Information And Help To The New Collector - Part II

by Terry G.G. Salomonson

In the first part of this series, I wrote about how I got started in collecting old time radio (OTR) programs, some of the publications that were and still are available, some of the problems you will face with different collectors, and with some of the commercially available cassettes, and a few of the sources to gather from. That was a lot of ground to cover, and I could have written an article on each one of these points.

As I stated at the end of the first installment in this series, we have many other areas to explore together in this great hobby of collecting old time radio. Equipment, books, computers, good programs to collect, clubs, how to catalog, etc., and each will be expanded upon in future installments.

Let's start with good programs to collect. Everyone will naturally have various opinions on this subject, as varied as the number of different programs and the different types of collectors. Some collectors like only westerns, or comedy, or science fiction, and on and on. And you will find some collectors whose catalogs will reflect a strong trend in only one direction, such as drama. Other catalogs you will not be able to make head nor tails out of, because of the mixed up way programs and reels, or cassettes are listed. Catalogs that list a program title, but without a script title, or date. A program listed with only a date, etc. All of this can be very confusing and you can fall into the same trap if you're not careful from the beginning with your collecting and cataloging habits. A little thinking about this area will save you a lot of time re-doing listings later, or offering the same type of confusing information to other collectors that we are covering here.

We shall start with sending away for catalogs. You can receive them from either other collectors, dealers, or clubs. I would recommend that you take some time to study this literature carefully. See how complete a certain series is. If you don't know how to tell if your source has a large amount of programs in a certain category, or a small amount, compare this catalog against other source listings. After all, if you're new to the hobby, you certainly won't know if there are only 27 programs of HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL, or if there are only 27 programs available to begin with! In this case I can tell you that totally, there were 106 broadcasts of HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL between 11/23/58 and 11/27/60. For years, 102 broadcasts were available. Only four shows were missing. Now all 106 broadcasts are in my collection since those last four broadcasts have been released.

In any event, by looking through various source material, it won't take even a new collector very long to see that some collectors have a few titles of a certain series, while others have a lot of titles of the same series. When building a certain series that you're interested in, deal with the source that has a large collection of where your interest is. You save time in receiving the greatest amount of programs in the least amount of trading, and you are not spending a lot more money in postage and tape dealing with collectors all over the country. This will also cut down on any sound quality problems you could run into when dealing with many different collectors, providing that the collector you are trading with takes care of his equipment, and is as careful as you are about whom he is trading with.

Another advantage in this type of trading is that the larger collector probably already has a series in chronological order and you will not be looking from collector to collector for that one or two programs that you know is available and then once you receive it to have to re-record your reels so that they are in order. I might point out also, that when you do this and re-record your reels, you are also dropping the recording generation of each program one more time, which adds to further quality deterioration in sound. Remember you always add additional tape hiss, distortion, etc., every time a program is recorded over and over again, and you can never remove it. It may not be very noticeable, but it adds up with each recording and re-recording. Many of the larger collectors are never the source of the record ings that you are collecting and therefore, their sound quality is generally better. More on this area in future installments.

Once you've got a good inventory of one series, you'll find others coming to you for that series, and you can use this material to get something that they have a large collection of. In no time at all, you'll be on your way to establishing a good collection that you can be proud of.

Now, let's look at what is available in the complete, short run department. This would be an area that you can collect on say about six or seven reels, or about 30 to 40 cassettes. There are several small run series. I'll list a few titles here, and remember that this is not a complete list of what is available:

