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  The Victor Talking Machine Collection
Some phonograph collectors especially those at the 'accumulator stage' will make any excuse to buy yet another phonograph.  I began accumulating Edison machines looking over my shoulder at the wide variety of Victor Talking Machines. Determined not to get caught up accumulating one of each Victor model- letters A through Z or roman numerals I through XX or arabic 1-1 through 15-1 or any of the colorful names such as Alhambra through Revere, I would always look the other way. Not me, I'm an Edison man! 

But then this absolutely beautiful Victor VI came along.  Actually, it wasn't beautiful; it was in pretty bad shape, tattered but untouched, unrestored. The shellac finish was not only gray and alligatored it must have survived a house fire because it was covered in black smoke and was so dirty that the gold-plated hardware that someone had covered with shellac long ago now looked a drab mustard.  I found this Six aka "Victor the Sixth" in an antique store in Maine.  The owner said, I just got her, she'll clean up nicely, ya interested? Not me, I'm an Edison man, I said.  He said, too bad, I got it for a song, don't have much into it and willing to sell it today.  I asked- how much?  So the dance begins.

He rattled off information that he gleaned from an old Official Price Guide to Music Collectibles.  He chose a mid-range price, bumped it up "for inflation" and fired his firm, fixed price at me.  It was so low that I wanted to blurt out, "I'll take it" but he was a little brash, so I thought he might tack on a bit more for the horn or whatever.  As part of the dance I had to counter-offer a bit lower, acting casually interested.  He smiled, a BIG smile and said, "Done, I'll take it".   He was a knowledgeable antiques dealer; we were both happy with the deal of a lifetime. 
I got it for a song!

                 Victor Outside Horn Machines

Victor VI early model

Robert W. Baumbach's book Look for the Dog, an Illustrated Guide to Victor Talking Machines describes the Victor VI "to be the finest talking machine the company could make and when introduced was their top-of-the-line instrument. The cabinet was fashioned out of solid mahogany a more expensive and luxurious wood than oak at the time.  All exposed hardware was gold-plated (the first on a Victor machine), even the normally hidden motor parts were nickel-plated".   I think many phonograph collectors that focus on Victor Talking Machines would agree the Victor VI is the finest of the Victors. Except for the rare compressed-air Victor Auxetophone that is outside the physical and financial reach of most collectors, my pick for the very best is the Victor VI.
Victor Talking Machines VI
Robert Baumbach's more recent the Victor Data Book has a treasure trove of additional information about Victor Talking Machines and provides more details about the later Victor VI configuration.  As I have both versions of the "Victor the Sixth" I was eager to learn more.  To differentiate the two, I use the terms "early model" and "later model", not used by VTMC.  Both machines have gold plated hardware, 12" nickeled turntable, round-style speed regulator, bullet-brake,  mahogany wood horns.  The earlier model has an arabic number 6 on the ID data plate while the later model has a Roman numeral IV.

                   Comparing two Victor VI Machines
Compare VI Early Model Later Model Comment
Serial Number: "6"       4754 "VI"        7052 Arabic/Roman No.
Width 15" 15" size chg Oct. 1906
Depth 15" 15" gold plate hdwr.
Height 8" 7 25/32" to top of cabinet
Date first shipped Nov. 1904 Oct. 1906  
Nickeled Motor yes no Triple Spring Motor
Drive Gear Bevel Drive Spiral/Double Cut  
Crank/Key pins/slotted indirect/female for external crank
22" Diam. Horn Music Master Spearpoint original/repro
Exh. Sound Box Victor No. 11 Victor No. 12 nickel/gold

Insert Photo

Victor VI later model
Victor VI commentary

Victor I
Victor Talking Machines Model IThe Victor I or "Victor the First" introduced in 1902 was the first and smallest of the family of six Victor Talking Machines that helped spur the early, fast, sustained growth of VTMC. The original list price was $22 for this light oak cabinet having dimensions of 12" wide, 12" deep and 5⅞" high.  The popular interchangeable, rigid tapering tone arm used on this VTM family make it easy to attach a variety of horns and orient the horn for best sound.  The original 8" turntable was upgraded to a 10" size in 1910.  Serial No. 30087 

Victor II
Insert Photo
The "Victor the Second" introduced in 1903 had a list price of $30 for a slightly larger golden quarter-sawn oak cabinet with dimensions of 13⅝" wide 13⅝" deep and 6" high. It has an optional 8" or 10" cast iron or pressed steel turntable. Configurations included single and double spring motors, and Bevel or Spiral Double cut drive/gears. The horn on this particular machine is an "H" black and brass with a 13"diameter bell.                                            Serial No. 31347.

Victor III
Victor Talking Machines Model IIIThe "Victor the Third" represented a major upgrade over the Victor I & II with a more powerful double spring motor capable of playing 5 ten inch records per winding, on its standard 10" turntable.  The original $40 list price was appealing to those wanting a larger cabinet, dimensions 14⅛" wide by 14⅛" deep and 75/16  high.  This larger cabinet and large oak horn combination is a nice balance.  The horn was hand crafted by Don Gfell and although not original, its virtually impossible to see the difference.  I believe Don's quality and workmanship exceeds the original.                                                          Serial No. 38549.

             Victrola Inside Horn Machines

Victrola IV 
By 1902 Victor's primary competitor was Columbia who had a low-price advantage over Victor's outside horn machines and through a series of acquisitions and agreements they had exclusive rights to the lateral-cut record market in the United States.  Eldridge Johnson wanted to establish Victor Talking Machine's reputation as the company with the highest quality home phonograph available; so VTMC's prices were much higher than Columbia who was emerging as a tough competitor selling large cabinet floor models.

