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The Mickey Story:

A Sordid Tale of Shame, Woe and I.P. Theft.

During 1933, the ASTOR Radio Corporation of Melbourne produced the first of the Mickey Mouse series of radios.

In 1936 they produced their first Bakelite Mickey Mouse with a cartoon of the famous rodent on the dial.

mickey advertisment

Early brochures even sported a picture of Walt Disney and the mouse giving their "seal of approval". In it Mickey is quoted saying "I'm a little fellow - but I do a man size job".

However none of this was done with any kind of permission from Disney and as you might expect the Mickey range became victims in a long running court battle with Walt Disney over the illegal use of the Mickey Mouse name.

The upshot was that Astor was forbidden to use "Mickey Mouse" ever again on their radios, however this did not stop them from producing a "Mickey" radio for the next 16 years.

There is a uniquely two-fisted Australian expression where something might be described as being "Mickey Mouse".

In one sense it can mean "of high quality", but it can equally be applied to something "not quite right" or "a bit dodgy".

I'm certain it is a hold over from the days when a Mickey Mouse radio was both a good performing, high quality product and a little bit dodgy at the same time.

 
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ill titleAstor Mickey HQ

Radio Or Rodent?

ill_1After a while collecting Vintage radios, you'll hear the sage advice that, "It's almost always a failed component that has caused the radio to stop working."

Valves by their nature are vacuum sealed and unless they are have been used will not, generally speaking, go bad over time. This is quite different from other components like capacitors which can deteriorate through inactivity.

You'll be told never to believe an eBay auction that says, "Radio doesn't work... Probably just needs a new valve" as this is the least likely scenario.

If I were to speak from personal experience however, I would have to say I've found the reverse to be true.

Every radio appearing on this site, if it was not fully functional or fully restored when purchased, has needed little more than replacement valves to get them going again in a reasonable fashion.

Admittedly on some I have restored many more components and greatly improved their performance, but this Astor Mickey is a good case in point.

This Mickey is the HQ Model, made in 1951. It is in cream Bakelite and still uses Octal valves. It is the second last model of Astor radio to bear the Micky name.

ill titleThe Unrestored Mickey

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Looking at it unrestored, as in the photo above, I had little hope that this would be an easy restoration.

Inspection and comparison with the schematic revealed that it sported an incorrect valve, a correct one in the wrong place and a dud one right where it was needed most. However, apart from the valve muddle-up it was exactly as it ought to be.

After sourcing correct and working replacements for the failed and missing valves we were pleasantly surprised to turn it on and hear it come to life.

Some work may have been done on it previously, I cannot tell, but for me, all "Mickey" here really needed was "some new valves" to become one of the best sounding radios I own.

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I recently found a proper volume knob and will keep my eyes open for a nicer tuning dial as this one has seen better days.

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Even still, it takes a nice photo don't you think?

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