I started out with a Shure 55A, still the pride of my collection, and went on from there. I now have over 20 vintage microphones dating from the 1930s to the 1960s or so. There's so little information available to the vintage mic collector, I've found. I have not come across a decent book on the subject, which surprises me because there seem to be quite few collectors around.
None of my mics are for sale and I'm not really in the market for more right now, but I'm always interested in learning more about these objects and the history of the companies that made them.
Shure Brothers got started in the early '30s in Chicago. In 1939 Shure introduced the 55 series of Unidyne microphones designed to limit feedback problems with a true cardoid response profile. The 55 series is still in production. When people think of a vintage microphone, this is usually the one they mean. From Bing Crosby to the Andrews Sisters and Rosemary Clooney, from Truman holding up the "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline to Ike and Jack Kennedy, this is the microphone in the picture. Big and silver, the 55 is a true American icon. I have a 1945-ish 55A, the low impedance version. The first 55's were the 55A, 55B (mid-impedance), and 55C (hi-impedance). In 1946 these three models were combined into a single multi-impedance model, the 55. The large-bodied 55's were replaced in 1951 by the smaller 55s, the Elvis mic. Also around that time, the company moved to suburban Evanston, Illinois. The current model is the 55SH Series II.
Shure also manufactures one of the definitive harmonica microphones, the 520 series. I have a 520D. The 520's have dynamic elements. Similarly shaped, but with a crystal element, the 707A is also much more rare. I have a late '40s 707A with a black Chicago label, and an early '50s model with a nice blue Chicago label.
I also own a Shure 737, a Model 51 Sonodyne, a bakelite Model 717B, a 510s Hercules, and a Model 710.
Astatic got started in Youngstown, Ohio in the 1920's as the Astatic Microphone Laboratory. If you find an Astatic with a label with those words on it, well it's old! I have a Model DD-104 spring-mounted model from that era. Fairly soon in it's history, Astatic moved to Conneaut, Ohio, where it remains.
Astatic is noted for the D-104 series of desktop mics, still in production for the ham radio market and for the JT-30, the other definitive harp mic. I have several JT-30s, both with base and without. I also have an unusual version that is the hammertone grey color all over, quite rare. Sometimes you will find an all-chrome version, too. I have a Model A, dating from about 1939, which is the predecessor of the JT-30.
I also have a mint Model 200, a Model M-300, and an early Model 77.
Turner is the design leader of the microphone world. No longer in business, these guys designed some of the coolest, most visually appealing microphones ever made. My favorite is the Model S34X, a crystal element model. Then there's the 22D dynamic, and the S33D. The little Model 80X is also very stylish. This is the only model 80 I've come across with the original base. I also have a Turner U9S "Searchlight" in very nice condition.
American was based in Pasadena, California, and is no longer in business. I only know of two models of theirs, the Model D-4-T, also known as the Saltshaker mic, and the D-5-T, a very heavy bullet type microphone. Mine is the only one I've come across. Here's a link to a site that has a number of photos of vintage American (and other makers, too).
Still in business making speakers, PA systems, and microphones, there are a lot of EV mics around. I have a Model 950 Cardax in really good shape, with an EV stand.