1937 Zenith Model 4B131 Tombstone
BY RICHARD ARNOLD
This article describes another of Richard Arnold's lucky purchases from Ron Boucher back in the 1980s. Obviously, Richard had found the right contact to foster his new collecting passion. (Editor)
I purchased this unusual Zenith Model 4B131, shown in Figure 1, from Ron Boucher in September of 1986 for $90. This particular radio was originally a 6-volt battery farm set, but it was converted to AC operation. In December of 1949, the Radio Clinic in Tuftonboro, New Hampshire, did the conversion--a job done so well that you cannot tell it was converted just by looking at it.
Figure 1. This front view of the Zenith 4B131 shows the fine condition of its cabinet.
The original chassis had four tubes: two Type 15s, one used for a 1st detector/oscillator, the other for the IF; a Type 75 tube used for a 2nd detector, AVC and 1st AF; and a Type 38 used for the power output. When the set was converted all the original tubes remained, but a Type 5Y3 full-wave rectifier was added. As part of the conversion, the vibrator and vibrator transformer were removed. A conventional power transformer was installed. Figure 2 shows the converted chassis.
Figure 2. The condition of the converted chassis equals that of the cabinet. The added Type 5Y3 rectifier tube is located on the far right of the chassis.
The cabinet, in its original finish, is near mint. The radio has a 4-inch round black dial that tunes a standard broadcast band. The black dial is scaled on the top half to show 580-1800 Kc, while the bottom half shows 175-550 meters. The three knobs are plastic. I thought that these were not original, as I had expected to see the wooden "Z" knobs.
I came across one of these radios in an antique shop while on vacation last summer in the El Campo, Texas, area. It was a 4B131 in its original configuration as a 6-volt battery set. Sorry to say that it was a near basket case. It would have been nice to purchase it so that I could have had an AC and a DC battery version of the same radio in my collection. The dealer wanted $80 for it and would not come down to my offer. I had to pass on it.
This converted Zenith 4B131 radio is one of the better playing sets in my collection. As of right now, it is sitting on my desk in my radio room along with my Peter Pan. I listen to it almost every day.
The fourth edition of the Bunises' Collector's Guide to Antique Radios states that a fair price for the Zenith 4B131 is $100 to $125. I think that is a little low for this beautiful radio. I wonder what the conversion has done for its value.
Boucher, Ron. Sales Catalog, Sept. 1986.
Bunis, Marty and Sue. Collectors Guide to Antique Radios, 4th edition. Paducah, Ky.: Collector Books, 1997.
Rider, John F. Perpetual Trouble Shooters Manual, Vol. 7.
(Richard Arnold, P.O. Box 275, Lone Grove, OK 73443)