Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)
These are a list of the questions we've most commonly received over the Internet over the past 20 years.
Q. Can I play vinyl records on my Victrola?
A. No! A true (pre-1929) Victor or Victrola will play ONLY 78 RPM shellac records that were originally designed for this type of machine. Please read through the GETTING STARTED section of this website!
A. A "Victor" is a phonograph with the horn mounted externally. A "Victrola" has an internal horn, often with doors in front that open and close to control the volume. Both are products of the Victor Talking Machine Company. Victors were made in the 1901 until the early 20's. Victrolas were made from 1906 up through 1929, when RCA bought the company (and became "RCA Victor")
A. No. Victrola was originally a unique brand name of products from the Victor Talking Machine Company in the 1901-1929 timeframe. Hundreds of other phonograph companies were around throughout the 20th Century, with different brand names. RCA bought-out Victor Talking Machine Company in 1929, and then used the name "Victrola" frequently on their products from 1929-1976. Even now there are all kinds of (mostly Chinese) companies who market modern portable phonographs with the "Victrola" name. This website only covers 1901-1929 products from The Victor Talking Machine Co.
A. The Victor Talking Machine Company was an independent corporation from 1901 through 1929, at which time the RCA Corporation purchased it. They merged the names to become "RCA Victor". Hence, many phonographs, TV sets, radios and other equipment produced after 1929 has the "RCA Victor" or "Victrola" logo. This website does not have information on any "RCA" or "RCA-Victor" products.
Q. I just bought a portable electric phonograph (to play my vinyl records) from Kohls, Amazon or another retailer. It isn't working correctly and they list this website for repair services. What should I do next?
A. This problem has been ongoing for quite some time. We do not manufacture, repair or sell "modern" phonographs that are found at retail sellers. Try as we might to get our name removed from their warranty listings, stores such as Kohls and a few others still reference our website (for unknown reasons) as a repair service. We only deal in pre-1929 phonographs. Please contact the seller of your phonograph for more information, as we do not have any equipment to service your machine.
A. Accurately appraising a Victor or Victrola sight unseen is an impossible task. To get a rough idea of value, the reader is asked to determine the model, serial number and finish. With this information, the reader can get a general approximation of worth from the "PRODUCTS" link. However, the PRODUCT pages will only give a general summary of valuation and rarity. Quality and type of finish, originality, as well as the production volume, condition and current demand will determine the ultimate selling price, and this information requires that a qualified appraiser see the machine in person (or at minimum, a lot of GOOD pictures). A common Victrola model can command a high price if it has an uncommon finish, and/or if the condition is mint original. High-quality refinishing work can often appear to be original to the novice, and small flaws can make a great deal of difference in the overall price. In addition, what is "excellent" to one person may be "mediocre" to another; thus, we refrain from providing a price guide on these pages. Go to the SERVICES page to get information regarding paid appraisal services.
Q. Who can I get to repair or restore my Victrola?
A. We formerly provided this type of service, but due to our recent move to South Carolina, we are not yet set-up for restoration or repair work. We hope to be back in operation by the middle-to-late part of 2019, but much of that depends on how quickly we can get our operation "back in gear". You can check-out some of the folks listed on the RESOURCES page for repair or restoration work.
A. The more common Victrolas that were produced in huge quantities (VV-IV, VV-VI, VV-IX, VV-XI, VV-80, VV-210, VV-215, etc.) in average "attic-stored" condition (alligatored, crazed or worn finish, some scratches, etc.) will rarely bring over $300 at phonograph auctions, and usually sell for considerably less. Since 2007, phonograph prices have fallen considerably, due to changes in the economy, and a glut of common machines coming available on Ebay and elsewhere. In the past couple years, prices for VV-XI, VV-IX and other common Victrolas, in good condition have averaged around $150 or so on the auction circuit. Of course, on the auction circuit, the assumption is that the machine will require a motor and soundbox rebuild and complete clean-up in order to be saleable at a retail level, so this also tends to depress prices. In absolute mint original condition, in perfectly operating condition, these machines can be worth more than triple this value, depending on who is buying. Although you may see common Victrolas in average condition with asking prices of $1000 or more at antique dealers or on Ebay, no knowledgeable collector would pay that kind of price for these models.
