Phonographs and record players have been around since the 19th century, but when Victor Talking Machine Company (Victrola) introduced their model in 1906, they became widely popular. Before these record players, listening to music was a special treat. Listening to music was expensive, but with Victrola’s ability to play records without a wind-up device, the public had access to music at a fraction of the cost.
The Victor Talking Machine Company soon became the preeminent brand of record players, and their acoustic machines, known as Victrolas, soon found their way inside every American home. It was the kind of item that everyone wanted because of its sound quality, sleek design, and affordability.
We’re seeing a resurgence of vinyl and record players in the music world. The reasons are many — from the warmth of the sound to their physicality and aesthetic value — and they all make collectors and enthusiasts search for antique Victrolas.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about Victrola record players. Their history, what makes them valuable, and how to determine their true worth.
The History of Victrola Record Players
Before getting into Victrola machines, let’s first learn about the history of the phonograph. Mister Thomas Edison himself invented the first phonograph in 1877. The early models had a wax cylinder and were known as Edison Phonographs. Less than 30 years later, in 1906, the Victor Talking Machine Company produced the first Victrola, an acoustic machine that could play records without requiring a wind-up device.
Editor’s note: Do not confuse Victrola record players with the audio equipment company Victrola.
Victrolas had a wooden cabinet that included an arm for playing records and a spring-driven motor that would wind up when the user raised its arm, allowing users to start playing music without having to wind up the device manually.
These machines spread around and soon found their way into every home across America. They functioned as a furniture and entertainment center with their distinctive sound quality, design, and affordability.
Victrola record players are a part of American pop history, as popular movies, TV shows, and plays feature them. Their popularity is still strong today, even though the Victor Talking Machine Company ceased to exist in 1929 as the Radio Corporation of America bought it.
Evaluating a Victrola Record Player
While fully knowing the value of a Victrola record player takes a professional appraiser, you still need to familiarize yourself with the basics to figure out whether:
- A piece is genuine — Luckily, there aren’t many fakes in the antique Victrola market, as fakers gravitate towards items with a higher value that are also easier to make copies of, like coins.
- You are not getting overcharged — Being able to give a ballpark estimate of the value of a Victrola record player allows you to spot deals and not overpay for a machine.
Thus, here are the primary factors to consider when evaluating a Victrola record player’s value:
- Condition — Condition is the most crucial factor regarding the value of a Victrola record player. The closer the new player looks, the higher the value. That’s the main factor, but you must also look for cracks and scratches. Another significant factor to consider is the sound quality, as a player in poor condition may not be able to produce clear audio.
- Accessories: Some Victrola record players come with accessories like a horn or bench. These add to the player’s value and should be considered when determining its value.
- Brand and model — Victor Talking Machine Company is the most sought-after brand of Victrola record players, so pieces from this company will have a higher value than others. Other popular brands are Columbia, Berliner Gramophone, and Edison.
- Age: The age of a Victrola record player is another factor to consider when evaluating its value. The older the piece, the more valuable it will be, but you must also keep in mind that a restoration may affect its originality and thus reduce its value.
- Market demand — The market demand for a particular Victrola record player will be a factor in determining its value. Pieces that are rare, unique, and highly sought after can fetch higher prices regardless of their condition.
Let’s now see the value of a Victrola record players.
The Value of Antique Victrola Record Players
Now that you know how to give a ballpark estimate of a Victrola record player’s value, let’s delve into the actual market prices of these machines.
Victrolas are unique pieces of furniture, collecting dust in attics and old barns all over the country. Many people are unaware of the value of these pieces, so cheer up when you find one at a garage sale for cheap.
Speaking of garage sales, there are three main avenues for buying a Victrola record player: online auctions, antique stores, and malls, or private sellers. Garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores are other options, but these rarely offer authentic Victrolas.
When shopping online, pay close attention to shipping prices. Victrola record players are bulky and need extra care during shipping, which increases costs by quite a bit.
Let’s now see the most valuable antique Victrola record players.
Editor’s note: Our list will include both items on sale and items that sold at past auctions.
Low End Victrola Record Players – Up to $250
These are entry-level Victrola machines. Most of them are in poor working conditions and need restoration. When they work, the sound quality is usually low. Still, they keep the original charm of these pieces and can be a great way to start a collection.
- This ANTIQUE ~1924 Victor Victrola Phonograph Record Player sold for $102.50
- This Antique Victrola Wind-up Record Player (Model VV-XIV) sells for $150
- This Antique Portable RCA Victrola Crank Suitcase Record Player woodgrain golden case sold for $159.15
- This Antique Victrola Wind-up Record Player (Model VV-XI) sells for $224.99
- This Antique Victrola Victor Talking Machine VV-4-40 Phonograph Record Player sells for $249.97
As you can see, these are still fascinating pieces, despite their apparent flaws and wear. They are great if you’re a beginner collector or want a stylish piece of furniture. You can do restoration work or pay someone to make these record players return to their former glory.
