Michael Katz has been a collector of sorts since the age of 13, sifting through his father’s change pile after he got off work as a bus driver in New York City.
One day, he found a 1903 Liberty nickel.
“I’ve always been a collector,” said Katz, 60, of Seaford. “I started collecting coins, and tin and cast iron toy trucks from the 1930s and 1940s.”
In 1983, Katz found a 1937 Zenith “cube” radio, which he bought for $40 at an antique show in Brimfield, Mass. This radio would later become the first radio in a collection that grew to 100.
“It still looks nice and it’s in good shape, so that’s reason enough to keep it,” Katz said.
Katz chose 20 of his classic radios to be displayed at the Levittown Public Library during the month of May.
“These kind of radios you really don’t see anywhere in normal life,” Katz said. “It’s really a lot of our history and it’s pretty much been forgotten because of all the new technology. You just don’t see these anymore, so I thought it might be interesting for people to see a different kind of hobby.”
He kept his most valuable radios, some worth more than $30,000, at his home tucked away in the basement and den.
His wife, Elizabeth Katz, whom he has been married to for 21 years, selected a few radios from the collection to be displayed throughout the house.
“It seems like they’ve been here forever,” said Katz, 55, of Seaford. “I like the ones that don’t look like radios and are unusual. My favorite is the radio that looks like a horse.”
Her husband favors radios he describes as ornate or unique in design.
“During the depression, companies would make any designs to get into someone’s living room,” Katz said.
Over time, he has developed a sense of what radios are unusual and rare — radios that have what he calls the “wow factor.”
“The radios I collect are very, very difficult to find,” Katz said. “They may come up once every five years, so when you find them you grab them and you don’t let them go. I call them the permanent collection. I’ll probably be buried with them.”