Remember When, Chattanooga? Small color TVs in the 1960s cost more than $4,000 in today’s dollars

Chattanooga News-Free Press photo via This 1965 photo shows representatives of Braid Electric Co. showing off Motorola TVs and stereos at the company's St. Elmo Avenue offices.

In 1965, color televisions had just begun to enter the Chattanooga market.

This photo, taken by newspaper photographer Bob Sherrill, appeared on the front page of the business section of the Chattanooga News-Free Press on July 2, 1965.

Baird Electric Co., a distributor of Motorola TVs and stereos here, had set up a new-products exhibit at its location at 8811 St. Elmo Ave. to show off 1966 models to local retailers.

The big news for 1966 TV models was the introduction of rectangular screens. Earlier color models had semi-circular screens, with rounded sides and flat tops and bottoms.

By 1965, Chattanooga's newspapers were full of ads for color televisions, but color programming on broadcast TV was still limited, and prices for sets were relatively high. For example, a 21-inch (diagonal) GE color television in 1965 had an advertised price of $499, which is equal to $4,724 in today's dollars, according to the federal government's inflation calculator. It's hard to find a premium, 75-inch flat-screen television today that costs that much.

On the other hand, a 24-inch Vizio high-definition television is listed for $139 this week on, which, adjusted for inflation, is the equivalent of $14.68 in mid-1960s dollars.

Newspaper ads in the 1960s included such pitches as this: "Color televisions in reach of everyone" -- a signal that affordability was an issue. Small color TVs were being offered on credit for $16.50 a month.

According to online histories of consumer electronics, color televisions did not begin outselling black and white TVs until the 1970s.

In 1965, a 23-inch color TV was advertised as a "big screen" set. By 1969, Baird Electric Co. here was hawking Quasar projection color TVs with 5-foot diagonal screens and four loudspeakers.

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Contact Mark Kennedy at or 423-757-6645.