     THE SIX SHOOTER           40 episodes (30 minutes each) 
     FORT LARAMIE              40 episodes (30 minutes each) 
     ACADEMY AWARD             39 episodes (30 minutes each) 
     THE SEALED BOOK           26 episodes (30 minutes each) 
     ADVENTURES BY MORSE       52 episodes (30 minutes each) 
     I LOVE ADVENTURE          13 episodes (30 minutes each) 
     THE LIVES OF HARRY LIME   52 episodes (30 minutes each) 
     THE CBS RADIO WORKSHOP    85 episodes (30 minutes each) 
     FRONTIER GENTLEMAN        41 episodes (30 minutes each) 
     FRONTIER TOWN             47 episodes (30 minutes each) 
     ADVENTURES OF FRANK RACE  43 episodes (30 minutes each) 
     BOX 13                    52 episodes (30 minutes each) 
     CBS RADIO WORKSHOP        85 episodes (30 minutes each) 
     THE DAMON RUNYAN THEATER  52 episodes (30 minutes each) 
     FLASH GORDON              26 episodes (15 minutes each) 
     MOON OVER AFRICA          26 episodes (15 minutes each) 
     THE ADVENTURERS CLUB      32 episodes (15 minutes each) 
     THE AMERICAN TRAIL        13 episodes (15 minutes each) 
     THAT WAS THE YEAR         39 episodes (15 minutes each) 
     POLICE HEADQUARTERS       39 episodes (15 minutes each) 
     STORY BEHIND THE SONG     39 episodes (15 minutes each) 
     JERRY AT FAIR OAKS        65 episodes (15 minutes each) 
     FAMILY DOCTOR             39 episodes (15 minutes each) 
     FRONTIER FIGHTERS         39 episodes (15 minutes each) 
     CAPTAINS OF INDUSTRY      52 episodes (15 minutes each) 
     MEMORIES OF HAWAII        13 episodes (15 minutes each) 
     KOMEDIE KAPERS            75 episodes (15 minutes each) 
     PINTO PETE IN ARIZONA     78 episodes (15 minutes each) 
     THE DEERSLAYER            13 episodes (15 minutes each) 
     THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS  13 episodes (15 minutes each) 
     FRANKENSTEIN              13 episodes (15 minutes each) 
Now this would give you a pretty good start with some trading material that is complete with each and every broadcast. In all fairness, I must confess, that some of the above shows will probably not be well sought after programs by a lot of collectors, but you never know. I have all of the above and they have all been requested at one time or another. I also have other complete series, but I just want to give you some kind of an idea that there are complete series that are small and a few others that are large, but that complete series do exist.

Here are a couple of good examples of fairly long running series that are complete and available:

                              178 episodes (15 minutes each) 
     MAGIC ISLAND             130 episodes (15 minutes each) 
     CHANDU, THE MAGICIAN     154 episodes (15 minutes each) 
Now, if you're not interested in only complete series, there are several long running programs that are fairly complete. The series may be missing a program here or there, but for the most part they are just about as completely put together by collectors over the years as you can get. The ESCAPE series for example, is missing just 12 shows out of the hundreds that aired. One missing broadcast in the X MINUS ONE series, and two missing in the DIMENSION X series, etc.

I will not try to assign the number of episodes available, as some of these programs go into the hundreds of programs and are being added to all the time. Here goes:

