Return to Home Page

The Victor-Victrola Page   

VTLA / VV XVI / VE-XVI / VV-XX

Pooley Version ("VTLA" tag, flat lid):  RARITY: ¤¤¤    VALUE:   ¤¤¤
VTLA Version ("VTLA" tag, domed lid):  RARITY: ¤¤    VALUE:  ¤¤¤
VV-XX Version ("VTLA" tag, domed lid, fancy trim, diagonal grain patterns on front doors):    RARITY: ¤¤¤¤      VALUE:  ¤¤¤¤
Vernis-Martin Version (gold painted cabinet with figures):   RARITY: ¤¤¤¤      VALUE:  ¤¤¤¤
VV-XVI or VE-XVI (with L-shaped doors):    RARITY: ¤¤     VALUE:  ¤¤
VV-XVI or VE-XVI (with conventional doors):    RARITY: ¤     VALUE:  ¤¤

 

 

Proceed to Rarity and Value Analysis Page


The VV-XVI or "Victrola the Sixteenth" was the original internal-horn Victrola; introduced in 1906, it remained the company's premiere model for nearly 15 years. The XVI created a sensation when it first appeared at dealer showrooms, as the ungainly phonograph horn was now hidden inside the cabinet rather than being mounted on top of the machine. "Tone Doors" in the front allowed the user to control the sound volume, and the lid could be closed to lower the noise emanating from the vibrating soundbox and motor. Storage for record albums was provided in the bottom portion of the cabinet. Priced at a whopping $200.00 (which equates to over $5,700.00 in today's money), it was intended for wealthy buyers who desired a 'state of the art' phonograph integrated into an elegant piece of furniture.
The XVI cabinet underwent several design iterations during its lifespan; by the early 'teens, it became a top-seller for the company. Although it was always advertised as "Victrola the Sixteenth" (VV-XVI), the metal identification tag used a "VTLA" designation during the early years of production.  More than 206,000 XVI/VTLA/XX machines were produced between 1906 and 1921.
The internal horn design configuration was soon adopted by numerous lower-cost Victrola models; when Victor's patents began to expire in 1918, this concept was copied by virtually all competing phonograph companies.  Eliminating the large external horn from view made the "Victrola" a popular commodity for millions of homes around the world.  By the dawn of the 1920's, over 5,000,000 phonographs with this internal-horn design would be produced by Victor.

Since there were so many different cabinets and 'options' available for the VTLA/XVI model over the years, they will be split into chronological groupings. A detailed breakdown of serial number vs. year produced can be found at the bottom of the page.
 


Iteration One: Flat-Top Pooley (1906-1907) with "VTLA" tag
The design of the "Victrola" began in 1904. A trial-run of this revolutionary design was approved for production in early 1906. At that time, the Victor Talking Machine Company did not have adequate woodworking facilities to produce full-size floor-model cabinets; their product line consisted only of small 'table-top' models with large external horns. The launch of this novel and expensive "Victrola" product was considered to be a risky proposition, so the company did not want to tool-up their limited (and overtaxed) production facilities to manufacture large wood cabinets without knowing how the public would accept the idea. To minimize their financial risks, they contracted with the Pooley Furniture Company of Philadelphia (who had plenty of production capacity to produce large cabinets) to manufacture a limited run of mahogany Victrola cabinets using Victor's recently-patented internal-horn design.  A batch of approximately 500 cabinets was ordered in the early summer of 1906. The completed cabinets were then shipped to Victor's factory, where the mechanical components from their best external-horn model, the Victor VI, were installed. This included the well-regarded triple-spring motor and Exhibition Soundbox, with gold plated hardware.
The new product then underwent a well-publicized launch to the buying public in August 1906, and was an immediate success. Even with a mind-bending price tag of $200.00 (at a time when the average annual income was $450.00, every early-production machine was sold by the end of the year. Victor quickly realized that it had a very profitable new product on its hands, and immediately ordered more cabinets from Pooley. In addition, they began tooling-up their own cabinet-making facilities to produce this design on their own.
The early "Pooley" cabinets had an unusual curved top section, "L" shaped storage doors and a flat lid. Several minor hardware changes were made as production ramped-up. The flat-lid cabinet design (see History of the Victrola) made access to the turntable rather inconvenient, as the user had to 'reach-down' into the opening to change records or needles.  Production serialization of these early models began at '501', however, at least one prototype version has turned-up a lower serial number.
Production of this model continued into the summer of 1907, when the second iteration of the cabinet appeared. It is estimated that approximately 1,700 of these machines were produced.

