BY PHIL MacARTHUR
In pursuit of "benchmark" Zenith Trans-Oceanic radios, Phil MacArthur hopes his fellow collectors will join him in the search for "benchmarks" in other sets and brands as well. Every addition to early radio history is welcome. As Phil has said, "We're doing all this buying and selling without much record keeping." Editor)
I recently sold a Zenith B600 Trans-Oceanic to a collector in California. I had claimed in an ad that it may have been the very last unit to come off the last assembly line making tube portables in the U.S.A. This claim was based on a very late cabinet date of April 27, 1962, and chassis parts codes from May 1962. Whether this claim is true is still in question, although I've been checking every B600 I have come across in the last 20 years and have not encountered any later dates.
In any event, I hope this article will encourage collectors to be more aware of similar benchmark radios as they peruse Antique Radio Classified and eBay listings, or walk through a flea market. For instance, if you already have a couple of 600 series Trans-Oceanics, you probably just walk on past any other 600s that you see. However, as conservators, shouldn't we be looking out for the first of that series -- the L600 with early date codes, say from January 1954, but introduced in May 1954, as well as the last? The same is true for the other models -- the 7G605, the 8G005, and so on.
I've written ad nauseam about the Realistic Flavoradio mainly because it was the last production AM radio made. Otherwise, that little unremarkable blip on the screen would have passed into history unheralded.
Figure 1. The Trans-Oceanic Royal 1000, serial number 6250523, may be among the first produced. This is the lowest serial number known to the collectors with whom I'm in touch.
Figure 2. The Zenith Royal 500, serial number 00016, is the lowest reported number from the first day of regular production.
My collection also has what may be the first transistorized Trans-Oceanic built. It has a speaker coded 738 (part code 343738) -- the 343 is Zenith; the 738 means the 38th week of 1957. The tuner is coded 731, and the transformer 732. These are all the earliest dates any of us Zenith collectors have seen (those of us who are speaking to each other, that is) so the Trans-Oceanic Royal 1000, serial number 6250523 (perhaps actually number 523) may be among the very first produced. See Figure 1. I have this set in my collection, but I'd certainly like to hear from collectors who have earlier numbers.
The Work To Be Done
Several of us have been in a friendly competition for the earliest Zenith 500. This was the only radio to be sequentially numbered from 00000 up. Most manufacturers code their serial numbers so as to keep their total production figures secret.
Figure 3. The white Flavoradio in my collection, the only one ever reported.
For several years, Bob M. had the earliest number at 00506. Then Gary obtained number 00046 and shortly after that, I found #00016, shown in Figure 2. However, that one had been photographed with nonmatching components, so my holding may be of questionable integrity. But, all of us should be on the lookout for a single digit survivor, as it would certainly come from the first day of regular production.
I wonder if anyone knows what the earliest surviving serial number Regency TR-1 is -- or the last.
We should be documenting the early and late models of all the benchmark radios. Certain radios from many different manufacturers come to mind: Admiral 909, Hallicrafters S-93 and the TW series, the big Philco T-9, the RCA StratoWorld series, and the Magnavox AW-100, the first transistorized all-wave radio. And where are the first and last of the Privat-Ear sets from 1951, the first pocketable radio? Can we hear from the Sony and Hitachi collectors? Where are the benchmark units from the European manufacturers?
There is a lot of work to be done here and the most important part is the documentation, certainly here in Antique Radio Classified, but also in your own blog or web page. Share what you know. I only started doing this a couple of years ago when I found that Verizon would give me a web page for free.
I hope to start a firestorm of activity here, but I especially want to find that Zenith 500 with serial number 0000x.
Not to mention another white Flavoradio, as shown in Figure 3.
After 25 years of teaching in Key West, Florida, Phil MacArthur and his wife June happily retired ad returned to the "four-seasons Northeast." ("And while we were gone, you guys invented the snowblower.") They collect Zenith radios and Flavoradios. ("Who knows why.").