Prewar TV Sets Still Exist?
How many sets still survive?
To estimate the number of sets that are still out there, we start with the number which were manufactured. In the USA, about 7000 electronic sets were made before the war. In Britain, the number is around 19,000. Production in other countries was much less: about 1600 in Germany and only a handful in France and Italy.
Michael Bennett-Levy, a collector and author of two books on the subject, Historic Televisions and Video Recorders, published in 1993, and TV is King, published in 1994, estimates that around two percent of the original sets should still exist. Using this figure, about 140 American and 400 British sets should have survived.
For his first book, he compiled a database of sets. Michael Bennett-Levy found:
By the publication of his second book, he had found 180 electronic British sets. Since then, only a few sets have surfaced, bringing the total to around 200, far less than the 400 that he predicts should be around. Are there another 200 British pre-war electronic sets yet to be found?
Here is a quote from a television repair shop owner in England:
Prewar sets used power supplies ("mains derived e.h.t") that were lethal. Perhaps the danger of these power supplies resulted in many of the sets being destroyed, and explains the relatively few British sets still around.
My database of American prewar sets includes about 200 electronic sets either verified or reported, a bit more than what Michael Bennett-Levy predicted seven years ago. I know of only two sets that have been discovered in the last year.
Michael Bennett-Levy said in the introduction of Historic Televisions and Video Recorders:
I suspect that many more mechanical sets are in attics, flea markets, or
antique shops. Since they don't obviously look like TV sets, they may have not
yet been identified.