Crystal Radios Are Fun
by Norris Chambers
"How much for the whole box?" I asked the clerk. He picked it up, testing it's weight, then said, "Two dollars." I offered him a dollar, and struggled out with the box of goodies.
After a few minutes of sawing, bending welding rod and drilling, I had a pair of nice looking counters. The question was, could I sell them.
There are many enterprising mail order people out there who mail circulars for a very modest fee. Your circular is mailed with many others of a non-competing nature to a list of people called "opportunity seekers," who have been known to buy from mail order advertisers. I printed up 1000 circulars with a picture of the counter and a few endearing terms such as "Little Gem - Handy Dandy Score Keeper and Calculator." The calculator part was the old Chinese abacus. An instruction sheet told how to use it as a game scorer and as an adding and subtracting device.
I built and boxed a few, complete with fresh varnish, and waited for the orders to roll in. But the demand just wasn't there. There must have been fewer domino players out there than I suspected. I sold a few at 2 for $1.50. I didn't actually lose money on this project, but I didn't make any. But I had fun.
But with my thousand or more balls, I had to try something else. I had once built a crystal radio set using a metal ball sliding over a coil. The balls would make excellent sliders when strung on a spring wire and attached to a coil form. I decided to sell the units as a kit, with the coil wound over a 2" wooden dowel and mounted on a 1X4 base. A few thin aluminum strips served as connectors. I purchased a crystal detector unit and a few clips. A small headset and assembly instructions completed the kit.
Again I made up a circular, showing the picture and dwelling on the fun and fascination of building your own radio. I even hinted that it might be a good Boy Scout project.
That last hint was what made it a success. I began to get orders from Scouts, and their friends told other scouts. I sold hundreds of the kits over a period of several years.
I only got one complaint. A boy wrote me saying: "I built the radio and it works, but the programs on it are not good. Could I exchange it for one with better programs?"
My answer was: "We don't have any with better programs, but if you lived in the Metroplex area, you could turn on your TV and listen to Icky Twerp. He puts on a real good program." The answer must have satisfied him, for I never heard from him again.
And oh, yes! About the rest of the metal balls...I sold them as the latest whistling ammunition for sling shots. They really made a nice sound when zipping through the air! I wish I had another box full.
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Copyright © 2007 Norris Chambers