The Victor-Victrola Page
ANSWER: We do not provide free appraisals or "guesstimates", because we receive over 140 emails daily asking for some type of 'free help' or support. We can't possibly respond to all these requests.
To get a general idea of value, the reader is asked to determine the model, serial number and finish of their machine (providing that the machine is a true Victor or Victrola, made prior to 1929). With this information, you can determine a general range of value via the "PRODUCTS" link for your model. However, the PRODUCT pages will only give a very broad categorization of valuation and rarity, and will not give you an exact dollar value. Why? Because:
The market for antique phonographs is extremely fickle, and prices can be all over the map (e.g. we would have to be constantly tweaking our online valuation guesstimates)
And the condition of the machine, type of finish, originality, and the grain figuring of the veneer will be critical in determining an ultimate valuation; discerning this information requires that a qualified appraiser see the machine in person, or at minimum, view a lot of GOOD pictures. Then some serious evaluation work must take place. A common Victrola model can command a high price if it has an uncommon finish, and/or if the condition is "mint original". High-quality refinishing work can often appear to be original to the novice, and small flaws can make a great deal of difference in the overall price. In addition, what is "excellent" to one seller may be "mediocre" to another; thus, we refrain from providing a price guide on our website.
Phonograph prices have fallen significantly during the past 20 years, due to a decreasing number of collectors, changes in the economy, and a glut of machines coming available on Ebay, Craigslist and elsewhere. Rare and/or exceptionally nice machines still bring good money, but the more common phonographs have seen a marked decrease in value.
Common Victrolas that were produced in huge quantities (VV-IV, VV-VI, VV-IX, VV-XI, VV-80, VV-210, VV-215, etc.) in average attic-stored condition (crazed or worn finish, scratches, etc.) will rarely bring more than $200.00 at phonograph auctions, and usually sell for considerably less. In absolute mint original condition and operating perfectly, these machines can be worth more than triple the wholesale auction value. Retailers (e.g. antique stores) must mark-up their inventory by at least 50% (and often more) to make a profit, so the phonographs you may see on display in stores are usually priced much higher than current market valuations. They will usually sit there unsold for months or years, and are typically discounted by a large amount at the time of sale.
Most importantly, remember that an antique is worth only what someone will actually pay for it. If an EBay seller lists his 1920 Victrola VV-XI with a "Buy it Now" price of $2,000.00 , that does not mean it is actually worth $2,000.00. He may believe that it will sell for $2,000.00, but nobody else does! The VV-XI was Victor's most popular machine ever, and tens of thousands are still around. Most sell for about $150.00 in really good condition.
External horn Victor phonographs sell, on average, for considerably more than their Victrola counterparts. Nice Victors can range in price from $400.00 up to well over $6,000.00 at auction, depending on model and condition.
For buyers on the auction circuit, the assumption is that any machine coming across the block will require a rebuild of the motor and soundbox, along with a thorough clean-up of the cabinet and hardware in order to be saleable at a premium retail level. Unfortunately, very few antique dealers actually perform this kind of work, so if you pay $600.00 for an 'as-found' VV-XI at your local second-hand store, you are paying a price far above current market value. Those few sellers who do properly rebuild the motors and spend the necessary time and money to bring a phonograph up to a high level of performance and appearance must price their machines above market levels to offset their costs. But in this case, the customer can be assured that his/her phonograph will continue to look and function correctly for many years to come.
Many sellers tend to over-grade their machines when considering condition; an "Excellent" example will typically have a finish free of crazing and cracking with little or no damage, and with bright plated hardware. It will look like a piece of fine furniture. Colors of the underlid area and outside of the cabinet will match identically. The vast majority of common "attic-found" phonographs show significant wear, scrapes and dings, fading, crazing or other effects of having been stored for years in a damp basement or toasty attic. Less than 5% of surviving antique phonographs found today would be considered "excellent" by the collector community.
A machine which has been incorrectly restored will, in most cases, be saleable only as a 'parts donor', often for less than 50% of its base market value. Collectors have little use for a phonograph which has been "messed-up", even if it looks very nice to the novice. A correctly restored machine will typically sell for less than a mint unrestored example, but can still bring decent money (depending on rarity and finish). The problem is that many owners or buyers who have no experience in evaluating finishes will not usually be able to determine a correct restoration from a "shiny and gleaming" but incorrect restoration.
It is our firm position that any website,
individual or service that provides generalized "price ranges" for
particular models is doing the collector and hobby community a great
disservice. We have recently witnessed a very common
oak VV-XI bring over $800.00 on the
auction block. It was in immaculate original condition, and had spectacular
grain figuring. It was an exceptional example. Most online price guides
would provide a $200.00 'par' value for this model. Condition is everything
in this market.
Our paid appraisal evaluation process takes these types of considerations into account, along with a statistical analysis of realized public auction and EBay selling (not asking) prices.
Please refer to the APPRAISALS page for information regarding paid our appraisal services.
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