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How much was a color TV in 1965?


Color televisions were first introduced to the consumer market in the 1950s, but didn’t become commonplace in American households until the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1965, color TVs were still considered a luxury item that many families could not yet afford. Prices for color TVs in 1965 ranged significantly based on size, features, and quality, but generally cost 3 to 4 times as much as black and white televisions.

The Advent of Color Television

The first color televisions went on sale in the United States in 1954, but initially had very low sales. The sets were expensive, unreliable, and broadcasters were just beginning to experiment with color programming. It wasn’t until the early 1960s that color TV technology had improved enough and color broadcasting had expanded enough to start attracting consumer interest. By the mid-1960s, more households were considering purchasing color TVs as prices started to come down and programming choices grew. But for many American families in 1965, a color TV still seemed an extravagance.

Factors Influencing Color TV Prices in the 1960s

Some key factors that affected the price of color TVs in the 1960s included:

  • Technology improvements – As color TV technology matured, manufacturing costs declined and picture quality improved, allowing prices to be reduced.
  • Economies of scale – As sales volumes increased and mass production methods evolved, costs per unit came down.
  • Screen size – Larger screen color TVs cost significantly more than smaller models.
  • Brand – Well-known brands like RCA, Magnavox, and Zenith charged premium prices for their color TV models.
  • Features – More advanced features like remote controls added to the price.
  • Reception – Color sets often cost more due to the added technology needed to receive color signals.

These factors meant higher prices but also better performance and quality for consumers considering color TV purchases in the mid-1960s.

Color TV Screen Sizes and Prices

In 1965, color TV screen sizes generally ranged from 10 inches up to 25 inches. Below are some example prices for different screen sizes of color TV models released around 1965:

Screen Size Example 1965 Prices*
10″ $500 – $600
12-14″ $650 – $750
16-17″ $800 – $1,000
19-21″ $1,200 – $1,500
23-25″ $1,800 – $2,000

*Prices are approximations based on historical accounts, adjusted for inflation

As the table illustrates, prices increased sharply for larger screen sizes, which required extra materials and more advanced technology. Very few households opted for color TVs over 20 inches in the 1960s due to their high cost. Portable color TVs in suitcase-styles with 10″ screens could sell for under $500, while deluxe floor console models with 25″ screens were priced at $2,000 or more.

Comparing Color and Black & White TV Prices

To understand 1965 color TV prices, it’s useful to compare them to black and white television prices from the same era. In 1965, new black and white TV models were priced around:

  • 10″ – $100
  • 14″ – $150
  • 17” – $200
  • 21” – $300

So while small black and white TVs could be purchased for under $200, a comparable size color TV would often cost between $500 to $800. The premium for color could be 3 or 4 times as much. And for larger screen sizes, this price gap only increased. The much higher prices for color TVs in 1965 reflect both the novelty of the technology and the complexity of manufacturing color picture tubes and circuitry.

Sales Trends and Adoption Rates

In 1950, there were about 10,000 color TVs sold in the United States. Sales grew slowly throughout the 1950s, but really took off in the mid-1960s. By 1964, around 650,000 color sets had been sold, and by the end of 1965, this figure grew to over 1 million. While impressive growth, it still represented only about 5% of total TV sales, showing black and white TVs continued dominating.

By 1970, over 15 million U.S. households had color TVs, for an adoption rate of over 50%. So while prices remained high in 1965, they dropped steadily enabling more American families to afford color TVs through the late 1960s and into the 70s. The adoption of color TV technology would progress similarly in other developed countries like the UK and Canada. Eventually, economies of scale made color TV production efficient enough that prices were on par with black and white sets.

Notable Color TV Models in 1965

Some of the most popular and innovative color TV models released around 1965 included:

  • RCA Victor CT-100 – A best-selling 12″ portable color TV featuring innovative solid state circuitry. It retailed around $500.
  • Admiral K16 – This 16″ color portable featured dual speakers and cost approximately $650.
  • Philco Ford Cortina – An advanced 19″ color console with remote control priced around $1,200.
  • Zenith System 3 – Zenith’s 17″ and 19″ color models from 1965 with sophisticated electronics.
  • GE Porta-Color – A trendy suitcase-style 10″ color portable introduced by GE in ’65 costing about $400.

These models and others introduced consumers to color TV in an affordable way, helping drive adoption. Portable designs gained popularity as a lower cost option. Console cabinets were popular since early color TVs were so deep. Remote controls, though expensive, hinted at the button-pushing convenience of the future.


In summary, color television prices declined through the 1960s but in 1965 were still prohibitively expensive for many. A color TV often cost 3 to 4 times more than an equivalent black and white model. Prices for mid-1960s color sets ranged from around $500 for small portables up to $2,000 or more for deluxe 25″ consoles. Factors like screen size, build quality, features, and brand influenced the price significantly. While still considered a luxury item, dropping prices helped drive early adoption of color TV technology. And the vibrant programming that came with it made the high cost worthwhile for many Americans seeking home entertainment.