The Victor-Victrola Page
Section One: Identifying Victor Products
Do I really have a Victor Talking Machine product?? Victor, Victrola, Electrola and Orthophonic, are the brand names for phonographs made by the Victor Talking Machine of Camden, New Jersey. Victor was an independent company from 1901-1929, and was not affiliated with RCA. The RCA Corporation bought Victor in late 1929, and they continued to use the Victor and Victrola names and logos on their products for many years after the purchase (e.g. "RCA Victor"). Thus, you can find "RCA Victor" or "Victrola" products that were made by RCA (or later by other companies) all the way up to today. Our expertise is only with 1901-1929 Victor Talking Machine Company products. RCA products are not covered on this website. Please don't email us asking about your 1936 (or 1958) Radio-Phono Combination "RCA Victrola", because unfortunately, we have no data on any RCA-Victor products.
All Victor products are clearly marked in several places with the words "Victor Talking Machine Company" (not RCA) identification and the dog/phonograph logo. See example on left. If you can't find these identifiers somewhere on your phonograph, or if it says "RCA" somewhere, it is not a Victor Talking Machine product! There is usually a metal dataplate near the turntable (or under it) which has model and serial number information. We will cover the topic of deciphering the dataplate information as you continue to read onward.
If your phonograph says "Edison", "Sonora", "Columbia" "RCA" or anything except Victor Talking Machine Co. on the label or decal, it is NOT a Victor Phonograph. There were literally hundreds of different phonograph brands during the early part of this century, and some people incorrectly call them all Victrolas. Just like they incorrectly call all copy machines "Xerox Machines". The other brands are not Victrolas, they are Edison or Sonora or Columbia (or whatever) phonographs. If you can't find the logo...you don't have a Victor!
If you want information on other brands, we suggest that you search the links on the Websites of The Antique Phonograph Society or the Canadian Antique Phonograph Society. These organizations have many outstanding collectors who specialize in different brands of phonographs. Sorry to beat this point to death, but about 30% of all emails we receive are people asking for information on non-Victor products.
THESE ARE VICTOR TALKING MACHINE PHONOGRAPHS!!
EXTERNAL HORN VICTOR. If your Victor-labeled phonograph has an outside horn like the one to the left, it is called an External Horn Victor (or just "Victor"). These machines are desirable collector items, and usually date from between 1901 up to the early 1920's. Note that, in many cases, you may come across an old external horn phonograph with a missing horn that looks like a simple tabletop phonograph. These are easy to identify, as they have no doors or openings on the front of the cabinet for the sound to exit. Note that this is not a "Victrola" (which has the horn concealed inside), but is correctly termed a "Victor".
INTERNAL HORN VICTROLA. If your Victor-labeled phonograph has the horn inside the cabinet, typically with small doors that open and close in front of the horn opening (as shown to the left), you have a Victrola, which was the exclusive name the Victor gave to this particular design of phonograph. These were made in all shapes and sizes, including very small table models without doors. Victrolas that were powered by electric motors instead of wind-up springs, were called Electrolas.
ORTHOPHONIC VICTROLA or ELECTROLA. By the mid-1920's, Victor updated its product line, which included advanced horn and soundbox designs (designated as Orthophonic Victrolas) or with electronic amplification, radios and automatic record changers (designated as Electrolas). Some of these phonographs were installed in very large decorative cabinets, and were quite expensive at the time. They came in all shapes and sizes from 1925-1929.
Various emblems/decals/tags may also appear at various locations on your Victor product (examples below). These were usually placed on the phonograph by the selling dealer, and were simply added for advertising purposes. Even other music machine companies like Wurlitzer sold Victor machines, so these logos may also appear. They do not add value to your machine, however they do identify where it was originally sold. A listing of some of the historical Victor Retail Dealers can be found here. Machines sold in Canada may have a "Berliner" tag present under the serial number plate.
A few of the dealer decals/plates typically installed on Victor products. Some are located near the metal dataplate, and some are under the lid.
FAKE VICTOR PRODUCTS:
This is an important topic, which unfortunately must be addressed. We get hundreds of emails every month from folks who have found or purchased a "Victor" phonograph which is not legitimate. There are dishonest sellers all over the world who misrepresent phonographs in numerous ways; since the demand for external horn Victor phonographs is quite high, there is often a financial incentive to create a "fake". Some are marketed simply as decorations or for movie props, but many are sold as legitimate antiques, and end-up in the hands of an unsuspecting buyer. One common fraud is to make a "Frankenphone" by piecing-together bits and pieces from all kinds of phonographs, both new and old. Reproduction phonograph cabinets, horns and components are still being made in China and India, and are frequently seen on EBay and elsewhere. Some are "artificially aged" to appear old. Another dishonest scheme is to put a legitimate "VICTOR" identification plate on a cheap off-brand or reproduction machine They are frequently passed-off as valuable and legitimate antiques. Be aware that Victor produced machines and cabinets of the highest quality. The typical cheesy quality which is found in the metal parts or an overly-glassy smooth pine cabinet is a dead giveaway of a fake Victor. These replicas have no collector value whatsoever. A few of the signs of a "phony-phonograph" are seen in the images below.
Nipper on Steroids: There are many different styles of reproduction dataplates, which are often placed on fake machines. None of them have high-quality graphics. From left to right: 1) the dog on this Chinese-made reproduction plate has apparently been undergoing illegal steroid treatments causing his muscles to bulge and his head to shrink. 2) A reproduction plate from Mexico made by someone who has been sampling too much tequila. Both Victor and Edison brands are represented on this plate, along with the meaningless term "Graphonole" and a random 1884 date. RCA is also mentioned just to make it more confusing. Makes absolutely no sense. 3) a "cut-out" plate from a legitimate 1920's Victrola model that was modified and mounted on a fake external horn machine to make it appear authentic. 4) The real thing. Victor had very high quality control when these plates were made, and never produced poorly designed or cheaply struck examples. While there are several different versions of authentic plates, the quality of the trademark's logo and "Victor" wording were always excellent; however, the stamped model number and serial number information could get a bit sloppy at times. Unfortunately, correct original plates are often removed from junked Victrolas and placed on cheap reproduction machines. There are a lot of clever crooks out there!
Low Quality and Goofy-Looking Designs are a Sure Indication of a Fake: From left to right: 1) Victor never made "dual" horn models, and a correct Victor metal horn was never embossed with designs. Legitimate horns never point this sharply upward. 2) The crude and uneven quality of this cast backbracket holding the horn is a dead giveaway of a cheap reproduction machine (never mind that "RCA Victor" appears in weak lettering on a phonograph supposedly made years before the RCA Corporation even existed). 3) This monstrosity is a poster-child for cheap reproductions. Poorly soldered joints, a soundbox "dangling" from the tonearm without a support, the crank in the wrong location sticking out awkwardly at an angle from under the turntable, and a cheap pine case. Note that the angle of the horn elbows on these fakes are very sharp and abrupt. Victor always produced elbows with smoothly rounded corners. 4) It might look nice, but it is a reproduction. A dark-stained pine cabinet, crooked-sitting soundbox, and crude details point to a modern reproduction. Again, the angle of the horn elbow is very sharp. Buyer beware!
So, just as a reminder, before we go forward....
Rev 3 6-25-2020