Victor and Victrola Sales
June 10, 2018: Our Phonograph Sales Catalog is now back online!
Our inventory consists ONLY of high quality examples of original and well-restored Victor and Victrola phonographs that are historically correct, fully tested and ready for use. Our descriptions are accurate and our condition grading is very conservative. We stand behind what we sell. All our machines are guaranteed to operate properly for two full years. That even includes accidental damage (e.g. the grandkids overwind it or if Fido chews on the soundbox). Nobody else comes close to this warranty coverage. Machines which have been refinished will be clearly denoted as such, with a complete description of work done.
Our focus is on "absolutely historically accurate", ready-to-go phonographs, that are desirable, yet affordable, for those who want a great value in an authentic antique phonograph. We don't sell low-end, common machines that you can find at the local flea market. Nor do we focus on promoting (often overpriced) $25,000.00 ultra-rare machines that are offered in exclusive antique stores for the very wealthy buyer. We sell upscale Victor and Victrola machines, in exceptional condition, for those who share our love for historical accuracy and the original beauty of these machines. We spend a great deal of time making sure that all the details are right, that the phonograph works as well as it possibly can, and that you are getting what you pay for.
We are not in the "high-volume phonograph sales business" and consequently are not the cheapest seller of phonographs. But our selection, product quality and after-sale guarantee is second-to-none. While others may push glitzy-looking restorations that are incorrect in both finish materials and repair processes, we choose to focus on historically correct original and properly restored machines, right down to the correct nuts, bolts and washers. And we never sell poor, mediocre, replica, pieced-together or incorrect machines. Period.
Yes, you can buy a Victor or Victrola at a lower price from EBay, Craigslist or from your neighborhood consignment store. However, consider the following:
Do you know that the machine is historically correct in every respect? Have parts been swapped out from cheaper machines?
Is it really as "rare" as it is described? Many Victrola models had production volumes that far exceeded 500,000 units, and tens thousands of these are still around. Just because it is old does not mean it is rare!
Is it a "Frankenphone", made partially (or totally) from 1960's Chinese or Indian parts and made to look old? There are a lot of these flooding the market today!
Is the condition accurately stated? Does "mint condition" really mean "scratched and faded"?
Are the motor, soundbox and all mechanical components completely rebuilt and guaranteed for two full years?
Is the "original" finish truly original? How can you be sure? If it is refinished, were original materials used, or did someone slap some Polyurethane on it?
Does the seller have an established reputation?
We are dismayed at what is frequently sold via online auction or by some antique dealers as "100% original" or "historically correct". These are often phonographs with incorrect parts, incorrect (swapped) dataplates and/or poorly restored elements. This behavior compromises the integrity of this hobby; it propagates a very unethical and distorted view toward the phonograph-collecting community. Our policy of maintaining respect for the buyer and the historical importance of these machines assures that you are getting a correct and accurately represented Victor or Victrola which will provide years of reliable service.
PLEASE NOTE: We frequently get order requests from customers wanting to play LP or 45 RPM records on these antique machines. Please be aware that Victors and Victrolas will only play shellac (not vinyl) 78 RPM records made prior to the 1930's. They can not be used or adapted to play records, tapes, or media of any type from the 1950's and beyond. We provide a good sample of age-appropriate records with every order.
Our Sales and "Operation Philosophy ":
Selling phonographs is not our source of livelihood. We remain focused on historical research about Victor products, maintaining our public-resource website, and supporting our machine-survival database. However we are always on the lookout for exceptional Victors or Victrolas at estate sales, auctions and other venues, and we can often repair/refurbish them and offer them for sale. We also sell well-restored phonographs, providing that the restoration was done correctly. We have many satisfied customers and can provide references upon request.
We reject over 97% of the phonographs that come available to us from private sellers or at estate sales and auctions, as they do not meet our standards for quality and/or originality. This means that we are always on the hunt for the very best examples. There are still many tens of thousands of "old phonographs" for sale out there, but most of them have been stored in wet basements, poorly maintained, badly restored, or tinkered-with, which destroys their value and authenticity.
