About this website
The Virtual Valve Museum is the online presentation of my personal collection.
This collection has been assembled over a number of years, more seriously from around
1998 onwards, with the decision to share images of it with the world being taken in 1999.
The first version this website, then called JMH's Virtual Valve Museum went online during
1999 and I have maintained a web presence since then.
The collection is made up of items purchased over the years, and of valves which
people have very kindly given me. In each case where a valve has been donated you will
find this noted at the bottom of the web page.
The museum is entirely virtual - I do not have the space to arrange valves on shelving
and anyway it is not really a museum. It represents my physical collection. Where I can
I add data and a small amount of detail.
What I collect
I used to collect just about everything but it got out of hand when the collection reached 3,000 types,
some of which were huge beasts. So now I only collect CV types with almost all of the non-CV valves - about 1,500
gone off to the National Valve Museum, which is almost as old as my own. A few remain for use as trades or where they are
I first became interested in valves, and electronics in general when I was about 8.
My grandad drew a sine wave on the wall to try to explain the difference between ac and
dc - I forget why but I can still picture that drawing. He had a few old radios including
one he built himself, all laid out on a baseboard and looking like a well-made cupboard.
He showed me the valves in an old radio he gave me and then told me off as I took each
valve out and popped it on the concrete to see what was inside! This started my
collection, and soon after I took a battery box out of my Lego set plus two 425PEN's
into school and showed the teacher as they lit up.
Myself and a friend often frequented the local TV repair shop, and after a number of
years and many visits, the people running the shop retired. My friend phoned me, we were
about 12 at the time, and told me they wanted to see us. So off we went. When we got
there, all their remaining unsold stock was all on display in various boxes, and with
words which have become immortalized we were told 'take anything you want'. Being 12
I guess I didn't really know what to make of this and hurriedly studied the boxes of
valves for any that I might find useful, but it all became clear when I extracted a few
and was told to take all the boxes of valves rather than one or two! There must have
been a couple of hundred radio/TV valves there. There were a few other bits of kit we
wanted and we took the first load back to our house in bags, went back with a
wheelbarrow (imagine two 12 year olds carting old radios along the road in a
wheelbarrow), and finally my grandad took us for the last trip in his car.
At secondary school I discovered three things. I forget how or in what order, but
they were an electronics shop in the city centre that had loads of old test kit and all
sorts of goodies, a TV repair shop near the school, and a house clearance dealer, also
near the school.
A number of old radios came from the house clearance shop, and were either pulled
apart or sold. I also expanded my valve collection with about 20 old valves from this
shop. The TV repair shop owner was a good source of generic white valve boxes, plus he
had a small collection himself. The electronics shop was the source of several heavy
items of test gear that left their marks on the city busses as I brought them home!
My grandad had made me a workshop in the basement and I could be seen regularly
carrying heavy bits of test gear home on the bus after school. The workshop went
through many phases as my interests changed between test kit, radios, radio teletype,
and at one stage had a wall of test kit, plus Admiralty (Murphy) B40 and B41 receivers
(and I could lift both at once back then - just!), a Creed 7E teletype, several
readers and perforators, and associated kit. I went through a phase of buying scrap
teleprinters, rebuilding them and selling them to local radio amateurs for some extra
I have been involved with the web since almost the very beginning. My first website
(for work, not valves) was way back in 1992 and we knew just about every other website
operator in the world at that time. So it was natural that my collection would end up
online, beginning in 1999 on a bit of webspace located at work. From there it moved
about a few times, first to some commercial webspace provided free by a friend who
owns a (now high) ISP, then to our house, then past three other ISPs to it's current
home on a dedicated physical server which I rent.
The site has changed a few times but I am no designer so it is pretty basic. It uses
very little CSS and my design colleagues would lynch me if they realised that most
layout is done by tables!
I am no photographer either. The first photographs of valves were awful (and some
are still there), not necessarily the fault of the then flashless Cassio QV-200 or me
taking wet film pictures and scanning them in. I later used Kodak DC280 camera with a
couple of macro lenses that would attach to the front. Later I switched to a Canon
Powershot 480 which would focus down to 1cm.
Now that additions to the museum are quite rare I simply use a smartphone.
And so here we are. The collection used to live almost entirely in the loft, out of
touch. It has now completely moved to a more acessible location and into
plastic storage boxes,
all indexed so I can actually find everything. There is still much to do as I am
shrinking the collection, and several valves have gone missing during the move,
hopefully because I forgot to write down which box they are in!
The website has changed a bit technically too. The original site was just a
collection of HTML pages and hand-made indexes. This progressed via some PHP and a flat
index file to the current MySQL driven site. I had also integrated Wordpress into the
site such that Wordpress drove the About, news and updates. However this has been
replaced now by bespoke scripts and modifications to the overall MySQL database.