Iteration Two: Domed Lid Filigree Cabinet (1907-1909) "VTLA" tag
The great success of the "Pooley" models (above) prompted Victor to make some design improvements. The lid was modified into a domed-shape, allowing the motorboard to be moved upward in the cabinet, allowing easier access to the turntable and controls. The awkward lid support arm was improved, and a 'filigree' of circle-diamond trim around the top of the cabinet was added. Product demand remained very strong, and Victor continued to ramp-up large-cabinet production capabilities at their Camden plant. Since they were not yet capable of producing as many cabinets as were needed, the Pooley Furniture Company remained under contract during 1907 and into the early months of 1908 to manufacture these products in parallel with Victor. Pooley-built cabinets from this time period can be identified by either a tag or stenciling located inside the record storage area; Victor-built cabinets have no Pooley markings. A variety of new finishes were now being offered, including oak and special-order variations in some very exotic choices (see the FINISHES page for more information).
By the spring of 1908, Victor's cabinet production had expanded such that the services of Pooley were no longer needed.
An "A" suffix was later added to indicate minor changes to the motor.

Iteration Three: VV-XX Fancy Trim, Diagonal Pattern on Front Doors. (1908-1909) "VTLA" tag
The continuing success of the elegant and expensive early Victrolas prompted Victor to introduce an even more prestigious machine, advertised as the "VV-XX" or Victrola the Twentieth. Introduced in early 1908, these machines were basically an upgrade of the standard VTLA models, with the addition of premium veneers, a gracefully shaped lid, ornate carvings, and the application of optional gold 'gilding' on the trim.  These models sold for an incredible price of $300.00, which equates to over $8,600.00 in today's money. Interestingly, Victor did not include any type of model differentiator for this exclusive product on the stamped ID dataplates, which still read "VTLA". The only references to the "VV-XX" designation appears in published advertising and dealer brochures; therefore, serial numbers for the XX were intermixed with standard VTLA production machines. Based on surviving examples, VV-XX style machines begin to appear around serial number 4500 and run as high as 8655, but many standard VTLA machines also appear within this range. 
Production volumes for these models have been estimated at around 500 units. Ultimately, they were either priced too high for the marketplace or were perceived as being too gaudy, as sales never caught-on with wealthy buyers. After a $50.00 reduction in price, the VV-XX was quietly discontinued less than one year later. These rare machines are considered to be highly collectible today,

Iteration Four: Domed Lid Filigree Cabinet (1909)  "XVI" tag
In the summer of 1909, around serial number 12600, the "VTLA" stamped dataplate was changed to reflect the advertised name of the product, the "VV-XVI" or "Victor-Victrola the Sixteenth". The cabinet remained unchanged from the previous VTLA design for a few more months until the design was again updated. Approximately 11,500 'filigree' Victrolas were produced between 1907 and 1909, including those denoted as "VTLA" (above)

Iteration Five: L-Door Cabinet (1909-1912) "XVI" tag
By the summer of 1909, the new Victrola was selling at a tremendous pace and provided immense profit for the company. A new cabinet design was then introduced, which was larger than the previous model; the filigree trim was eliminated, and ornate hand-carved corner posts appeared. This update was also denoted by a "B" suffix after the serial number, and a change was made to the under-lid decal from "Victor-Victrola" to just "Victrola (see decals page). Continuing improvements to the motor and hardware were made, and these changes were indicated by the inclusion of a "C" or "D" suffix. Approximately 47,000 of these machines were made between the summer of 1909 and the fall of 1912, when yet another updated cabinet was introduced.
As a side note, Victor began introducing lower-priced versions of the "Victrola internal horn design" to the buying public beginning in 1909. These new offerings made Victrolas affordable to just about everyone. Thus, the XVI was no longer the 'exclusive' machine that offered this inside-horn feature; yet it continued in its well-established position as the company's flagship model. 

Iteration Six:  Conventional Doors (1912-1914)  "XVI" tag
In mid-1912, an entirely new cabinet style premiered. The overall size was again increased and the unusual "L-Doors" were eliminated, being replaced by conventional rectangular openings. The previous open-horn design was updated with the use of 'slats' at the horn opening, which were intended to improve the sound directivity. Extensive hand carvings were used on the corner posts. Suffix letters of "E", "F" or "G" were used to indicate minor changes and updates to the motor and hardware configurations.  Approximately 40,000 XVI machines in this configuration were produced between 1912 and 1914. The most successful year for the VV-XVI was recorded in 1913, with over 21,000 units produced. The XVI would never again achieve that level of annual sales.

Iteration Seven:  Conventional Doors (1914-1920)  "XVI" tag
By the end of 1917, the XVI underwent a cost-cutting production change; the amount of hand-carved details on the corner posts were significantly reduced while the cabinet also became smaller. At the same time, the motor was improved via the use of a newly-designed and more powerful 4-spring motor, replacing the long-standing 3-spring design. These machines had an "H" suffix (or no suffix at all). The "Exhibition" soundbox was replaced with the new "Victrola No.2" soundbox late in 1917, and the tonearm diameter was increased. Approximately 74,000 XVI models of this style were produced between 1914 and 1920.