External horn Victor phonographs sell, on average, for more than their Victrola counterparts. Nice Victors can range in price from $500 up to well over $5000 depending on model and condition.
There are rare Victor and Victrola phonographs that sell well into the tens of thousands of dollars, but these are few and far between, and require a detailed appraisal to determine actual value. We avoid making price guesses, which may be very inaccurate if the machine is actually better (or worse) than it is described. In addition, the requestor may not know if the finish is original, and may not recognize aftermarket parts or reworked cabinet details.
If you are interested in an accurate, professional appraisal, please click here.
A. Readers should be aware that this website receives over 130 emails every day, most requesting help or information in some form. If we took 3 minutes to respond to each one, we would be spending almost 7 hours answering email every day. And in most cases, the same questions are asked over and over. (See our section on Annoying Repetitive Questions for the "Top Fifteen" inquiries that arrive in our email daily). We simply can't answer them all. The vast majority of these questions can be answered by simply beginning with the GETTING STARTED section on the home page and following the steps that are described. Many readers submit questions without taking the time to read what is already here, and in those instances, we are unable to provide further help. If, after having searched this site, you are unable to find what you are looking for, please email us for assistance and we will try to respond. However, we regret that we are not able to answer email questions when the requested information requested is readily available on this site. We have spent a great deal of time and effort to develop a comprehensive informational website on Victor and Victrolas, so please feel free to spend as much time as you wish reading the material. The vast majority of topics related to these phonographs are covered within.
A. This question is asked very frequently, and we really can't provide a good answer, as it is a very personal decision. In almost all instances, if your phonograph is in good original condition, our advice is to leave it that way! Antiques always retain better value if they have the original finish. However, if it is frazzled, falling apart, has been stored in a damp basement for years, or if Fuzzy the Cat has been using it as a scratching post, then the only way you are going to get it looking good again is to restore it. Some people prefer to leave their phonographs untouched, no matter how bad they look, and others want them all looking "like new". Only you can determine what is best for your own situation. A mechanical rebuild of the motor and other components is not considered a "restoration", and will not harm the value in any way (providing it is done correctly).
Q. Why don't you respond to my email inquiries?
A. With over 130 emails arriving daily, we are only able to respond to only about 10-12 each day. Time simply doesn't permit answering each question, particularly true when most of the questions being asked are already addressed on this website. Please take the time to do some "digging" before sending us emails. Additionally, as much as we would like to assist, we can't possibly write-out individual repair or restoration instructions for everyone, or become "penpals" with our readers. The volume of incoming questions far exceeds our ability to respond.
Q. Where should I go to sell or buy a Victor or Victrola? Will you buy it?
A. If you are trying to buy or sell a Victor or Victrola, there are several alternatives that can work well. Ebay and other internet auction services have a lot of visibility with collectors, and can draw reasonable prices for the seller. It is best to add pictures and detailed descriptions of the machine in question, including model and serial number. If you are buying from Ebay, use extreme care that the Victrola is as described, and we strongly suggest the use of PAYPAL to protect your purchase. Even experienced collectors (including us) have been burned more than once by machines that have been blatantly misrepresented.
Alternatively, local or national auctions are a great place to buy and sell. There are auction services that specialize in antique phonographs (for example, Stanton's Auctioneers in Vermontville, Michigan) which hold regular auctions that draw good attendance. The Antique Music Machine show at Union Illinois (near Elgin) always has a lot of machines for sale, and is basically a giant phonograph swap meet. This show is usually held on the second weekend in June each year. A list of shows and auctions are presented here.
Rarely does one find the corner antique store to be a good source to buy or sell a phonograph, as prices tend to be prohibitively high and commissions are equally burdensome. Regardless of where you buy it, be very careful that you know what you are getting. Unfortunately, the antique business is loaded with individuals who are somewhat less than knowledgeable about phonographs, and what is sold as a rare original may be nothing more than a common attic phonograph.
We offer a full line of Victors and Victrolas for sale, all guaranteed to be correct and authentic, with fully rebuilt mechanics. Click here to enter our online catalog.
We get about 10 email solicitations per day from this website to buy Victrolas. Unfortunately, unless it is one of exceptional rarity, we are not interested in buying at this time.
A. We do not sell parts or needles. The parts we have in stock are for our restoration work only. See our RESOURCES page for information on parts, needles and supplies.
