The Zenith Royal 50 Family and Other Early Shirt Pockets

The Royal 50 family consists of three generations that were produced from 1960 through 1963. They represented Zeniths entry into the smaller 6 transistor shirt pocket sized radios and was their answer to the sets coming out of Japan like the Sony TR610 and the Hitachi 666 both of which started in 1958.


The Royal 50s offered great sound quality for their size and were built with high quality components that allowed them to stand up to years of use. They produce 80 milliwatts of undistorted sound  They are powered by 2 AA batteries and measure 4.25 tall, 2.5 wide, and 1.25 deep and with batteries weighs less than 9 ounces.


The Royal 50 – Zenith’s First Shirt Pocket sized transistor – Introduced in 1960 This produced tone quality unlike other similar sized shirt pocket radios.  It has 6 transistors and was offered in a variety of colors:  as pictured below:  Charcoal Gray, Red, white or Tan with an antique white back, or a Black Beauty with a black back. Some examples received a quality label on the back as shown. Suggested price was $29.95

Charcoal Royal 50



The Royal 55C Converta – A shirt pocket radio also used as a table radio? Sure why not? All you need is a speaker box containing a larger speaker and better acoustics. Hitachi made one for their Model 666, and Toshiba also had one for their “Cats Eye” radio.  I have also seen one done for the Grundig pocket radios. So Zenith introduced their version in 1960, and it worked quite well, but like the others, it was short-lived making them quite rare and hard to find today.  This set was only offered in Charcoal Gray and the suggested price was $39.95 – $44.95.




The Royal 50H – Introduced in 1961 these were just like the first Royal 50 except for the added metal trim which added to their handsome appearance.  The challenge today is finding one that has not had any corrosion to the metal parts. 

The second generation Royal 50s were offered in the same 5 color combinations.  The suggested price dropped to $26.95


There is also a model 50K which looks the same that was offered in 1962.  The inside label is different but on the outside the only difference is they all have a white volume knob.


The Royal 50L – Introduced in 1962 the 50L featured a recessed tuning dial so the stations would not change when placed in your pocket.  It has an attractive reverse painted black face and brilliant metal grill.  These were offered in four colors:  Yellow and Black with a gold grill, and Red and Turquoise with silver grills.  Due to the stiff competition, the suggested price continued to drop and was $19.95

Some of the Model 50H, 50K, and 50L’s sport a larger quality label.


Because of their styling and performance, Royal 50 remained a popular choice of collectors today.  However, with the increasing competition from overseas and the constant introduction of new pocket-sized radios, this series had a much shorter production run than it’s big brother the Royal 500.

During the early 1960’s, Zenith continued to produce some other styles of shirt pocket sized transistors that were manufactured in the USA up until 1965.

The Royal 59 – The family continued into 1965 with the introduction of the Royal 59. A similar sized set, this one had 8 transistors and packed a punch. It’s beautiful grill and smart circular dial make it quite attractive as well.  It was offered in three color combinations.  Even with the additional two transistors, the suggested price was still under $20.00

Royal 59C


The Royal 40 – Introduced in 1963, this 6 transistor set was just a less expensive version of the Royal 50 with painted trim instead of metal.  Same great performance as the Royal 50 family sets.

Group of Royal 40's


The Royal 60 – 1963. Abeautiful and scarce model also with 6 transistors and bright gold grills.

Group of Royal 60's


The Royal 80 – 1965


The Royal 85 – 1965


The Royal 90 – Introduced in 1963, this scarce model was offered in orange and also in white.  The unique metal mesh grill is very durable and the 6 transistor chassis is a great performer.  As the other early Zenith shirt pocket radios, this operated on 2 AA batteries and it had a suggested retail price of $21.95.


The Royal 125 – 1962 The only shirt pocket with gear-reduced Vernier tuning. 6 transistors.  (My favorite shirt pocket model). The brilliant metal-work on this model makes it a beauty and it was offered in three different color combinations:  Beige and brown, solid charcoal, or try to find one in yellow with a white back.