Our phonographs are not for everyone. It is absolutely true that with enough time and effort, you may find a lower price on a very good phonograph at local auctions, flea markets and other venues. We are not catering to those hobbyists or collectors who prefer to do their own repair work, or who relish the “hunt” for a hidden gem in the corner of a second-hand store. Our focus is to provide historically accurate, reliable and trouble-free machines, in exceptional condition, to those who simply want to purchase an honestly represented and authentic phonograph without any hassles. For example, if you pick up a common phonograph in average attic-stored condition, say a Victrola XI, at a local flea market for $150.00, then congratulations! That is a very reasonable deal in today’s market. However, when you get it home, you may find that the motor is seized-up or thumping, the soundbox is damaged and most of the plating is pretty well worn away. Some parts may even be missing entirely. You can send the motor out for a rebuild at a few hundred bucks, have someone repair the soundbox for another $75, and you’ll be good to go with the mechanics. But then to make it look decent, you’ll have to replate the nickel hardware, and probably spend many weeks refinishing the cabinet. By the time you are done, you can have $800.00 or more tied-up in the work, and unless you have used the proper finishing materials and processes, along with vacuum veneer presses, fuming tanks and HVLP spray systems, you can easily end-up with a mediocre result, which will essentially make your phonograph worthless from a collector standpoint. However, as stated above, we are not here to compete with do-it-yourselfers, nor do we criticize those who love the hunt for good machines. There are many fine collectors out there who perform fantastic restoration work, and who certainly know what they are doing. And they are a credit to this hobby! We simply marketing to a different customer base; those who want high-quality "turnkey" phonographs that are authentic and warranted to operate as new, without the need to chase-down Craigslist ads, or contact random antique stores, and then try to find someone competent to implement repairs.
If it isn't historically correct, or if it doesn't work as it should, we don't sell it. Period.
Our catalog targets high-quality "midrange" and "upper midrange" models for sale. Our selling prices for Victor phonographs typically run from $500.00 up to nearly $10,000.00. Many reputable phonograph dealers, who have to make a living from the sales of phonographs need to turn-over a LOT of machines per month to make it financially worthwhile. This usually requires that they move a high number of inexpensive, common machines at flea markets, online auctions and online sales, at a sales target price between $300.00 to $1200.00 per machine (the "sweet spot" for many buyers), with a profit goal of about 50% on each item they sell. In the vast majority of cases, this high-volume/low-price selling model will not allow for a complete tear-down and rebuild of motors and soundboxes, or for the necessary labor hours in carefully cleaning-up, detailing and fully "vetting" an antique phonograph. Most of these sellers are honest, high integrity business people, and they are truthful about what they are selling. However, they are NOT going to pay $100.00 to replace a missing (but historically correct) hard-to-find crank for an early Victrola IX that, once assembled and working, sells at the flea market for $350.00. It makes no business sense to do so. So a less expensive substitute part will likely be installed from a different model. The motors are repaired only to the extent needed so that they run ok when demonstrated to the customer. This is why common or mediocre-condition Victor and Victrola models suit these kinds of operations; machines are purchased very cheaply, cleaned & repaired to the extent possible (with minimal time expended), and turned over fast. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this strategy, because it helps our hobby grow, and provides a nice antique for someone on a budget. But our niche' is different. We don't rely on sales of phonographs to keep a business afloat, or to create a profit-stream for anyone. Income from our sales go towards paying our repair and restoration folks a fair wage, buying needed parts and inventory, travel and expense fees for research at museums, attending shows, meetings, and auctions, pays the costs of providing good warranty coverage, supports the donation of machines for charity events, as well as covering the considerable expense of keeping this website going. After those expenses are covered, we don't need or expect to make any additional money. We don't have to turn-over a lot of machines monthly to keep ourselves afloat, nor do we need to cut-corners on parts and repair work to meet a tight budget. However, given that low-end or average-condition phonographs don't bring much money these days, we can't possibly repair them to our standards and offer them for sale at fair market prices without operating at a loss. So we don't usually offer the lower-end models for sale, unless there is something truly exceptional about it. We have also found that most flea-market visitors are not going to shell-out $2500.00 or more for an exceptional Victrola, so these types of selling venues can't support our operation. Therefore, we target the online sale of high-quality midrange and upper-midrange models, which are far more appealing to many serious buyers, and this niche' allows us to sell them (with warranty) at a higher price than would be realized by offering common or low-end phonographs that you can find at swap-meets. Victor-Victrola is not in any way a cash-cow to pay for my retirement, or to pay for someone's kids to go to college. If it was, we would be starving to death. We don't have a showroom or storefront (which would never pay for itself with such a limited buyer population), and there are no sales-people on staff. Online selling allows us to maintain very low overhead costs, while still providing exemplery service. We are not in a rush to get phonographs listed online, nor are we in a dither to meet monthly sales quotas, setting-up booths at flea markets, or covering advertising costs. It is not uncommon for us to sell machines at less than our cost, simply to keep the inventory at a minimum, and to allow us to move-on with the repair and sale of other machines. These losses are not a problem, because our break-even selling strategy always manages to keep us afloat (especially true when profit is not the motive). Besides, there is no better way to become more educated and competent in a hobby than to thoroughly engage in the process of inspecting parts, reparing machines, and evaluating the construction of the many different models that we offer for sale. You can choose to believe these statements or not, but this is the way Victor-Victrola operates as a "self-sustaining" information, sales, restoration and appraisal resource. Stated simply, Victor-Victrola is run as a non-profit-based historical research activity; it is a serious, passionate (and well-organized) avocation which pays for itself via our limited services.
