Beautifully engraved RARE specimen certificate from the Victor Talking Machine Company
printed in 1927. This historic document was printed by the American Banknote Company and has an
ornate border around it with a vignette of Nipper the Dog looking at Horn Phonograph. This item has the printed signatures of the Company’s President and Secretary.
The Victor Talking Machine Company (1901–1929) was an American corporation, the leading American producer of phonographs and phonograph records and one of the leading phonograph companies in the world at the time. It was headquartered in Camden, New Jersey.
The company was founded by Eldridge R. Johnson, who had previously made phonographs to play Emile Berliner's Berliner Gramophone records. Some sources also claim Berliner as a co-founder; others say Berliner was never connected with the Victor company, though that may have been part of a ruse by Johnson to defeat the Zonophone lawsuits that had put Berliner Gramophone out of business (in the U.S., but not in Canada, the UK, or Germany) and threatened Johnson's phonograph business. (Zonophone had used patent ruses to defeat Berliner, the inventor of disc records, whose technology Zonophone had copied.) In any event, Victor ultimately acquired the remaining assets of Berliner Gramophone; it also acquired Zonophone after defeating it in court.
There is some controversy as to how the name came about. Fred Barnum gives various possible origins of the "Victor" name; in "'His Master's Voice' In America", he writes, "One story claims that Johnson considered his first improved Gramophone to be both a scientific and business 'victory.' A second account is that Johnson emerged as the 'Victor' from the lengthy and costly patent litigations involving Berliner and Frank Seaman's Zonophone. A third story is that Johnson's partner, Leon Douglass, derived the word from his wife's name 'Victoria.' Finally, a fourth story is that Johnson took the name from the popular 'Victor' bicycle, which he had admired for its superior engineering. Of these four accounts the first two are the most generally accepted."
Victor had the rights in the United States and Latin America to use the famous trademark of the fox terrier Nipper listening to a Berliner Gramophone. (See also His Master's Voice.) The original painting was by Francis Barraud in 1893, as a memorial to his deceased brother, a London photographer, who willed him his estate including his DC-powered Edison-Bell cylinder Phonograph with a case of cylinders—some home-recorded—and his dog Nipper. Barraud noticed that whenever he played a cylinder recorded by his brother, the little dog would run to the horn, cock his ear and listen intently. Barraud's original depicts Nipper staring intently into the horn of an Edison-Bell while both sit on polished wooden surface. There is some controversy amongst historians as to whether this surface is the top of a table or the lid of the deceased master's coffin. This dispute originated long after Barraud's death and he made no comment during his life as to what the polished wooden surface is supposed to depict, if it depicts anything other than an artistic device for fixing Nipper and the Phonograph in space.
After several years the painting was still unsold. Since the horn on the Edison-Bell in the painting was black, a friend of Barraud's suggested that he might paint one of the bright brass-belled horns on display in the window at the new Berliner Gramophone shop on Maiden Lane. The London branch was managed by an American, William Barry Owen. Barraud paid a visit to the branch with a photograph of the painting and asked to borrow a horn. Owen gave Barraud a Berliner Gramophone and asked that he paint it into the picture and then he would purchase the painting. The original painting shows the contours of the Edison-Bell Phonograph beneath the paint of the Gramophone when viewed in the correct light.
The "His Master's Voice" logo as rendered in immense circular leaded-glass panels remains in the 1915 factory building tower, now converted to apartments.
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About Specimen Certificates
Specimen Certificates are actual certificates that have never been issued. They were usually kept by the printers in their permanent archives as their only example of a particular certificate. Sometimes you will see a hand stamp on the certificate that says "Do not remove from file".
Specimens were also used to show prospective clients different types of certificate designs that were available. Specimen certificates are usually much scarcer than issued certificates. In fact, many times they are the only way to get a certificate for a particular company because the issued certificates were redeemed and destroyed. In a few instances, Specimen certificates were made for a company but were never used because a different design was chosen by the company.
These certificates are normally stamped "Specimen" or they have small holes spelling the word specimen. Most of the time they don't have a serial number, or they have a serial number of 00000. This is an exciting sector of the hobby that has grown in popularity over the past several years.