Early television set valued at $15,000

One of the earliest surviving television sets is up for auction at Bonhams.

It will form part of the auctioneer's History of Science and Technology sale in New York on December 7.

The 1936 Baird mirror lid Type 23 receiver (serial number 39) is the lowest numbered pre-1940 model known to exist.

Baird TV set
Baird is still in business today

John Logie Baird (1888-1946) successfully created the first working television in 1923 - although it would be many years before he or his invention were taken seriously.

When he turned up at the offices of the Daily Express in 1925, in the hope of publicising his new invention, the paper's editor was heard saying: "For God's sake, go down to reception and get rid of a lunatic who's down there.

"He says he's got a machine for seeing by wireless! Watch him — he may have a razor on him."

Only 200 Type 23 models were ever made. They sold in very small numbers, as they cost around £1,000.

That was half the price of a family home.

Programming was limited to a single channel, which broadcast a handful of shows in the afternoon and evening.

It's estimated that around 400 viewers (or "lookers in" as the winner of a competition in a national newspaper dubbed them) were watching when the service began on November 2, 1936.

The show included a variety performance, with a song extolling the virtues of the new technology.

It featured the lines: "A mighty maze of mystic, magic rays, Is all about us in the blue, And in sight and sound they trace, Living pictures out of space, To bring a new wonder to you."

The set is in remarkably good condition and has the potential to work again, although the auction house sounds a note of caution: "Amateurs should be aware this set carries lethal voltages when switched on, with the mains-derived EHT feeding the CRT field delivering over 5000 volts."

It's expected to make $10,000-15,000.

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