call it a day. Many of these traders
are in the business more for the love of it than just to make money;
if the latter was their aim, they'd probably be better advised to
put their money in the bank. What this means is that some businesses
go as suddenly as they come, and some of these firms may in fact
be part-time businesses working from home (so turning up unannounced
may not bring the welcome you might expect). This is also the reason
why some entries have only a telephone number or a P.O. Box number.
Even proper shops may have idiosyncratic opening times, so it's
always worth making a phone call before travelling long distances.
Finally, if you do find errors or omissions, please feel free to
write in with your corrections so the list can be updated. Write
to Steve Ostler at firstname.lastname@example.org
Internet sites on collecting in general
Auction sites, for obtaining old equipment, ephemera, other hardware
and so on