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2014 Holiday Gift Guide for Radio Fanatics: From Radio in a Jar to Bike Radios

There’s a chill in the air, the Thanksgiving leftovers are nearly gone, and thoughts are turning to holiday shopping. For me, scoping out interesting radio-themed gifts is a highlight of the season, as there’s always something new that piques my interest. If you have a radio fan in your life or if you are searching for some items to put on your own wish list, take a look at some of my latest finds. Also be sure to scroll down to see more gift ideas from some of our prior gift guides.

1. Radio in a Jar

This single-station radio is actually on the top of my list. Although it won’t arrive in time for the winter holidays, you can pre-order for delivery in May, 2015. Dubbed the “Public Radio,” the single station FM radio, had a very successful Kickstarter campaign this fall, bringing in more than $88,000 in order to fund production of these radios built into small Mason Jars.

2. Huffy Radio Bike + Other Bike Radios

What could be cooler than a bicycle with a built-in radio? The Huffy Radio Bike first appeared in 1955, and included a built-in radio. Read more about the bike here on Dial a Ride. It turns out that earlier bicycle radios appeared in the 1930s and a more recent detachable bicycle radio was marketed in the 1990s. These are all probably pretty hard to find, but as an alternative, there are also some portable radios that can be attached to an existing bicycle, including the Barbie Bike FM Radioand the Evo Sync AM/FM Handlebar Radio, With LED And Horn.

3. Radio Making Kit

This is the year that I’m going to build my own radio and this Wonderology Snap Plug and Play radio kit seems like the perfect, simple first-time radio-making project. The pieces snap together and according to the product description, it’s appropriate for ages 5 and up. There are plenty of other radio-making kits out there, including an Elenco FM Radio Kit, theElenco Short Wave Radio Kit, theBuild Your Own Working Crystal Radio Lab Kit, and the Tecsun AM Radio Receiver Kit.

4. Wooden Phone Dock that Looks Like a Radio

There are a whole range of products out there that look retro, but are actually brand new and are designed to connect with modern devices like iPhones. The Areaware Decorative Radio Dock looks like a funky wooden radio, but it’s actually a dock for one’s iPhone.

5. Circa 1928 Speakers

I fell in love with the look of these “vintage” speakers that I spotted in the Restoration Hardware catalog (take a look at their website for more retro audio pieces plus numerous other vintage-inspired items, including some that are seemingly pulled from a steam punker’s dreams). According to the catalog copy, “Inspired by a speaker from 1928, the dawn of radio’s golden age,” the cast-metal speakers can be connected via wireless to your phone or mp3 player. Although not nearly as glamorous, there are some other vintage-looking radios and speakers out there that will also connect with your phone, including the Philips Charging Speaker Dock for iPod/iPhone and the Wolverine Retro Table Top Bluetooth Speaker and AM/FM Radio.


6. New Radio Books on Walter Benjamin and Top 40

If you are looking to pick up some scholarly radio tomes, there are two new books that I’m eager to read. Radio Benjamin compiles radio transcripts from scholar Walter Benjamin, who hosted a radio show in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Additionally, Eric Weisbard’s new book, Top 40 Democracy: The Rival Mainstreams of American Music, is worth checking out for its analysis of popular radio genres and their intersections with mainstream music in America. I hope to review both books in the weeks to come. UPDATE (12/17/14): To get more scoop on Eric Weisbard’s book, see my Q&A with him.


7. Betsey Johnson Radio Purse

Last year I found a bunch of radio purses and am adding to that list with this cute hand bag by designer Betsey Johnson.It actually has functional speakers that can plug into your phone or mp3 player so that you can effectively play music out of your purse! Another option is this Vintage Retro Radio Messenger Bag.

8. Antique Radios Curated by the New York Times

In another example of the celebration of all things vintage, the New York Times Store has an entire section devoted to antique radios. These aren’t your standard cast-offs, with some of them priced for thousands of dollars.


9. Space Heater with Built-In Radio

Every year I find a totally random radio item that serves a dual purpose (like the radio toaster and the radio cooler). For 2014, the bizarre appliance, the JNH Lifestyles Infrared Space Heater, Radio and Media Playercombines a space heater with a functioning radio.

10. Countdown to Christmas Radio

This Hallmark decoration from 2013, the North Pole Countdown Radio Tabletop Decoration, looks like a vintage radio, but when you turn the dial you can hear recorded messages that count down to Christmas. It can also be connected to an mp3 player.

11. 2015 Tower Site Calendar

Last, but not least, is Scott Fybush’s annual Tower Site Calendar. The 2015 edition features color photographs of radio towers from all over the United States. Signed and numbered copies are also available.

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