The RCA Globe Trotters: Radio’s Unsung Heroes
Although it was a fairly recent discovery for me, (actually more of a “Duh” moment), RCA Victor’s line of Globe Trotter radios has to be among the longest running of any product nameplate in radio history. It stretches at least as far back as 1933 and continued through the 60’s and into the 70’s. My first (and one of my favorite) models was an RZG133E circa 1969 given to me by a friend who owned several of them and told me it was one of his better-performing AM radios. I already had an older Globe Trotter model 7-BX-L8 tube type as well as a 1-T-1J and a 1962 model 3-RG-81, all in unrestored condition. I later acquired a few other models of this series and restored an RLG34T which is another excellent transistorized model.
The Globe Trotter series of radios is also unusual in that it originally ran the gamut of console, table and portable tube and solid-state models with band configurations ranging from AM-only to sophisticated multi-band radios. Later on, in the tube era and continuing into the transistor models, the name continued to be applied to RCA’s best performing AM portable radios.
Many of the big vintage radio manufacturers such as GE, Panasonic, Sony and Zenith to mention just a few have loyal followers with lots of information available online devoted to their models, yet there seem to be no websites devoted to the Globe Trotters, or even RCA Victor radios in general, although so many were made one can find many for sale. Here is the information I was able to gather on the Globe Trotter models and their years of manufacture, excluding the many models included in the 1934-1935 Price List below. It is by no means complete and I can’t guarantee every item is 100% accurate…these are my best guesses from what I was able to piece together and is a work in progress. I would welcome any additional info anyone could provide.
1934-1935 Models Price Guide – 58 Models with Many Globe Trotters
RZG 133E (1969)
I’m not sure why these radios have eluded notice by the radio community at large. Legendary, iconic series like the GE Superadios, Sony’s Super Sensitive and Zenith’s Lunchboxes and Owl Eye series portables have garnered much more attention and been well-documented on-line and in print, but when my buddy brought two transistorized Globe Trotters to me for evaluation, the RZG133E and RLG34T, I found very little information about them and I must say I was surprised at how well they both performed.
Referring to what may be the best representatives of RCA’s transistor era models, the RLG34T and RLZ 133W are relatively sensitive (ranking 4 Stars in The AM Mega Shootout Article), very selective, have nice slide rule dials and a tone control for pleasant audio. These are well-designed 8 transistor radios with three gang air-variable tuning capacitors (the best kind) and a Tuned RF stage which accounts for their nice performance. They sport decent-sized ferrite rod antennas, generally around 6 inches plus and of good cross-section. They also feature a built-in AC power supply for added flexibility. Of course, as is true with most analog radios, battery life for the four 4 C cells will be very good, probably in the 300-plus hour range with alkaline batteries. The other transistorized Globe Trotters are also 8 transistor designs with Tuned RF stages so I assume they are also good performers.
Luckily, I had several samples of the RLG34T and RZG133E to compare because some of each needed recapping while others did not. They turned out to be well-constructed and easily serviceable. Comparing these two, notice the different RCA logos which reveal that the RZG 133E is a later model than the RLG34T – evidently RCA modernized their logo somewhere around 1968 or 1969. I later had several RZG133 E’s fall into my lap by a collector who was cleaning out excess radios and none of them needed new caps.
After both radios were recapped and aligned, I did a series of comparison tests to see how they performed and I was happily surprised…they each ranked 4 Stars compared with other radios in the AM Mega Shootout. They had a low noise floor with good sensitivity and very good selectivity and were able to separate closely-spaced stations as at least well as the other four-star radios. That means that although these radios don’t quite match the performance of the Five-Star GE Superadios they do compete closely with the better of the Zenith Lunch Box radios such as the Royal 755 series. The RCA’s are somewhat lighter-weight in construction with thinner cabinets and lighter chassis than the Zenith’s which are well-respected for their mechanical quality, yet the RCA’s have survived the test of time without any obvious problems.
Of course, I have only scratched the surface of the Globe Trotter line…with so many models listed in the 1934-1935 price guide alone I can only guess how many Globe Trotter models were made over the years. I hope you will enjoy the photos and print ads I have attached…you can find many more online I will probably acquire more Globe Trotters to add to the collection but I’ve got to say that the RLG34T and RLZ 133E were both nice surprises and are radios I am glad to own.