The Victor-Victrola Page
Identifying Victor Products
Note: To get information on your Victor or Victrola phonograph, including the rarity and date of manufacture, please read this page carefully, and then click the "Product Information" link at the bottom of the page! If you have already read and understand this information, click here to skip this page.
Fortunately the process of identifying a Victor phonograph is not difficult. The Victor Talking Machine Company did an excellent job of providing model identification, along with a unique serial number for most models, which makes dating their phonographs a relatively easy task.
Every Victor phonograph has a metal dataplate affixed either on or near the motorboard (for machines with lids), on the side of the phonograph (for most external horn and lidless models), or under the turntable. Every dataplate contains both a model identification (stamped at the bottom on the left) and a serial number (on the right). Every model has an individual serialization.
Most dataplates will appear similar to the pictures below:
On the leftmost plate above, the model is a "VV-XI" and the serial number is "836749". "VV" stands for Victor-Victrola. Some external horn machines have only a "V" for Victor. Some models may use "Type" or "Style" before the model identifier. Some Victor phonographs use model names rather than numeric model designations (center picture). Tags may be located under the turntable for certain models made in the 1920's (right), requiring that the user lift the turntable off the machine. Using this information, the hobbyist can proceed to the Product Information page (linked at the bottom of this page) to determine detailed information. The rest of the text on the top section of the dataplate relates only to copyright, trademark and patent dates (also denoted for buyers in Latin America and Japan).
In some cases, the dataplate may have corroded, and the small stamped serial numbers may be nearly impossible to read. It is usually possible to use a piece of very fine steel wool and GENTLY rub over the number so that it becomes visible. Too much pressure will damage the plate and could remove the contrasting black paint on the plate. In other cases, cautious use of an exacto-knife can prove helpful.
Factory serialization of external horn Victor phonographs was very inconsistent. Accurately dating these external horn machines can be difficult (depending on vintage). Production started with serial number "1" for the machines that were introduced from 1901 through 1904. Following a catastrophic factory fire in 1904, the serial numbers for most models were reset back to "1" late in the year, and some were reset again in 1909. Therefore, there will be several identical serial numbers for most models. In addition, factory records for the earliest machines are incomplete. In these cases, we can only provide rough dating estimates for many external-horn phonographs.
Victrola (internal horn) phonographs started production at s/n 501, and ran consecutively until the model was discontinued. Therefore, each Victrola within the model grouping has it's own unique serial number. In some instances, large blocks of serial numbers were skipped in production, but since these "skips" were well documented in the factory data, we are easily able to identify and date virtually all Victrolas. The few exceptions to the "501" starting serial number for Victrolas occur on prototype machines, and on some Canadian-built and Export models, which can have serial numbers below 100.
Many Victors and Victrolas will have a suffix letter after the serial number (see example on right). This letter can often be difficult to see, but is an important identifier. It indicates the "Model Type", and can be useful in dating a machine. Each "Type Letter" (e.g. "A", "B" etc.) indicates an iterative design change to the model. The picture on the right indicates Type "D" series of the VV-XVI model series, and should be considered a part of the serial number for identification purposes. In some instances, a letter prefix may be found before the serial number (see examples below).
Victrolas that had electrically powered motors (instead of the wind-up spring motor) featured a "VE" prefix, and a often used a larger dataplate (left). These were called "Electrolas". Orthophonic Victrolas (made after 1925) with electric motors used either an "X" suffix when the AC-only motor was used, or a "U" when the AC/DC motor was installed. All "VE" Victrolas had independent serialization from identical models of "VV" (spring-wound) machines. Both started at serial number 501.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The presence of decals, metal tags, etc. with a dealer logo (e.g. "Wurlitzer", "Hudson's", "Lyon and Healy", etc.) are simply advertising applied by the selling dealer, and do NOT signify that the Victor product was made by these sellers.
If you want additional explanations as to the meaning of other unique identifiers in Victor dataplates, please continue reading below. Otherwise, skip to the bottom of the page and click on the button to link directly to the model information search page.
Many Victrolas that were produced from late 1917 through 1918 will have a small "A" suffix after the model number, which indicated that improvements were made to the motor (along with a price increase). This suffix was discontinued after 1918. See picture below left. Don't mistake this for a "Type A" model, which would appear after the serial number (as seen in the example above).
An "C" suffix between the model ID and the serial number indicates a machine to be sold in Canada (below center). An "E" between the model number and the serial number is a machine intended for export outside of the USA (below right). Other suffix letters are known to exist. The presence of suffix letters after the model identification neither adds nor detracts from value or rarity, as it is simply an indicator for production distribution management, or for service and repair personnel.
Victor products that were intended for sale in the Canadian market may have an additional "Berliner Gram-0-Phone" tag underneath the ID tag. This denotes that the licensed seller was located in Canada. Some machines sold in Canada were produced at Victor's main Camden NJ plant, while others were made in the Berliner plant in Montreal, Canada. Please note that the original factory production logs for many machines with a "C" or "E" prefix have not been found. Many Canadian and export models are listed on the Product Information page, but dates and total production numbers are not available.
As stated above, most Victrola (internal horn) serialization started at 501 for each model, and ran sequentially through the production run. The example on the right is from the very first VE-360 that came off the assembly line. Large blocks of serial numbers were sometimes skipped when design revisions were made to a particular model. External-horn Victors started at s/n 1 in most cases, although factory records are incomplete from this era.
You may find a paper license sticker located on the back, the bottom or on an inside wall or underneath your Victor or Victrola photograph, depending on model (picture on right). This sticker has a veritable plethora of patent and copyright dates printed all over it. It is common for these stickers to have fallen off, or become damaged over time, and consequently, your phonograph may not have an intact one remaining. If you do find it, the most obvious date (Month, Day, Year) on the lower left corner of the sticker is often mistaken for the date that the machine was manufactured. The sticker was put there to indicate the licensing date to establish legal retail pricing, but it is not the date your particular machine came off the assembly line. In some instances, new stickers were re-applied by dealers many years after the machine was built. The sticker date can be as much as 4-5 years earlier than the actual date the machine was manufactured.