A. Forgeries of external horn phonographs (Victors) are rampant on Ebay and at flea markets. These can usually be spotted a mile away by any serious collector; the horns are often plated in a phony brass or gold and the angle of the horn is high and very incorrect. Most are made in India from a mish-mash of old and new parts. Before a novice purchases an external horn phonograph online, an expert should be consulted to provide an assessment of the machine in question, as there are many fakes on the market today.
There are not a lot of fake Victrolas currently on the market, primarily because they are not as valuable as the earlier external-horn Victor machines. Recently, we have seen a few misrepresented Victrola machines on Ebay and elsewhere. The most frequent "forgery" is to take a cabinet from a common model, and simply attach a dataplate from a rare model, to make it appear more valuable. We have also seen phony Victor dataplates attached to phonographs that are bastardized combinations of components from who-knows-where. These fakes are easily identified when a good Victor reference book (e.g. Look for the Dog) is used to verify the machine type.
Nipper on Steroids: A Chinese "Rip-Off" Dataplate from a Fake Victrola
A more problematic and common forgery is not really a forgery at all, but more of a misrepresentation. Machines that have been restored incorrectly, or which have been re-veneered with inferior materials are becoming more and more common on the market. There is nothing wrong with buying or selling a restored machine...ANY restored machine...as long as the buyer knows that it was restored. However, since original Victrolas usually command a higher price than restored Victrolas, devious sellers will often misrepresent a restoration, with hopes of "fooling" the buyer and getting a much higher price. Obvious indicators of a restoration include:
Poor color matching between cabinet parts, under the lid, or weak, washed out "red" shades on Red Mahogany Victrolas. This is a good indicator that the machine was refinished with the incorrect stain, or wrong staining process was used.
Runs or drips. Victor's quality control was fantastic. I've seen a few originals with small runs that got by the Q/A inspector, but they are few and far between. If a machine has a lot of runs, or uneven finish coat, it's likely a refinish job.
Dust specs or blobs dirt in the finish, especially in corners or crevices. It's somebody's basement refinish job, most likely a pretty bad one.
A. Not likely. Victor patented the internal-horn phonograph in 1906, and this patent date (along with others) is found on virtually all Victrolas. Only the earliest (and relatively uncommon) Victrolas date prior to 1910. Using the "PRODUCTS" link will assist you in determining the date of your machine. Most Victrolas date from the 1915-1928 timeframe, since this was when the highest volumes were produced. Victors (external horn models) were made from 1901 through the early '20's.
A. Victrola was the copyrighted term for internal horn phonographs made by The Victor Talking Machine Company, and thus, there is no such thing as an "Edison Victrola", just like there is no such thing as a "Chevrolet Ford". Literally hundreds of companies made phonographs, some were quite famous, while others were obscure. Victrola was only one brand amongst many.
We have no information on other makes of phonographs; however the reader may find assistance via some of the links provided on the RESOURCES page of our website.
A. Any Victrola can be safely transported in the back of a station wagon, van or SUV. Simply remove the soundbox from the tonearm by twisting it counterclockwise 1/8 turn and pulling it off. Sometimes they stick a bit and might require some encouragement. Then release the brake so that the turntable spins freely. Remove the turntable platter by pulling it straight up and off the spindle. Then remove the crank by turning it backwards until it unscrews from the motor. Secure the toneam with rubber bands to keep it from moving around and damaging the interior of the lid. Remove any other loose parts (needle cups, etc.) and any records or other items in the storage area. Then secure the lid and doors with shrink wrap (or by locking them if you have the key). The Victrola can be safely moved on its back or positioned upright (in a van or truck). Use care to wrap it well in furniture blankets to prevent damage to the finish.
Q. Where can I get parts?
A. Please refer to the RESOURCES page on this website for parts.
A. Victrolas were designed to use steel needles, which are still readily available through the sources listed on the Repair and Refinishing page on this website. They are usually available in loud and soft tone versions. Steel needles should be used only once to avoid excessive wear on the record. Victor manufactured a multi-play Tungstone needle in the late 'teens and early 20's. These needles lasted for many playings without replacement. In addition, soft fiber needles were also available from Victor in the heyday of the Victrola, giving a very subdued sound. To my knowledge, only steel needles are being manufactured at present. I know of no current manufacturers of either fiber of Tungstone needles.