We know that there are risks when ordering an item online in this internet age, especially with the promotional hype that often appears with items for sale. For example, we are frequently amazed at what passes for “excellent condition" in describing a restored or original phonograph. EBay listings often show phonographs that are a hodge-podge of different parts, including fakes (reproductions) made in India or China. Many are misrepresented, and condition of legitimate machines is frequently overstated. While most sellers are well-intended, many simply have no expertise in the field, and don't really know what they are selling. (Perhaps that is the reason that "RARE" appears in about 90% of the description headings). To be sure, there are some very good deals to be had from some online sellers, but unless you really know what you are doing, it can be a real gamble. Some sellers start with asking prices that are mind-numbingly high, perhaps expecting some uninformed buyer to shell out a fortune for a very common model in marginal condition. Or the seller who has slopped on some Ace Polyurethane over the original finish, and still calls the machine "historically correct". As in any hobby, experienced collectors know what is correct and what is wrong on a given machine, and will surmise the appropriate valuation in a matter of minutes; but the person who just wants a “good starter phonograph”, or an “excellent example for a Christmas gift” or a "special item for the corner of the family room" usually can’t afford to risk hundreds or thousands of dollars on some online auction or at the local antique store, betting that the offhand description is correct and that the phonograph will function correctly in the future. Even some supposed “experts” (including the popular Las Vegas Restoration Service whose antics were the basis for a weekly television program) provide customers with phonographs that may look nice at first glance, but are restored in a historically incorrect manner, with wrong veneers and mix-and-match mechanical components. A recently featured project was an upright phonograph at a restoration cost well over $4,000, which would likely not bring $200 at auction when placed in front of subject matter experts. It was simply restored incorrectly…from top to bottom.
Our goal is to serve those quality-minded buyers who want correctly represented phonographs, with an exceptional warranty, and are willing to pay a premium for “the very best”. We are extremely picky about what we sell, so that we can be fully confident in offering the very best choices for our buyers. The phrase “very best” does not necessarily imply “rare” or “expensive” or “mint condition” or "the most valuable". Those criteria will ultimately be defined by the details of condition and rarity, as reflected by the selling price. If you want to pay a boatload of money for a phonograph that nobody else has, you can readily jump online and find many exclusive sellers with "one-of-a-kind" truly rare machines for $20,000.00 and more, in outstanding condition. They are truly fantastic and ultra-rare phonographs! But that seller probably has to pay a lot of overhead for his showroom and sales staff, and you can be sure he is making a good profit on what he sells. Those sales are his basis for making a living. He is targeting wealthy buyers...and we say more power to him! It is all good! Certainly he is also selling "the very best" phonographs, but they may not be "the very best" value for your money (unless you have a huge bank account). That is not what we are about either. We find the middle ground, and sell high-quality premium-model phonographs at fair market prices. Whichever model or price range you choose from our catalog, you are selecting something that is carefully described, is completely authentic, and will work as it should. Our stock varies in condition from "GOOD" to "SUPERB", but when you consider our critical inspection criteria, committment to authenticity, warranty, and repair/restoration experience, each one represents the best value for your money, regardless if you select a $500.00 or $10,000.00 model.
We don’t have any “bargains” or "fixer-uppers" available in our stock. Most well-worn, damaged or incomplete machines that come into our inventory are either properly restored, torn-down for parts or wholesaled-out at auction. Our goal is to maintain the highest integrity in the hobby, and to achieve 100% customer satisfaction across the board. Therefore, we do not sell marginal or rough phonographs, nor do we sell low-end common models. We also avoid selling extremely high-end "one-of-a-kind" models, as there is simply not enough demand to make it worthwhile.
Of course, things can go wrong. Rough handling during shipment, an overzealous child breaking a motor spring, a part that fails due to age, or an assembly error on our part can cause a phonograph to stop functioning. After all, these original machines are over 100 years old! Regardless, we pride ourselves on making things right when problems occur, so as to assure that our customers' Victors and Victrolas will continue to function correctly for many years to come. We assure your total satisfaction before, during and after the sale. You won't find that level of support at the flea-market or from a Craigslist seller.
Surface Mail Address:
2607 Woodruff Road Suite E #216
Simpsonville, SC 29681