Possible sale of an RCA theremin in somewhat rough shape

Posted: 5/20/2011 4:52:31 PM

Joined: 5/20/2011

A friend has had an original RCA theremin in his attic for many years, having rescued it in the 1970s from someone who was on the point of taking it to the dump. It's not in great shape - has no tubes and no speaker, and is missing both doors (so no serial number). It does have both antennas, and the case is generally in okay condition.

He's considering selling it, and I told him I would try to get a sense of what it might be worth. I'm assuming that its rarity gives it some value, but am wondering if someone in this community might be able to offer some more specific ideas on an amount (eg. how much of a reserve he might put on it if he put it on eBay).

Thanks, in advance, for any input!

~ Cathy Stanton
Posted: 5/20/2011 5:31:30 PM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

Well, that's difficult to say without knowing more about its condition. For example, does it still have its legs?

Of course, even more importantly, are the electronics intact and fully functional? You won't know that without a full set of tubes.
Finding an appropriate speaker is another matter. There are companies that still deal in tube based equipment - mostly guitar amps and vintage organs. The RCA theremin falls into the realm of antique radios.

Unless some other RCA owner wants to sell or donate a set of tubes, your best options are to try to buy them on ebay, but there's often no guarantee the ones you'll get will be any good. One of the tubes is extremely rare and difficult to get.

I can offer to put a set of tubes together for you if you are interested. I have them "in stock" and can test them. We'd have to discuss price offline.

But, to try to answer your question, in beat up or unknown condition it may sell for three to six thousand USD. In fully working condition you "may" expect four to ten thousand. In pristine condition, they can go for even more.
It really all comes down to what someone is willing to pay.

There is an extremely short list of people who can service these instuments if your friend is interested. Can you tell us about where you live?

BTW....Please thank your friend for saving this theremin from the dump for us!!!
Posted: 5/21/2011 10:06:37 AM

From: Brooklyn,NY

Joined: 12/1/2009

for tubes and other parts like the speaker: Contact Richard from Leeds Radio
leedsradio.com. This place is amazing- an entire treasure trove of a warehouse filled floor to ceiling with tube and pre-transistor electronic parts.
Leeds stock list may not be current. The best bet is to just send him an email with the tubes/parts your're looking for.

I bought some used tubes for my Keppinger from him last week and we were talking about theremins a bit. He was just about to tell me about how the tubes for the RCA were not really that hard to find or expensive, but our conversation was cut short when another customer arrived.

If he doest have it, I'd bet he could direct you to someone who does.

Best of luck!

Posted: 5/21/2011 11:14:30 AM

Joined: 5/20/2011

Thanks very much for these thoughts!

The theremin is in western Massachusetts. It does have its legs, but it's not clear what shape the electronics are in. My friend isn't sure whether he wants to invest in fixing it up to some extent (i.e. buying and testing tubes etc.) or whether he'd prefer to sell it as is. He's leaning toward the latter - but can see that buyers might well hesitate to pay several thousand dollars for a somewhat unknown quantity. That's what he's trying to get a sense of from this forum.

Are any of the people on the short list of service folks in New England? If so, does it seem as though the best bet is perhaps to take it physically to someone for an assessment and some possible work?
Posted: 5/21/2011 11:31:22 AM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

As you can see, there can be a big difference in value for a theremin that works and one that may not. It may be well worth the investment to get it working. But, that decision is entirely up to your friend.
Posted: 5/21/2011 12:01:42 PM

From: Brooklyn, New York

Joined: 11/25/2005

Hi Cathy,

please email me at mike at mikebuffington.net about your friend's theremin. I have some information on locating serial numbers and information about replicating theremin doors and restoring the cabinet and electronics. Thanks. Mike
Posted: 6/22/2011 1:53:32 PM

From: UK

Joined: 6/22/2011

Hi there just seen your add. If your friend still has the theremin would you be so kind as to email me please.regards
Posted: 12/17/2012 3:40:54 AM

Joined: 12/14/2012


  Please E-mail me if you have a second.  I'm in Albany NY.  glassact(at)compuservedotcom.

  Best - Ed

Posted: 1/14/2013 1:07:07 AM

From: Hampshire UK

Joined: 6/14/2012

Don't you just hate it when a thread goes kinda dead like this? I was looking forward to hearing what became of it!!!

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