The Royals of Radio

Recently I managed to score this sweet little Zenith Royal 700 transistor radio at a tag sale. I was happy to find it. Awhile back I had purchased another Zenith Royal and became so enamored with it on the shelf that I now want to own each one from the line.

IMG_0295Zenith radios were the hallmark of quality and technology in their heyday. The Royal 700 series were introduced in 1957 as smaller, portable versions of Zenith’s larger—and extremely expensive—Transoceanic models. They’re sometimes affectionately called lunchbox radios for their size. The Royals were all transistor, solid state radios. For 1957, this was top of the mark technology considering most radios were still tube sets. My 1957 Royal 750, the top-of-the-line model for that year, retailed at $79.95, about $615 in 2013 dollars.

IMG_0294The quality of the instrument was reflected in the design and materials. Each of the higher-end Royals features a genuine cowhide leather case. If you buy one today, it’s a good idea to condition the leather to keep it supple. I recommend using saddle soap. Apply it with a damp cloth and when it dries, buff the leather with a soft cloth.

IMG_0299And if you’re like me, you’ll want to buy the big can because you won’t be able to stop yourself from buying more of these little radios.

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  1. Posted April 19, 2013 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Those are too cool! Do they still work?

    • Austin
      Posted April 21, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

      Actually I haven’t tried them yet, but I should. They are all transistor and battery operated, so there’s a good chance they’ll still work well. I usually don’t recommend plugging in vintage tube electronics because their paper capacitors all fail with age and there’s a possibility of damage to the device or even fire. Usually I just use them as shelf-pieces unless they’ve been looked at by a professional.

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