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Victor P Series

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The Victor P Models (P stands for "Premium") were very basic phonographs intended to be given away as a bonus gift for sellers of magazine subscriptions, sheet music, or a or other items. In the early years of the 20th Century, the term "premium" did not have the connotation most used today, but rather was "a consideration or compensation paid for completion of a contract" (per the 1904 version of Webster's Dictionary). Therefore, distributors of various products could purchase a large quantity of P-series machines directly from Victor at minimal cost (probably about $1.50 each in large quantities). The distributors could then offer them as "motivators" for their salespeople if they sold, for example, 10 periodical subscriptions or 20 ironing boards. Since these phonographs were basically give-away items, they had to be very inexpensive to manufacture; therefore the P models used the most basic design possible, with a small single spring motor, a simple stamped steel horn and a very plain oak cabinet. At least 4 variations of this P-series are known, designed as P, P-1, P-2, or P-3. These were all produced between 1902 and 1907; by that time, the design of these machines was rapidly becoming obsolete, and would consequently garner less interest as a promotion gift. In addition, manufacturing costs were rising, and the cost of the P became unreasonable for a give-away item.
Accurately dating these machines is a challenging process. The first "P" machines were certainly introduced in 1902, and the "P-3" phonographs were manufactured at the end of the production run during 1906-1907.  Differences between these incremental design variations can be significant and involved modifications to the cabinet or hardware; two different configurations are shown on this page. Cabinets and horns decreased in size and quality over time, presumably because Victor was working to minimize production costs.  It is unknown how many P-series were produced, since factory records do not include this model, but it appears Victor made quite a few of them during this 4-year period.
 To further complicated matters, the disasterous factory fire of 1904, which destroyed much of the factory inventory and record-keeping systems, certainly created a great deal of discountinuity in their production processes. Based on serial numbers of surviving examples, it the following production estimates seem likely:

Model Production Estimate
P 20,000
P-1 25,000
P-2 6,000
P-3 6,000

At present, there is not a good correlation between serial numbers and production dates for this model. Given that the "low-end" phonographs such as the Victor P, Victor Jr. or Victor 0 were considered to be nothing more than toys when new and were not very durable, most were trashed when they became obsolete or worn-out; as a result, not many have survived, and collector interest for these models remains moderately high. Survival rates for Victor P machines are far lower than for the higher-quality models, such as the Victor II or Victor III.


The current survival database shows the earliest existent Victor P to be S/N 619 and the latest Victor P-3 to be S/N 5903.    

Do you own a Victor P? Please take a moment and enter some basic information about your machine into the collector's database by clicking here. No personal information is required.

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