The Royal 130 – 1965


The Royal 185 – 1964



Other later transistors followed as production shifted to Asia.  Here are a few:

The Royal 20 – 1965  This Micro-sized radio was introduced in 1965 to compete with the Standard Micronic Ruby.  The very first ones were made in Chicago but later they were shifted to production in Hong Kong.  8 transistors.


The Royal 810 and Royal 51 – 1965

Here is the first pocket radio from Zenith with FM.  This is another quality set and a real handful to hold.  This 9 transistor packs a punch on 4 AA batteries. Very durable set.



The Royal 25-1 This was Zenith’s first shirt pocket with FM. Introduced in 1966 and made in Hong Kong, it has 8 transistors and operates on a 9 volt battery.


The C20 – 1967 This set folds into a compact case and operates on a 9 volt battery.

Check out these other Shirt Pocket sized Zeniths radios.

Royal 50
Royal 50 H & K
Royal 55C Converta
Royal 50L
Royal 59-G and 59-1G

13 thoughts on “The Zenith Royal 50 Family and Other Early Shirt Pockets”

  1. i have the royal 50 red and white radio in pretty good
    shape ,when i put batteries in it i hear it go on but that’s all
    is it worth anything? how much?

  2. Fantastic website!
    A while back, I picked up a Zenith royal R26Y #1223177 at a yard sale. It is MIB and am curious as to its age. I have looked but haven’t been able to find the model year. I would appreciate any info on it.

  3. Hello,
    I am looking to buy a Zenith Royal 185 black face and white backing, in the gift set version if possible, with the tan/brown case. Thank you.
    Sincerely, Thomas Wolfe
    P.O. Box 467
    Lancaster, N.H.

    1. Hi Tom, thanks for your inquiry. I currently do not have any 185 Royals in stock. Sorry but I will keep looking for you. Gary

    1. Hi Katherine and thank you for your inquiry. The Royal 16 was not covered in my descriptions due to the fact that it is a later model (1966). But here goes: The Royal 16 is a popular 8 transistor model that utilizes a clam-shell designed case that protects the speaker grill, yet allows for listening through the holes in the case that when closed protects the volume and station settings too. The chassis delivers 180 MW of strong clear output and has 3 IF’s for superb reception. It operates on 2 common AA batteries which provide many hours of listening pleasure. The first ones were made by Zenith in Japan with later ones marked made in Hong Kong. I prefer the Japan models. Lightweight and compact at only 5 1/2″ tall and 1 1/2″ deep, this all makes it the perfect “take-along” radio. It was produced in gold, black, or brown with satin grills, and also in white with a floral patterned grill.

  4. I have a Royal 50 in tan. My grandfather purchased it new, and it was passed on to my Mom. When I was a kid, it was the radio we used when we lost power. Now 60 years later, it still works. The tuning dial has yellowed and the badge has started to corrode, but the radio plays just as faithfully as the day Papa bought it.

    1. Hi Allen and thank you for sharing your experience with the Zenith Royal 50. I love that radio. They are so dependable and fun too. I wonder just how long they will last. Maybe the next generation will find out. Gary

  5. I have a Zenith Royal Fifty and would like to open it to replace the batteries but fear I will break it. The little slot at the bottom that I think was for putting your nail in and pulling the cover back is mostly scraped up and difficult to put anything under to try to pry. That being said, I also cannot say for certain that’s how to get the cover off to replace the batteries and did not want to push hard at it just in case that was not at all what it was for.
    Could someone let me know how to open it?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Channon. It sounds like you have a Royal 50 model L. In that case there is no screw, only a coin slot and I agree with you that the coin slot is nearly worthless, especially when it get chewed up. Try grabbing the front section of the radio on the white edges, and then pry down on the bottom of the back section with your other hand. Should pop off. Good luck. Gary

  6. I got a red 50L in 1963. I just loved that thing. I was 13!
    If you run across one that is very clean please let me know.

    1. The only 50L’s I currently have is a yellow one and a black one, but I will keep my eye open for you Wayne. thanks, Gary

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