Section One: Victor Products
Victor, Victrola, Electrola and Orthophonic, are the brand names for phonographs made by the Victor Talking Machine of Camden, New Jersey during the period 1901 through 1929. Victor was an independent company during that time, 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 "Victrola" products that were made by RCA all the way into the 1970's. RCA products are not covered on this website. Please don't email me asking about your 1936 (or 1958) Radio-Phono Combination "Victrola", because I have no data on any RCA-Victor products.
All Victor products are clearly marked in several places with the "Victor Talking Machine" identification and dog/phonograph logo. If you can't find these identifiers on your phonograph, it is not a Victor product! There is usually a metal dataplate near the turntable (or under it) that 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. It will also have the Victor dog logo someplace (top right). 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!
Unfortunately, there are dishonest sellers and collectors all over the world who misrepresent phonographs in numerous ways; since the demand for Victor phonographs is quite high for certain models, there is often a financial incentive to create a "fake". One scheme is to put a "VICTOR" identification plate on a cheap off-brand machine, and another common fraud is to make a "Frankenphone" by piecing-together bits and parts from all kinds of sources. In both cases, they are usually passed-off as valuable legitimate antiques. New reproduction components are still being made in China and India, and are frequently seen on Ebay and elsewhere. The typical cheesy quality of the metal parts and glassy smooth pine wood cabinets are dead giveaways. These replicas have no collector value whatsoever. A few of the indicators of a "phoney phonograph" are seen in the images below.
If your phonograph is a Victor Talking Machine Co. product, it will say "Victor Talking Machine Company" somewhere...and it won't say RCA Victor anywhere!
If you want information on other brands, I suggest that you search the links on the Websites of The Antique Phonograph Society or the The Canadian Antique Phonograph Society (CAPS). These organizations have many outstanding collectors who specialize in different brands of phonographs.
Various emblems/decals/signs may also appear on your Victor product (examples below). These were placed on the phonograph by the selling dealer, and were simply added for advertising purposes. Even other companies like Wurlitzer sold Victor machines, so these logos may also appear. They do not add value to your machine, nor are they very significant, except to identify where it was originally sold. A listing of some of the Victor Dealers across the country appears here.
A few of the dealer decals/plates typcially installed on Victor products.
THESE ARE VICTOR PHONOGRAPHS!!
EXTERNAL HORN VICTOR. If your Victor-labeled phonograph has an outside horn like the one below, it is called an "External Horn Victor" (or just "Victor"). These external horn machines are desirable collector items, and usually date from around 1900 up to the early 1920's. There were many other makers of external horn phonographs (Columbia, Edison, etc.), and I have no information on any other brands. 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-brand phonograph has the horn inside the cabinet, typically with small doors that open and close in front of the horn opening (as shown below), 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. Victrolas that were powered by electric motors instead of wind-up springs, were called Electrolas.
ORTHOPHONIC or ELECTROLA. By the mid-1920's, Victor updated its product line, which now included electronic amplification, radios, automatic record changers, etc., as well as an advanced line of acoustic wind-up models. Some of these phonographs were installed in very large decorative cabinets, and were quite expensive at the time. These were typically called Orthophonic Victrolas, while the electric versions were called Electrolas.
Just as a reminder, before we go forward....