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Victor III

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The Victor III was a very popular mid-range external horn phonograph in Victor's early product lineup.  It was introduced in 1903 at the time when Victor began using Roman numeral designations for their machines, eventually replacing the confusing and overlapping letter designations for different models. Interestingly, the "Victor III" name was used in advertising even before machines stamped with "Victor III" identification were actually being produced. The intent of this renaming was to offer Victor M models with the new optional Tapered Arm design, and to call these machines the "Victor III".  So initially the "M" and "III" were virtual clones except for the installation of different tonearms, and all were tagged as "M".  Eventually, machines stamped with "Victor III" identification began appearing (all with tapered-arms), and during the late 1903 through 1904 period, both models were coming off the assembly line. By 1905, the tapered arm design became standard across the entire product line, and the Victor M was discontinued, leaving the Victor III as the only model in the middle price range.

The Victor III offered a lot of value for the money. It featured an 10-inch turntable and a powerful double-spring motor with an oak cabinet and Tapered Arm configuration. It also had a much more substantial cabinet and a larger standard horn than the Victor I and II models. It sold new for $40.00, which equates to approximately $1,400.00 in today's money. A stamped steel and brass horn was standard along with an Exhibition Soundbox.  Buyers could also opt for a black painted "flower" horn (left) or several different variations of wood horns for a few dollars more. The cabinet was enlarged and upgraded in 1906, and several improvements in the motor and controls were made in the following years. The picture at left shows a post-1906 version with the optional flower horn.

It should be noted that there was a great deal of "design overlap" between the late versions of the Victor M and the early Victor III models, many of which shared identical components. One can readily find Victor M machines with a tapered arm, as well as nearly identical Victor III models from the same time period. This is likely due to the fact that the factory was churning-out these machines (and using-up available parts) without much regard for product continuity or model positioning at a time when demand for phonographs was growing at a frenzied pace. In addition, the huge factory fire of April 1904 may have destroyed past production files as well as machine cabinets, components and serial number tags. It was then likely that the plant started piecing-together whatever components they could find when production got back into operation, with any serial number sequence they chose.
Total production output for the Victor III is unknown, but based on serial numbers of surviving examples, at least 125,000 units were made until it was discontinued in the early 1920's. By that time, the vast majority of Victor III's were being shipped to foreign markets.

There is not a good correlation between serial number and production dates for this model. Serial numbers were reset back to "1" (or "501") several times during production, making accurate dating of these models very difficult, since the same serial numbers would have reappeared in off the assembly line after the serialization sequence was reset. The factory fire also contributed to this confusion, and certainly muddled product configurations and continuity; therefore the process of determining accurate estimates becomes very challenging today.

The following guidelines provide some idea of the manufacture date of this model, however this information is not certain:
 - The earliest Victor III models are stamped "Type V.3" and have no suffix letter after the serial number. These were likely made between 1903 and 1905.
-  The next sequential group in production were stamped "Type Vic III", and the serial numbers were reset back to "1". These were likely produced between 1906 and 1909, although the exact date range is uncertain. A cabinet upgrade took place around 1906. Machines produced after 1908 were denoted as "Style Vic III".

-  Machines produced after 1909, will have a suffix letter after the serial number as denoted in the chart below. Serial numbers were reset again around this time. 
-  Subsequent (post 1913) models were stamped "Style V-III" . These also have a suffix letter after the serial number per the chart below:

Suffix Letter Probable date of production
A 1909-1913
B 1913-1917
C 1917-1918
D 1918-1922
E 1922 onward


The current survival database shows the earliest existent Victor III to be S/N 28 and the latest to be S/N 89686. (Be aware that serial numbers were reset at least twice during the production run)

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