A visit to a Super Collector

I had the pleasure of meeting John W5ZG during the Belton Hamfest.  After an early morning of sparse interest at my seller’s table, John stopped by and decided to buy my Henry 2KD-2 1KW Linear.  In today’s standard, this amp was still a workhorse beast, but less desirable because of its weight.  The 1960/1970’s designs were brute forced for extremely large overdesign, or “heavy metal”.  Today’s ham seems more interested in solid state amps, so overall I’m glad it went home with someone who appreciated the rarity and fine craftsmanship of the Henry amp.  Little did I realize; John was a ham radio connoisseur of Henry amplifiers… and also *everything* that ran with tubes. 

Later in the day after the hamfest, I received an email from John, asking if I still have the pair 3-400Z tubes that we’re offered at the table, but didn’t sell.  I did, so we made an agreement to meet to deliver the tubes at his house in Magnolia, during the next trip back and forth between League City and College Station, where my daughter lives.

It turns out, John has an *incredible* historical ham radio collection in his large house nested in the beautify estate neighborhood in Magnolia, west of the Woodlands.

Upon entry, one immediately finds a large collection of shelved CW bugs on the right-hand side of the door. 

Looking forward and upward, one is astounded with the beginning of walls of gorgeous historical radios, transmitters, audio antiques from the early breadboard days to the early ham radio days.  Of course, I was captivated mostly with the ham equipment, but John is a renaissance man and had interspersed his “museum” with Edison cylinder vintage antiques, broadcast band antiques, as well as small gas engines of unknown history and design.

There are no adequate words to describe John’s museum except “massive” and “impressive”.

What makes this museum exceptional, is that John rotates his equipment such that they are all operable, as evidenced by several of his operating positions throughout the house.

John was so kind and generous with his time, allowing me to pepper him with questions and my indulgences of so many wonderful radios that I only heard about.

The Hallicrafters Skyrider Diversity DD-1 was a super rare dual diversity 1938 radio, which put Hallicrafter’s reputation on the map due to its state of the art engineering complexity.  John’s professional craftsmanship restored missing side cabinets and the internal supply electronics.  There were only about 100 of these produced since these were so expensive; priced at about $500, this was comparable to that of a new Chevrolet Coupe in 1938.  

The Hallicrafters FPM200 is a gorgeous dual VFO advanced design for it’s time in 1960.  A hybrid “transistorized” radio was not common, yet Hallicrafters designed this 41-transistor unit for 100 PEP SSB and 90W CW 80m-10m, really quite similar to today’s radios 60 years later!  In 2023, one sold for $6,000!  That tells you how rare these are.  It’s a beautiful radio.

Here’s a cool conversation piece– the Heath Company aircraft radio circa 1930s.  This was before the creation of ham radio Heathkit.  Edward Bayard Heath founded an aircraft company in 1911.  He only was interested in aircraft parts but Alexander Meissner somehow partnered with a him to build an airplane radio, too, and the rest is history.

Here’s a photo of my contribution to John’s incredible museum.  I’m proud to say, this the only early teardrop (meter) Henry he has in his collection.  John had it hooked for checkout his kitchen/workshop.

Primary operating station.  Although John rotates radios throughout his house and at different operating positions, I believe this is one of his prime spots, as evidenced by a sleeping cat in his comfy chair.  Of all the radios, this is one of the only signs of modern technology- FT8 and computers.  As a DX chaser, he told me that one cannot avoid the popularity of FT8 now.  But note the CW bug built into the armrest of his chair.  From this station, he shared a story about testing his HRO500 transceiver (situated behind the chair). 

One day he was checking the HRO500 oscillator performance in the radio while tuned in the CW/Digital part of 40m in the daytime.  He heard a faint XYL voice in the non-SSB portion of the band which was extremely odd.  He fired up this big radio and tuned her in and contacted her, to discover she was a non-ham operating her father’s radio calling “mayday”.  She was in the midst of the infamous and terrible Camp Fire in California of 2018, and she was asking for rescue help while her dad, a ham, was away.  John helped coordinate the ensuing rescue and she was able to successfully survive.  So that HRO500 carries a significant meaning in John’s collection.  Ham radio at it’s best!

On the walls are John’s many operating awards and amateur radio license plates.  Among his awards, one includes a 5BWAS on 30, 17, 12, 160, and 6m.  John told me that 6m was the hardest- he had searched 10 years for Hawaii, but on one fateful day he got one!  The following day he worked another 5 Hawaii stations!  When it rains, it pours.

The rest of the collection items each have great stories, including the rare German cloned HRO radio (only 200 made) that was ignored in a hamfest, until his friend called John about it. $50!

A colorful knobset of a British radio set that likely saw air combat during the war.

And within a prestigious glass box, John keeps he first of few Collins radio sets made.  The history of Collins and radio engineering was forever changed.

A unique Collins KWS-1 type radio transmitter with 11 MHz used by the Strategic Air Command, and likely participated directly with Art Collins during on-the-air testing as part of Collins selling these to the air force.

John also likes to dabble with QRP.  These yellow-colored boxes were a line of tube QRP radios that John built.

I don’t have enough bandwidth (or file storage space) to adequate pay tribute to the stories John had about each of his radios, but the following photos give you an idea:

Many thanks to John for the generosity of his time and gracious allowance of the tour into his magnificent collection.  John is willing to host other visitors, upon request.

73 to John and his family of cool cats who are guardians of the museum.

To see more, checkout John’s QRZ page under W5ZG.

1 thought on “A visit to a Super Collector”

  1. Outstanding photos and excellent presentation of likely one of the best radio collections in the USA. Perhaps anywhere. Thank you for sharing this with us radio enthusiasts world-wide!


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