     THE WHISTLER                          (30 minutes each) 
     CALLING ALL CARS                      (30 minutes each) 
     THE ADVENTURES OF JUNGLE JIM          (15 minutes each) 
     LUKE SLAUGHTER OF TOMBSTONE           (30 minutes each) 
     ESCAPE                                (30 minutes each) 
     X MINUS ONE                           (30 minutes each) 
     FRONT PAGE DRAMA AMERICAN WEEKLY      (15 minutes each) 
     DIMENSION X                           (30 minutes each) 
     THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE                (30 minutes each) 
     SUSPENSE                              (30 minutes each) 
     LUX RADIO THEATRE                     (60 minutes each) 
     YOURS TRULY, JOHNNY DOLLAR            (30 minutes each) 
     FIBBER MCGEE AND MOLLY                (30 minutes each) 
     THE PHILCO RADIO HALL OF FAME         (60 minutes each) 
     PHILCO RADIO TIME                     (30 minutes each) 
     THE CAVALCADE OF AMERICA              (30 minutes each) 
     THE JACK BENNY SHOW                   (30 minutes each) 
     THE CISCO KID                         (30 minutes each) 
     GUNSMOKE                              (30 minutes each) 
     DRAGNET                               (30 minutes each) 
     ROMANCE                               (30 minutes each) 
You must also realize that an occasional program or two, here and there throughout a long running series will be in something less than great or very good sound. But in the quest of completing a series, all examples of each broadcast that are available, should be included, even down to a bad copy if that is the only known example in existence. We always hope that a great sound upgrade will be found if the only known copy of a broadcast has static, scratches, or dropouts as part of the audio. There are a couple of very poor audio programs in the ESCAPE run, for the most part, completely unlistenable. Recently, an audio upgrade made these programs listenable, but are still a long ways away from the type of sound quality we would like for such a fine broadcast series. This type of audio problem most collectors probably wouldn't list in their catalogs, or maybe even keep in their collection. I keep everything, always hoping for a sound improvement. In the last several years, a lot of work has been done with the ESCAPE series. Many of the broadcasts are now available in much better sound than I ever thought would exist. Very dedicated collectors are going back to the discs, and while using newer equipment and techniques, are realizing much better recordings than were possible before. Some of these programs can hold their own every bit as good as any broadcast heard today. I can only state again, many collectors benefit from a few who have the time, money, equipment, and access to the discs, and then make these tapes available to all collectors. I have recently completed a new set of masters for this entire series in much better sound quality than has ever been available before.

Several years ago, as an example, that most collectors wouldn't want to trade for or consider getting a copy of the SPEED GIBSON OF THE INTERNATIONAL SECRET POLICE series. First off, episodes #31, 32, 83 and 84 were missing. Secondly, the sound throughout most of the run of 178 episodes, was at best, bassy, or weak in volume levels. By pure luck, I was introduced to a man who called me long distance to ask some questions. He was also looking for a couple of programs that I had, and I forwarded them to him. Some weeks later during another telephone call, he happened to mention having access to several different series of discs. I asked him which ones and how he had access to them. He mentioned several titles, including the SPEED GIBSON series. It seems that he had met a man, who years earlier, had been a sound engineer at a radio station, and collected the discs as they were used and then discarded. He died and his widow didn't care one way or the other about whether copies were made of the discs.

As to the SPEED GIBSON OF THE INTERNATIONAL SECRET POLICE, it seems that all the discs were there except for about seven or eight episodes. Those seven or eight missing episodes were available from other sources, but the missing episodes #31, 32, 83 & 84 were among these existing discs. Disc by disc was then copied and the master reels forwarded to me. I then made up a master set of reels with the other episodes that weren't in this collection of discs, and the complete 178 episodes were assembled in great sound for the first time to collectors since probably the series originally aired in the late 1930's. You never know where or when you'll find something new.

As a new collector, it is easier if you trade for, or buy complete series together on the same reels, or on a series of cassettes. This will keep the amount of reels and/or cassettes involved small. This will help you especially if you have any problems with storing a large amount of reels or cassettes. If you intend to collect thousands, or tens of thousands of programs, early considerations of keeping the amount of tape to a minimum will be a wise move on your part. I've seen many catalogs that ramble in several different directions reel by reel. Probably four or five times the amount of tape needed is used, and the owner never really knows what he or she has at any one moment. Collecting a series in chronological order also allows you to see what you have at a quick glance, but more importantly, what you're missing and need when something new becomes available.

Another big help, and one that is very rare, is a complete alphabetical index to the programs in your catalog and the pages that they can be found on. This is probably the single biggest help to those collectors that you send your catalog to. It sure beats searching back and forth, over and over, trying to find something. This is especially true for yourself. As you get more and more organized, an index really helps. In my current reel-to-reel/cassette catalog, I list 18,433 programs contained on 1,657 reels and 8,561 stock cassettes. Now this is no where near the total amount in my collection, but for the programs listed in the catalog, I can find which programs I have, and which ones I'm missing, and on which reel and page in the catalog that they are located, all within a few seconds using the index in the front of the catalog. I have received many compliments about this one feature more than anything else. It might also make other collectors consult your own catalog rather than catalogs from other collectors that do not have an easy to use index.

