The Royal 500 represented Zenith’s initial entry into the transistorized radio market. The very first Royal 500’s were created one by one by craftsmen and were hand-wired pieces of art. Zenith produced somewhere around 100,000 of these and the serial numbers seem to have increased sequentially as they were produced.
Externally, hand-wired models can be distinguished from later non-handwired radios by a bar that goes through the center of their knobs. Hand-wired models were produced in black and maroon cabinets, with a few very early sets produced in a special “see through” translucent maroon cabinet. The translucent radios seem to be quite rare. (I have devoted a separate page to the translucent models for your viewing pleasure).
The earliest serial numbers reported are #00016 & #00491 by Phil McArthur, #00046 in my collection, and #00506 by Bob McGarra. They continued to climb to just over 90,000 at which time Zenith started to switched to printed circuit boards. This allowed them to mass produce them to meet the high demand.
During this transition period, Zenith created some unusual variations “hybrids” such as hand wired chassis inside of radios that appear to be the later B version with the newer knobs. This transition continued for several weeks with the latest serial number of a hybrid reported being my white one with serial # 121,707. Imagine my surprise having obtained a white handwired! I have added photos of this special white HW below. Other collectors have reported finding similar surprises, so this all just proves that you just never really know what you have until you open them up and look inside.
Serial numbers are stamped into the chassis and located inside the battery door on the post between the batteries in a small cutout area of the battery direction label. Check yours out and feel free to forward your serial numbers and chassis types (7XT40, 7XT40Z, 7XT40Z1) to me as I am in the process of creating a table to detail this information.
Black hand wired
Translucent maroon hand wired
|Early Royal 500 – Hand-wired
|5.5″ H, 3.25″ W, 1.5″ D
|# of Transistors:
|4 AA batteries