Discover Vintage America - AUGUST 2015
Victor Victrola defined the record player for Americans
Q: This beautiful old Victor Victrola record player has been in my family for many years. Can you please tell me around when it was made and how much it is worth?
A: The Victor Talking Machine Co. of Camden, NJ was in operation from 1901 through 1929. In late 1929 the RCA Corporation purchased Victor and continued to use the Victor and Victrola names and logos on their products for many years up through the 1970s.
The Victor Victrola became one of the most recognized products of the early 20th century. The company knew what the public wanted; they crafted a quality product and the marketing appealed to everyone.
The early Talking Machines were very well made and performed well but did not add much as far as decorative appeal in the home. Even though, in my humble opinion, there is something very beautiful about the floral shaped metal horn popping out of a beautiful wooden box.
In 1906, the Victrola was crafted like a fine piece of furniture. All of the mechanisms were hidden in a beautiful crafted wooden cabinet. They were very expensive for the time, selling at $200 and it was thought that they would be a novelty item; the majority of buyers would only be able to afford the less expensive open units.
Oh how wrong they were; sales far exceeded expectations and within a couple of years a less expensive Victrola became available but this also spelled the demise of the smaller tabletop machines.
The nice thing about Victor Talking Machines is the amount of information we can glean from the metal plate showing Nipper the dog listening to an early Berliner gramophone. Starting from the left you will see "VV" for Victor Victrola.
The Roman numerals "XIV" is the model number, the next series of numbers is the serial number and in the case the serial number is followed by the letter "E" which indicates that there was a modification made to a component of the Victrola.
Some of the more expensive models were given names but your Victrola is known simply as model "XIV", introduced in 1910. The earliest of this model has a serial number of 509 and the latest 275574.
Your Victrola was made in 1915 based on the serial number but the wood style is more indicative of changes made in 1917. The early XIV models were rather plain looking with minimal decorative trim and curved Queen Anne legs.
In 1914 the cabinet style changed and was made larger and quite a bit more elegant and decorative. It was available in several types of wood finishes with mahogany being the most desirable.
There is some misleading information on the Internet about the Spanish and Japanese text on the metal plaque. Some sources say that the Japanese characters indicate that the Victor firm did not make the machine, and that it indicates a cheap knockoff, but this is not true.
The company noted their trademark in the most common languages of the time and countries to which they exported even though they did have a factory in Japan.
The volume of an internal horn Victrola is controlled by opening or closing the doors at the top of the cabinet and you could also purchase needles that would aid with volume control.
On your Victrola you can see the different sized wells to place the Victrola needles. Most needles used were steel and to preserve the records should only be used once; subsequent use can tear up the record. You can still purchase steel needles for most models of cabinet phonographs.
Your Victor Victrola is in wonderful cosmetic condition. I don't see any missing veneer and the interior is equally nice. If it produces a good sound and there are no flaws to the back your Victrola would sell for $1,000-$1,250.
This particular model is one of the more collectible of the mass produced Victor Victrolas. There was a large number that were made in limited runs, which of course have a higher resale value.
** All prices given are for sale in a private sale, antique shop or other resale outlet. Price is also dependent upon the geographic area in which you are selling. Auction value, selling to a dealer or pawn shop prices are about ½ or less of resale value.
Note: All prices given are for sale in a private sale, antique shop or other resale outlet. Price is also dependent upon the geographic area in which you are selling. Auction value, selling to a dealer or pawnshop prices are about half or less of resale value.
Michelle Staley is a Lenexa, KS-based dealer and researcher with 35 years of experience in the antique trade. Send questions with photos to Michelle to email@example.com. Please keep queries to one question; questions without photos of the item may not be answered. Michelle is also available for consulting and extensive research work beyond this column. If you would like an appraisal on an antique or collectible please go to www.michelleknowsantiques.com for a one-on-one appraisal.