Iteration Eight:  Conventional Doors (1920-1921)  "XVI" tag
In the summer of 1920, Victrola sales were beginning to wane; phonographs had become quite commonplace in most homes, and were no longer considered a 'status symbol'. As a result, sales of the more expensive models (such as the VV-XVI) were the first ones to experience a significant decline. In response, the company updated the cabinet designs in an attempt to improve sales. While the mechanical elements remained about the same as the previous series, the styling was streamlined and modernized, particularly on the sweeping corner posts (which now featured minimal hand-carved details).  By this time, the price of the VV-XVI had risen to $250.00. These machines had no suffix letters on the dataplate.  Approximately 14,700 models of this style were produced between 1920 and 1921. The XVI was officially discontinued one year later and was replaced by the VV-120, which was only a model ID change. The short-lived VV-120 was identical to the XVI in all respects.

Electrola Models:  Conventional Doors (1913-1921)  "VE-XVI" tag
The XVI models were the first Victrolas to offer an optional electric motor, beginning in the fall of 1913; this was designated by a "VE" on the dataplate, and often had an additional plate attached showing the allowable operating voltage range. The electric motor was an expensive $50.00 option. This feature eliminated the need to hand-wind the motor between records. Since electric power was available only in a very limited number of homes at that time, sales of these models were initially slow; however, within 5 years, many more homes had electricity, and the VE machines became increasingly popular. VE models can always be identified by the presence of cooling vents in the back of the machine (left) which were placed there to allow heat dissipation from the voltage-dropping resistors mounted in the back of the cabinet, since these early motors operated at 32 volts. Approximately 15,500 VE-XVI machines were produced over the course of 8 years. The VE-XVI was officially discontinued one year later and was replaced by the VE-120, which was only a model ID change. The short-lived VE-120 was identical to the VE-XVI in all respects. Note: many sequences in serial numbers were skipped (not used) during production of the VE models.

Optional Finishes: 
During its long production run, XVI models could be purchased in a variety of optional finishes, some costing hundreds of dollars above the list price of a standard model. The most commonly chosen extra-cost finish was walnut, which added $50.00 to the list price. Initially, only Circassian Walnut was offered, but American Walnut also became available after 1918 (see the finish pages for more information). Other extra-cost finish options included the "Vernis Martin" style ($400.00), with gold leaf covering the cabinet and hand-painted images (left) or even an exotic  "Moorish Marquetry" design (right) including silver and mother-of-pearl inlays ($750.00). Victor would produce almost any type of finish desired on a custom-order basis, and machines with exotic woods and exquisite paintings could be made per customer requirements. It should also be noted that many companies would provide aftermarket 'upgrades' to these machines, including paintings, special finish coatings and ornate designs.

The survival database currently shows the earliest existent VV-XVI to be S/N 499 (a prototype) and the latest to be S/N 196887
The earliest logged VE-XVI survivor is S/N 501 and the latest is S/N 16064*
* Note: many sequences in serial numbers were skipped during "VE" production. Consequently, the highest s/n and total production output will not match for these models

Manufacture Date Approximate Serial Number Range Feature Notes
1906 501-1000 Flat-lid Pooley-built models. Actual starting s/n is unknown.
1907 1001-4500 Domed lid introduced around S/N 2200
1908 4501-8360 XX model introduced around S/N 4500. XX models are interspersed with VTLA model serialization
1909 7873-17500 VTLA designation dropped and "A" suffix added around S/N 12600. Carving under lid discontinued and "B" suffix added around S/N 13700.
1910 17501-31400 C suffix added at S/N 17960
1911 31401-52700 D suffix added at S/N 43500
1912 52701-67900 New cabinet design and E suffix added at S/N 60727. 
1913 67901-99400 Semi-auto brake added at s/n 72076.  Exposed speed indicator (on some examples) and "F" suffix added at S/N 84608. "G" suffix starts around s/n 88800. 
1914 99401-107550 All models with G suffix. Large glass speed control added at s/n 104300.
1915 107551-123250  G suffix early. H suffix added at S/N 108200
1916 123251-139200 All models with H suffix. A few machines have been documented with an "XVI-A"  model identification tag around s/n 137000. 
1917 139201-154000 Fat tone arm, small glass speed indicator added and serial number suffix letters dropped at S/N 143350. Victrola "No. 2" soundbox included late in year
1918 154101-164200   
1919 164201-174050    
1920 173600-191300    
1921 191301-197590    
VE-XVI Electric         
1913 501-707   
1914 707-3000   Possible that serial numbers between 3000 and 3100 were never used
1915 3100-??  "A" suffix used after serial number 3101. S/N was 3101 produced in early 1915
1916 Unknown  S/N 5057 was produced in late 1916. S/N's 5101 through 8000 may have been skipped in production.
1917 Unknown S/N 10500 produced in 1917. Many groups of serial numbers were skipped in production.
1918 Unknown   
1919 Unknown   
1920 Unknown   
1921 Unknown   Last documented survivor s/n is 16064

Do you own a Victrola VV-VTLA/XVI? Please take a moment and enter some basic information about your machine into the collector's database by clicking here. No personal information is required.


 

Return to Victor Product Page