A. Please refer to the RESOURCES page on this website for parts.
A. The "survival database" has been an ongoing project since the 1980's, and has logged well over 170,000 Victor and Victrola phonographs which are still existent. It is used for our research work: to determine when model changeovers took place, the rarity of certain models and finishes, and to better understand how many are still around. We do not require that the submitter include any personal information or email address information, and we do not store or log any IP addresses or other data. Users may include their email address if they want us to get back to them to answer questions (providing that the questions are not already covered on this website), or if their submitted machine is particularly rare. Once entered into the database, the email addresses are deleted. All entries are filtered for SPAM or phony data before being automatically entered. Eventually, this information will be made available for online analysis; however, at the present time, we have not developed an external access interface for database queries.
A. Victrolas will play any laterally-cut 78 RPM record. This would include most flat records, with the exception of the early Edison and Pathe discs, which used a vertical cutting method. Don't play thick Edison discs, as these are vertically cut, and the Victrola's needle will ruin them. Victor, Columbia, Regal, Paramount, Banner, Aeolian, and a host of other brands will all play correctly. The reader is warned that playing 78's made after 1935 on a Victrola will cause the record to wear very quickly, as these records were designed for the lighter tonearms that were used on later electric phonographs. Thus, it is not wise to play "big band" or Frank Sinatra 78's on any pre-1929 acoustic phonograph. And you CAN'T play vinyl LP's or 45 RPM discs!!
Early Edison and Columbia machines used cylinders as a recording medium, which are obviously completely incompatible with the flat record format. The interested reader should search for Edison websites for further information on cylinder recordings.
Steel needles were designed to be used ONLY ONCE, and should be removed and discarded after every play. Using a worn needle will cause rapid record wear.
A. First, make sure that you have a true Victor product, and not a phonograph from some other manufacturer. Also make sure that it isn't a post-1929 RCA Victor product, which will not be covered on this website. If you see the words "RCA" someplace on the machine, it isn't a Victor. If you are certain that you have a true Victor which isn't listed on here, email us and we will get back to you for some further discussion. Perhaps you have discovered a new model!
A. In most instances, Victrolas with electric motors are not more valuable than the wind-up versions. While it is true that Electrolas were made in much smaller numbers than the wind-up machines, they sell for about the same price as similar wind-up machines at auction and shows. Some collectors prize the early electrics, while others shun them and prefer to do the winding themselves. Regardless, there is rarely a significant value advantage for the electrics.
A. We are not active in the record collecting hobby, and thus do not keep up with pricing. There were literally hundreds of millions of 78 RPM records produced, and it is quite unusual to find ANY 78 record that sells for more than a couple of dollars. In fact, in most cases, they are bought and sold at auction by the boxload, at very low prices. We typically buy them for about $10 per crateload at swapmeets. Records which MAY have some serious value would include very early (pre-1905) records, picture discs, or an occasional rare release. There are a number of good websites which cover the value and rarity of 78 RPM records.
A. There can be many reasons why your machine won't work, but the usual causes are:
1. Broken spring(s)
2. Solidified lubricants in spring barrel or gears
3. Damaged governor
4. Missing, worn or damaged gears
Instructions for repair are beyond the scope of this website, but the reader is strongly encouraged to purchase a copy of Eric Reiss' book "The Talking Machine Companion" (see the Recommended Reading page) for simple diagnosis and instructions. Alternatively, a number of excellent repair services are available, listed on the "RESOURCES" page. With 100+ requests coming in via email every day, we regret that we are unable to write-out detailed repair instructions for you.
A. There can be several causes for bad sound:
1. Worn record or needle (don't forget: steel needles are good for playing only ONE record!!)
2. Damaged diaphragm or mis-adjusted stylus linkage
3. Dried-out soundbox gasket (around the mica diaphragm)
Instructions for repair are beyond the scope of this website, but the reader is strongly encouraged to purchase a copy of Eric Reiss' book "The Talking Machine Companion" (see the "RESOURCES" page for simple diagnosis and instructions).
Don't forget that your Victrola isn't ever going to sound like your CD player or cassette player. These machines have a pretty unique sound quality that takes a little getting used to!