the highly collectible elvis presley phonographs of 1956

Es­ti­mated reading time is 5 min­utes.

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.

 

Elvis Presley Phonographs: full page ad for Elvis Presley Autograph Victrolas from 1956.

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 Phonographs: Elvis Presley 4-Speed Victrola from 1956.

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.

Bonus record

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 Phonographs: Elvis Presley Automatic 45 Victrola from 1956.

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.

Bonus record

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).

 

Elvis Presley Phonographs: owner's amnual for Elvis Presley Automatic 45 Victrola from 1956.

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.

 

Elvis Presley Phonographs: ELVIS PRESLEY two-record EP album (RCA Victor SPD-22) from 1956.

Elvis Presley Phonographs: ELVIS PRESLEY three-record EP album (RCA Victor SPD-23) from 1956.

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.

Miscellany

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.

Buyer beware

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.

The two Elvis Presley Au­to­graph Vic­trola phono­graphs in­tro­duced by RCA Victor in 1956 are among the most dif­fi­cult of Elvis col­lectibles to find in any con­di­tion! Click To Tweet

Elvis Presley Phonographs: Elvis Presley Autograph Automatic 45 Phonograph from 1956.

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.

 


 

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