Mahogany is by far the most common of all finishes on Victrolas, and this veneer is readily identified by a fairly linear (straight) parallel grain pattern. The dark portions of the grain are usually wide and straight (not swirly), and may vary in width along the grain-line. Originally, all mahogany finishes were produced with a glass-smooth finish, but with age, many will "alligator" or become dark and rough to the touch. Most of the early Victrolas were produced in Red Mahogany, which was available in light or dark shades. In 1913, Victor introduced English Brown Mahogany, which quickly became very popular, and became the dominant finish by the early 1920's; by that time, Red Mahogany had lost its popularity.
An example of an early Light Red Mahogany finish (left).
The Dark Red Mahogany finish is shown on the right. This often appears to be reddish-brown in color.
English Brown Mahogany is often mistaken for Walnut, due to the dark color of the stain that is used. The straight and parallel grain lines are a great clue that this is Mahogany and not Walnut.
Some Victrolas used contrasting stain shades and diagonally-cut veneer sections to create an artistic effect with mahogany.
After 1925, the Orthophonic Victrolas used a "blended" finish over mahogany, with gradually lightening shades of stain and a semi-gloss finish.
Mahogany finishes tend to become darker and "alligatored" with age. The color can become almost black if the phonograph has been stored in very cold and/or hot environments such as an attic.