THE EXPLOITATION OF ELVIS PRESLEY began in 1956. Elvis Presley Enterprises was established to authorize the manufacturing of novelty items about “the most talked about new personality in the last ten years of recorded music” to be sold to fans. RCA Victor also capitalized on their singer’s popularity by manufacturing a pair of Elvis Presley phonographs.
According to the article “Presley Juggernaut Rolls – Merchandising Campaign Expected To Top $20 Mil Sales by Year End” in the September 29, 1956, issue of Billboard:
“Merchandising campaign [for Elvis Presley is] expected to eclipse sales of $20,000,000 worth of goods before the end of the year, and which it is hoped will pale by comparison such staunch competitors as Mickey Mouse, Hopalong Cassidy, and Davy Crockett is currently gathering steam behind the music industry’s most controversial and, at present, its most successful figure, Elvis Presley.”
The article above states that “Eighteen licensees are currently producing a variety of approximately thirty products, all in the Elvis Presley motif and all bearing either his name or likeness.”
The two Elvis Presley Autograph Victrola phonographs from 1956 are among the most difficult of Elvis collectibles to find in any condition!
The merchandise listed included clothing and accessories, jewelry and trinkets, a guitar, a doll, and a glow-in-the-dark picture of Elvis whose image lasts for two hours after the lights have been turned off!
But the article here is not about all that stuff! It’s about what RCA Victor did to further capitalize on their singer: a pair of Elvis Presley phonographs.
This full-page ad in the November 17, 1956, issue of Billboard assured retailers that the new line of Elvis Presley autograph Victrolas would “rock the industry” and “roll up new profits”!
Elvis Presley Phonographs
RCA Victor manufactured two special Elvis Presley Autograph “Victrola” portable phonographs. One was a 4-speed player while the other only played at 45 rpm. Both went on sale in November 1956, just in time for the Christmas season.
Each player featured a facsimile of Elvis Presley’s “autograph” in molded plastic on the top of the case.
Elvis Presley 4-Speed Victrola
The Elvis Presley Autograph 4-Speed Victrola portable phonograph (model 7-EP-2, pictured above) could play three sizes of records: 7, 10, and 12 inches. It could play those records at four speeds: 16, 33, 45, and 78 rpm. The closed phonograph measures 11 x 13 x 6 inches.
Each player had a gold sticker with the model and serial number affixed to it and came with a custom owner’s manual. It carried a suggested retail price of $32.95.
With the purchase of each Elvis Presley Autograph 4-Speed Victrola, dealers were instructed to give the buyer a free record—a two-record EP album titled ELVIS PRESLEY (RCA Victor SPD-22).
Elvis Presley Automatic 45 Victrola
The Elvis Presley Autograph Automatic 45 Victrola portable phonograph (model 7-EP-45, pictured above) could only play 7-inch records at 45 rpm. It had a large spindle that allowed the stacking of multiple records, which automatically dropped the new record after the record on the turntable finished playing.
Each player had a gold sticker with the model and serial number affixed to it and came with a custom owner’s manual. It carried a suggested retail price of $44.95.
With the purchase of each Elvis Presley Autograph Automatic 45 Victrola, dealers were instructed to give the buyer a free bonus record—three-record EP album titled ELVIS PRESLEY (RCA Victor SPD-23).
This is the owner’s manual for the 45 rpm-only record player, here listed as the Elvis Presley Autograph Automatic 45 “Victrola” Portable Phonograph.
The Avid Record Collector’s Price Guide
Trying to assign a realistic “current market value” in 2022 is difficult as few are offered for sale in any condition. I did find a few “recent” sales for both models:
• A model 7-EP-2 described in “very good condition” sold for $1,625 in 2013 and included a VG/NM copy of the SPD-22 bonus album. Another one, described as in merely “good condition with some yellowing and considerable wear” sold for only $149 in 2019.
• A model 7-EP-45 without a description but with photos that make the player look to be in Very Good or better condition sold for $1,299 in 2006. Another one, described as being in “exceptional condition overall” sold for $1,600 in 2016. This one was auctioned by Graceland.
Should someone find either one of these models in very good condition without any damage, they could probably sell it for $500-1,000—even if it doesn’t play! But if someone found one in an attic, sitting in an old trunk surrounded by sheets and clothes and mothballs, in “like new” condition, they could ask for thousands of dollars and probably finds several buyers.
These are the two EP albums that were supposed to be given away with the purchase of the Elvis Presley Autograph phonograph models in late 1956 and early ’57. SPD-22 was supposed to go with model 7-EP-2 while SPD-23 was to go with model 7-EP-45.
For more information on and more photographs of these record players, visit “The RCA Portable Elvis Presley Phonographs (1956)” on the Elvis – Echoes Of The Past website. This article also includes information and photos of the owner’s manuals and even a British model!
RCA pressed up a small number of one-sided radio spots titled RCA Radio Victrola Division Spots (GM-9E-0401) to promote their Victrolas. Two of the four tracks on this record feature Elvis talking about the Elvis Presley Autograph Victrolas. For more information on this rather rare record refer to the Elvis Records website.
Apparently, unauthorized reproductions of one or both of these players exist. Their existence is probably a crime. The best way to tell a fake from a real one is, unfortunately, to have a real one to compare it with.
Also, original, authentic players may be refurbished but not advertised as such. This is also a crime—it’s called fraud.
FEATURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page is the Elvis Presley Automatic 45 Victrola portable phonograph (model 7-EP-45). Note the Elvis Presley “autograph” on the top of the front section.