TV Cream

Bric-a-Brac: R is for...


Ronco was, first and foremost, an all-American empire of tat purveying bottle cutters and Veg-O-Matics to the honest folk of Poughkeepsie – and easy material for Atlantic City supper club stand-ups. But the British wing of Ron Popeil’s mighty Christmas gift manufacturing concern made us chop-eating islanders feel right at home with bits of fireproof tinsel, the forthright tones of Tommy Vance on announcing duties, and an especially dreary range of gadgetry. Seemingly based around a job lot of electric motors the Ronco boys had somehow ‘acquired’, the early ’80s range of variations on a spinny theme were an object lesson in inventing markets to suit your materials. How did we ever put up with the onerous task of whisking eggs in a bowl before the Ronco Egg Scrambler – an electric motor attached to an off-centre pin – did them for us inside the shell? Similarly, those long, arduous years of occasionally giving dusty stuff a bit of a wipe with a rag were gone forever when you purchased the comically specific and suspiciously similar Ronco Record Cleaner and Ronco Spark Plug Cleaner – as far as records and spark plugs were concerned, at least. Those with chronically weak wrists and piles of spare cash in indivisible units of £2.99 were sold. The rest of us hoped that square present from a distant relative was a box of Matchmakers and nothing more, er, ‘practical’.



  1. Peter Lee

    August 9, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    We still have – and regularly use – a Ronco Battery Tester.

  2. Lee James Turnock

    May 21, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Ronco’s A Christmas Present album, with its gatefold sleeve, was a joy to behold, and quite nice to listen to, at least it was when I was a nipper.

  3. Richard Davies

    August 10, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    A lot of devices like Ronco’s are now sold thorugh those office book clubs who leave a pile of random products & an order form, & come back in a week or 2 to collect them & hand out any orders.

  4. Tom Ronson

    March 31, 2022 at 5:37 pm

    I remember Kenny Lynch spieling for some Ronco tat circa Christmas 1983 with an obvious lack of enthusiasm.

  5. Richardpd

    March 24, 2024 at 12:43 pm

    Since the above post I’ve moved jobs & my current place of work doesn’t have a book club also selling random household products.

    My Dad bought a few Ronco LPs over the years, along with K-Tel, who also got into the TV advertised household gadget market. Arcade & Tellydisc also sold records this way, but didn’t seem to get into selling stuff not available in any shops!

    When QVC started a lot of the products sold through them were of a similar standard, as once mocked on Room 101. Unsurprisingly a decade earlier Jasper Carrott spoofed them as something like Bunco, being even more useless & badly made.

    When watching some Woolworths adverts from the early 1980s, some of their gift ideas wouldn’t look out of place in the Ronco range.

  6. Glenn Aylett

    March 29, 2024 at 11:15 am

    There was the budget electronics range Binatone that Woolworths seemed to sell at the same time. Cheap and cheerful comes to mind for these Hong Kong made radios, portable televisions and radio/cassettes and they were often like comparing a Morris Ital to a BMW 3 series, but Binatone products might have been tinny sounding and cheap looking, but they had a considerable following at the time. My dad bought a 14 inch Binatone black and white portable in 1979 as it was on offer in Woolworths and it managed to last 20 years.

  7. Richardpd

    March 29, 2024 at 12:02 pm

    I picked up a similar 12 inch B&W Binatone TV a few years ago when I was getting into old technology, it produced quite a good picture but daftly I sold it to make way for another set that was colour but didn’t give such a good picture.

    Binatone seemed to make clock radios that were popular from the late 1970s to well into the 1980s.

    Waltham was another brand sold by Woolworths, which had a similar product range to Binatone.

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