Low-Mid End Victrola Record Players – $250 – $500
We’re now getting into the territory of record players that mostly work fine, but that still exhibit heavy wear and tear. The players in this category still need light restoration work, but the sound quality is generally decent.
- This Victrola Antique Upright Talking Machine VV 4-3 Victor Turntable Record Player sells for $275
- This RARE Antique RCA Victor Victrola VV-IV Oak Phonograph Table Top Record Player sold for $305
- This Victor Victrola 1916 Record Player sells for $399
- Ths Victor Victrola Antique VV-50 Tiger Oak Portable Phonograph Record Player Works sold for $449.99
- This Vtg Antique Excel Wind Up Record Player Grafanola Victrola Talking Machine sold for $499.99
At this point, you can find some really beautiful machines. The wear and tear is still visible, but the sound quality will be excellent and the furniture style impressive.
Mid-High End Victrola Record Players – $500 – $1,000
Now we’re getting into the realm of working conditions machines with pristine furniture style. Here is where the value for money is highest. The machines in this category work almost perfectly and look gorgeous. You will find minor imperfections here and there, but nothing that can’t be fixed with light work.
- This Vintage Victor Victrola Record Player Made In Camden, NJ USA Feb 1927 Model VV47 sells for $550
- This Antique Vintage Victrola Record Player 1906 sold for $650
- This Antique RCA Victor Console Victola Record Player & Records 1915 Made in NJ USA sold for $750
- This Antique 1900’s Victor Victrola Talking Phonograph sells for $800
- This Victor Mahogany Antique Victrola Record Player Phonograph VV-XVI #35786 sold for $975
If you have the money, go for one of these. They offer the best balance between build and sound quality, and price. You will not be disappointed by any of these machines.
High End Victrola Record Players – $1,000+
We’re entering the realm of rare and unique machines. These record players are extremely scarce because of their perfect conditions. You can expect to find uique furniture designs, pristine working conditions, and stellar sound quality.
- This Victrola VV-X Floor-Model Phonograph by The Victrola Talking Machine Co. sells for $1,125
- This Antique Starr victrola record player Music Record Cabinet Rare Vintage sells for $1,295
- This Antique HANDEL Victrola Phonograph sells for $1,400
- This Vintage 1918 Antique Victor Victrola Talking Machine Oak VV-XI-A Phonograph sells for $1,600
- This Antique Victorian Victrola VV-300 Phonograph Talking Machine Record Player 27551 sold for $1,633
- This Near-perfect condition antique standing Victrola record player sells for $1,800
There you have it, the best of the best. These are the kinds of antiques that you’ll find in museums or at high-end auctions. They will fetch a hefty price, but they will maintain their value for generations to come.
Especially if you take proper care of them.
Caring for Your Victrola Record Player
There are two main factors to consider when caring for a Victrola record player: its aesthetic value as a furniture piece and its sound quality as a record player.
You will need to regularly dust and oil the furniture to prevent oxidation and rust. Make sure to use a suitable wax or polish for your record player’s type of wood.
When it comes to sound quality, periodically check for worn-out parts and replace them if necessary.
Here are the steps you should follow if you want to take care of your Victrola record player properly:
- Clean the records regularly: Dust and dirt can wear down the grooves of your records, so make sure to clean them carefully with a cloth.
- Lubricate the moving parts: Oil any moving parts regularly to ensure they don’t suffer premature wear and tear.
- Check the electrical components: Check wiring and cords for signs of damage or fraying. If anything looks wrong, replace it.
- Test the sound quality: Regularly test your Victrola record player and adjust as needed.
- Use a protective cover: Use a dust cover to protect the furniture from dust and dirt.
- Service the turntable: Get a professional to service it periodically to keep it in top condition.
- Store the record player in an appropriate place: Make sure to keep your Victrola record player in a dry, cool place with minimal vibrations.
Following these steps ensures that your antique Victrola record player is well taken care of, and will remain in perfect condition for many years to come. Who knows, maybe in a few decades your Victrola record player will be worth even more money.
The comeback of vinyl and vintage record players has made antique Victrolas a hot commodity. They followed the typical trajectory of most collectibles. It all started as a staple household item for entertainment purposes. Then, technological progress made Victrola machines obsolete, so most people moved on to CDs and digital music. But now, vinyl record players are making a comeback.
This comeback is what catapulted the antique Victrola market. Enthusiast collectors and music aficionados alike have been looking for these machines and are willing to pay high prices for them. And even if you’re not into collecting, you can still appreciate these classic record players’ craftsmanship and sound quality.
There is a Victrola record player for all pockets out there. Your budget will be the determining factor when searching for a vintage Victrola. Thankfully, many affordable options will still give you these iconic machines’ antique feel and sound.
If you feel comfortable with DIY, you can buy a vintage Victrola and restore it yourself. It’ll make for a fun and challenging project with great satisfaction. Otherwise, you can also buy a fully restored Victrola at a much higher price. Either way, carefully inspect the machine before committing to any purchase and follow our care tips for long-term preservation.
Good luck with your search!