In 1907, by eliminating the large external horn and introducing a new internal (hidden) horn that was designed into the basic cabinet, Victor reduced its manufacturing costs and solved a home-decor problem.  In spite of some dealers' concerns that the sound quality was inferior to the larger external horn machines, there were many comments from wives who preferred the smaller table top space and one less chore, dusting those large external horns.  Perhaps this is why Sony and Bose's tiny cube speakers are making a strong play into today's high performance surround sound systems.   Going forward all members of this family of internal horn machines would have the suffix "ola" indicating an internal horn. 
It wasn't until 1909 when Victor introduced its Victrola XII then premium priced at an astounding $125 that Johnson made his intentions clear to enter a new undefined market.  Then the following year in a move that would help them quickly dominate this new market, VTMC introduced a family of lower-priced (still expensive) table-top phonographs- the Victor IV through IX. 

The "Victrola the Fourth" introduced in September 1911 (note- higher numbers were introduced earlier) was VTMC's response to Columbia's new low cost lateral cut phonographs. Priced at only $15, it was particularly appealing in the dealer's showroom when placed next to VTMC's recently introduced Victrola XI and XII priced at $125-135.  Needless to say, the IV was an immediate best-seller.

Commentary:  This particular Victrola IV has a 'factory-dull' golden oak finish, a single-spring motor, nickel-plated 10" turntable and Exhibition sound box. Dimensions are 155/16" wide by 16⅜" deep and 819/32" high.   The only restoration work was to clean and lubricate the motor, rebuild the Exhibition sound box, buff the nickel plated the tone arm and edge of the turntable removing rust and oxidation and clean all other parts with Furniture Masque.

Victrola VI 
Most collectors tell an interesting story about acquiring his/her first phonograph.  Mine is not that unusual.  It's not some high value machine that has been passed down through the generations, rather it is a relatively non-descript Victrola acquired by my Dad or perhaps his Dad.  But it played a very important role in my family.  My grandfather, a very bright guy with a great sense of humor enjoyed amusing his grandchildren with tales of long ago, describing interesting people and things.  'The old Victrola' tucked away in the cellar was used as a prop in tales about pirate ships, buried treasure, time and travel machines and most important Barney Google.  If you don't know Barney Google, then Google "Barney Google".

The Victrola VI, not be confused with Victor VI was VTMC's most popular phonograph produced.  During its product life through 1926, more than 697,400 were sold.  That enough for every man, woman and child in San Francisco, CA today.  There were twelve basic versions of this high quality, highly reliable, first  introduced on May 15, 1911.  Dimensions are 15 5/16" wide by 16⅜" deep and 8⅛ high.

Commentary: This particular machine was manufactured some time after 1918 because mahogany cabinets were introduced that year, previously the only cabinet wood options was golden oak.  The only restoration work was to clean and lubricate the motor, rebuild the Exhibition sound box, buff the nickel plated the tone arm and edge of the turntable removing rust and oxidation touch up the mahogany finish blending scratches and then clean all other parts with Furniture Masque.

Victrola IX
I've never met an experienced phonograph collector in the USA who hasn't owned at least one Victrola VIII or IX.  C'mon fess up, did/do you have one of these?  The IX was introduced in May 1911 to augment the expensive Tenth.  Stripped of many of the extra-cost features of its more expensive brethren,  the plain IX could be ordered in red mahogany or golden oak.  There was a wide variety of IX machines differentiated by Types A through M indicating the variety of motors options, springs, tone arms and minor differences in dimensions.  These phonographs were configured with the popular #11 nickled Exhibition sound box; some had Vtla #2 sound boxes in the later years. 

Commentary: Using Robert Baumbach's Victor Data Book and Look for the Dog to it was easy to identify and research each of these VTMC phonographs.  It gives enough detail to accurately identify each machine.  For example, this particular machine a Victrola VIII-A Type D was manufactured sometime between its first shipment date of May 21, 1922 to its discontinued date of April 29, 1924 from a "letter to the trade" from VTMC.  The cabinet dimensions shown in the book align with my measurements at 15" wide by 19" deep and 13⅛" high.  The lowest serial number in the range is 148800, the high-end is not specified but my machine's serial number is 170528, consistent with the production volume given.  This machine is noticeably quiet when the cover is closed, also  because it has quadruple cut gears and spindles which gives a smoother contact pattern as the gears and teeth engage and disengage.  It also has the later Victrola No. 2 sound box, better sound than the Exhibition #11.

The Victor Credenza was introduced in 1925 in time for the Christmas Season the best seasonal quarter for the phonograph industry.  More to come......

The Victor Auxetophone was designed by English steam turbine inventor Sir Charles Algernon Parsons. It 's interesting that none of his biographers devote much time to Parsons' auxetophone invention except to describe this "diabolical invention" as one of his least successful.  The Auxetophone uses compressed air supplied by an electric motor to amplify sound. According to Robert W. Baumbach's book Look for the Dog and Illustrated Guide to Victor Talking Machines only 850 of these most unusual talking machines were produced.  There is still a real possibility that one can be found tucked away in some dark corner of a cellar, attic, barn, warehouse or wherever.   I hope to get permission from Robert Baumbach and the publisher of Look for the Dog to include a photo of the Auxetophone on this web page.

I don't have an Auxetophone, but I'm looking for one! 
Please contact me if you find an Auxetophone. 

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Boston, MA  USA