You also end up with a reference guide of logs for the programs broadcast when you collect as completely as possible each series. Some catalogs can be used as logs to which programs are available. Indeed, I've seen ads that state this as a benefit to purchasing this or that catalog from this or that dealer.

So the first question as a new collector that you should ask yourself is one of what do I want to collect, and where is the best source. The type of programs can be broken down into a main category, such as drama/mystery, western, comedy, juvenile, soap opera, or science-fiction. Professionally, the broadcast industry breaks these categories down even further into many more titles. That may make it hard for our purposes in the case where a program starts out in one category, and ends up in a different one, such as ROMANCE. But I'm sure you know what I mean.

Here is the listing of what the broadcasting industry used for categorizing programs that were on the air during the 1947 to 1948 season. I think you'll see what I mean by breaking your programs down into just five or six categories.

You will have a lot of 3 x 5 card boxes around, or tie up a large amount of your computer's memory trying to keep up with which programs you have under which heading if you use these categories. It is easier just to divide your collection into four, five, or six main categories and let it go at that.

If you were to choose, for example, to collect westerns, you could look towards some of these titles to collect:

These are westerns that are available to collectors. Some of these titles may only have a couple of examples, and others have hundreds of broadcasts that have been put together and saved on tape. Most of the rare examples of some of these programs can be credited to Don Aston for having found them. He is also to be thanked for his time and years worth of effort in tracking down and finding all, except for 11, of the 481 GUNSMOKE programs. That's real dedication to completing a single series. Not only do the rest of us benefit greatly from Don's efforts, but most of the collectors in the country do not have the contacts, nor the equipment to gather and transfer to tape these programs of the past.

I have spent similar amounts of time in tracking down and correctly identifying hundreds of THE LONE RANGER programs. THE LONE RANGER log that I released several years ago, took over seven years worth of research, and it is still being updated as little pieces of new information continue to come in. I completed a major update of information for this log in the fall of 1992 when I was given access to all the original scripts and was able to finally see about 400 scripts that had eluded me for years. It will take several years for a complete rewrite of this log. More about this effort in Part 5 of this series. Many LONE RANGER programs have now been released to collectors that have not been available before.

The challenge to collecting can really be felt with THE LONE RANGER program, and other long running broadcasts. More and more broadcasts keep popping up all of the time. There are already around 1,100 shows of THE LONE RANGER available. About half of these are the ABC and NBC rebroadcasts of 1954 through 1956. Consider the fact that 3,376 original broadcasts were done of THE LONE RANGER, that 2,603 were recorded, and that about 550 are currently available of the original MUTUAL Network run to collec tors. More than double that number are found in restricted collections around the country. That leads one to the fun of discovering a new show whenever one becomes available with a lot of room for growth. SPERDVAC (The Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety and Comedy) has been given the permanent loan of all the discs of THE LONE RANGER and CHALLENGE OF THE YUKON from the current owners. That is close to 4,000 discs of broadcast material from just these two programs. How long it will take before any of these broadcasts will start appearing in the collections of OTR buffs is anyone's guess.

Now that we have some kind of an idea on how to start gathering old time radio programs, I will give you some additional timely tips on getting organized with your growing collection before it becomes unmanageable. These and other ideas in "Information And Help To The OTR Collector - Part III."

If there is an area of information that you, the new or well established collector, would like to see in this series, please feel free to write me. Any questions, comments, or suggestions will be carefully considered. I can be reached through this internet web site or the following addresses:

P.O. Box 347
Howell, MI 48844-0347


Copyright (c) 1988 - 1998 by Terry G.G. Salomonson. All rights reserved.

Return To:
OTR Articles
Main Table of Contents

Jerry Haendiges Productions 1998