Dating Your Toaster

Much confusion has arisen on eBay about when particular Radiant Control toasters were manufactured. Since information on this product line is sparse, some confusion is to be expected. Some contributing factors include:


The last patent listed on toasters known to be manufactured in the 1980's and 1990's was issued in 1957.


None of the Radiant Control toasters we've seen have polarized plugs.


Sunbeam stopped putting unique model numbers on these toasters in the 1970's even though there are at least three or four cosmetic variations that appeared after this date.

Patent dates don't have anything to do with manufacture date. Some people don't realize that patents aren't like copyrights. When you publish a book, the copyright date is the year in which it was written. If you update the book and publish a second edition, the copyright will often include both years or a range of years.

When you are issued a patent for an invention, the patent is good for many years and never changes. The Sunbeam Radiant Control toasters contain a number of patented inventions but none later than the 50's. Even though the toaster was manufactured in the 1990's, it doesn't necessarily need to get a new patent number issued in the 1990's. If it uses only "old" patents, then that's all it needs to list.

Polarized plugs were introduced in the US sometime in the mid-1960's as far as I can tell. Appliances use polarized plugs when it is necessary for the appliance to be plugged in a certain way in order to function correctly, or in order to be safe. If an appliance doesn't need to be plugged in a certain way, it need not have a polarized plug. So the absence of a polarized plug doesn't mean your toaster was manufactured in the 1950's.

Labeling is inconsistent across the life of the product line. The early T-20 models had a manufacturing date stamped inside the toaster. This practice only lasted a few years. Later models do not have manufacture dates anywhere on them.

The box is the only place you'll find the real model number. Starting in the 1970's, Sunbeam stamped "Service AT-W" on the bottom of all the Radiant Control toasters, regardless of what the model number was on the box or in the catalog. So the box might say 20-30, 20300, or even AT-35A but the toaster just says AT-W. The design of the darkness control could be markedly different between a toaster made in 1975 and one made in 1985, but they both just say AT-W on the bottom. Sometimes, the picture on the box didn't match the exact design of the toaster inside.

When you don't have a box, it's impossible to know what model number your toaster was sold as. Even if you do have a box, you can't tell the date of manufacture unless the distributor or retailer happened to stamp a date on it. The best way to know when a toaster was sold is if the person who bought it knows when they bought it. Much of the information here is derived from these firsthand accounts.

Models and Dates

The table below tells you how to identify a particular model and approximately when it was manufactured based on our research.

Model and identifying characteristics

Approximate date
T-20. Model number stamped on bottom. Date of manufacture stamped inside crumb tray. 1949-1950
T-20A. Model number stamped on bottom. Date of manufacture stamped inside crumb tray. 1950-1952
T-20B. Model number stamped on bottom. Date of manufacture stamped inside crumb tray? 1952-1957
T-20C. Model number stamped on bottom. Date of manufacture stamped inside crumb tray? 1957-1958
T-35. Model number stamped on bottom. Sunbeam logo appears in the lower right corner of front side.

Model T-35

Close-up of logo in lower right corner

1958-1967? Known as late as 1967.
T-40, T-40-1, VT-40. Model number stamped on bottom. Darkness control is now a sliding lever on front. "Radiant Control" or "Vista Radiant Control" name plate above the darkness control lever.
Either of these name plates may appear on toasters with the same model number
1962-? Known in Canada as late as 1973.
20-30, 20300, AT-35A. Service AT-W stamped on bottom. Listed model numbers above appear only on the box. Front is clean with no name plates or logos. The only difference between the toasters (if any) is the darkness control legend or scale.
bulletYellow scale with dots

1970's? Known in 1976
bulletSolid gold band across the top

bulletMore color

1980's-1990's? Known in 1982
20-30 AG. Model number stamped on bottom. Front is clean with no name plates or logos. Indistinguishable from a Service AT-W unit (above) with "solid gold band" or "more color" in the scale (see last two pictures above). 1980's-1990's? Known in 1988