Philco Radio Identification Guide
On this page you will not only learn the names of various Philco cabinet styles, but also where to find the correct model number of your Philco radio. And if you are wondering what happened to the back of your radio's cabinet, this will be briefly explained at the end of this page.
What you will find on this page:
- Identifying a Philco by its Cabinet Style
- Where to Find the Model Number
- Why doesn't my Philco have a back on it?
You may become confused when you hear the various terms used to describe the types of cabinets used for vintage radios. Some people mistakenly call a console radio a "tombstone" radio since a console looks like a very large tombstone. Others refer to consoles as "floor models." The latter term is a more accurate description, as console radios are indeed floor model radios; that is, a large radio intended to sit on the floor.
Meanwhile, the correct use of the term "tombstone" is a large table model radio that is taller than it is wide, and has a flat - or mostly flat - top.
And then there are the cathedral radios, which were sometimes called "beehives" several years ago.
Did you know that radios were not called cathedrals, tombstones, or beehives when they were new?
When the first cathedral-style radios hit the market, they were referred to as midget radios by most of the radio industry. But Philco, in a bid to distinguish its new Model 20 from the rest in 1930, designated their new midget a Baby Grand. What is overlooked is that the Baby Grand Model 20 was introduced at the same time as a large, deluxe radio-phonograph which Philco called the Concert Grand.
So, there was the Baby Grand on the low end of the price scale, and the Concert Grand on the high end. And while the Concert Grand was a very poor seller due to its high cost, the inexpensive Baby Grand made Philco famous (and made their competitors jealous).
Philco continued to use the Baby Grand description for all of its subsequent "midget" or "mantle" radios through 1940; the sets which we call cathedral and tombstone radios today.
Now, going back to the 1920s, there were highboy and lowboy cabinets. The Philco highboy had longer legs than a lowboy, but the legs on a Philco highboy were not as long as the enclosed portion of the cabinet, unlike many of the highboy radios made by Philco's competitors.
And then there was a special type of console exclusive to Philco. It was known as the Inclined Sounding Board model, and it featured a speaker mounted on a large board which tilted upward at a certain angle. The earliest Inclined Sounding Board models had this feature very obvious in its design; later models would gradually conceal this speaker board design.
Here are some photographs which should help distinguish between the various types of radio cabinets.
|Cathedral - Model 90 Baby Grand, 1931||Tombstone - Model 16B, 1935|
|Highboy - Model 551, 1928||Lowboy - Model 531, 1928|
|Another highboy - Model 112, 1931||Another lowboy - Model 16L, 1933|
|An Inclined Sounding Board Philco - Model 15X, 1932||Another Inclined Sounding Board Philco - Model 18X, 1935|
The model number of a Philco set can sometimes be hard to find if you do not know what you are looking for - or where. Hopefully the following will help you track down those Philco model numbers.
For Philco models made between 1929 and 1932, just look for a large gold label which will state PHILCO RADIO at the top. This label will have several patent numbers on it. But the number we are looking for is easily found underneath the words PHILCO RADIO.
It clearly says "Model 70 Superheterodyne."
The model number of this radio is Model 70.
This decal is on a large tube shield which may be missing from your radio, in which case there will be no identification elsewhere on the radio.
1928 Philco models have a metal tag affixed to an aluminum shield, which gives the model number. This is easily seen from above the radio chassis. Again, unfortunately, if this shield is missing there will be no other identification on the radio.
From 1933 through 1934 and on some models through 1936, Philco continued to use a gold label which is smaller than the one above. This label was affixed to the back of the radio chassis.
Notice the label states "CHASSIS TYPE 44" under the words "PHILCO RADIO."
For these models, the "chassis type" is the model number.
In other words, CHASSIS TYPE 44 = Model 44.
You will also see either "CHASSIS TYPE" or just "CHASSIS" on 1932 Philco models.
Beginning in the 1935 season, Philco used an even smaller sticker, in blue with white lettering. These will also say "CHASSIS TYPE" followed by the actual model number of the radio.
Here is one of those blue labels with white lettering. Starting in the 1937 model year, the label only gives a minimum of information, But the most important thing are those numbers under the word "PHILCO" - in this case, "40-130."
This radio is a Model 40-130.
These blue labels were placed just inside the cabinet of most Philco sets, but occasionally can be found on the bottom of a table model cabinet, or on the back (if it had a back on it originally).
Beginning in the 1938 model year, many Philco chassis also have the model number rubber stamped on the back of the chassis.
This one, obviously, is a Model 47-204. The additional -125 stands for Code 125. If you are just trying to identify the model number of the radio, you can ignore this Code number. But the Code number is necessary if you are trying to find the proper service information for this set.
Finally, here is a type of label that confuses a lot of people.
Many folks believe the numbers in the lower left corner of this label (in this case 39-6729, inside the red oval) is the set's model number.
This is not correct.
The 39-6729 is the part number for this label! It is of no use whatsoever in identifying this radio.
Again, you need to look underneath the word PHILCO to find the real model number - in this instance, it is PT-50, inside the green oval.
These types of labels, which also identify the tubes used in the set, can be found inside the cabinet, or on the bottom of some table model cabinets.
Most prewar Philco radios never had a back (thin fiberboard or other material, sometimes metal, used to cover the back of the radio cabinet) on them. The first Philco models to use a back were the early 1932 models 90X and 112X - and the backs on these covered the speaker compartment only, not the radio chassis.
As Philcos began to make AC/DC radios in 1933, these also had backs on them. Examples include models 53C, 54C and 28C. Model 45C also had a back.
Many of Philco's higher end 1938 console models were made with backs. Most of these backs have been lost over the years, leaving only the telltale clips which once held the backs in place.
Most 1940 Philco table models had backs, since the loop antenna was fastened to the back.
Still, the vast majority of Philco radios made before World War II never had a back on them.