Didn't they also have circuit breakers in them that would pop in this certain condition?A modern instrument has built-in overvoltage protection and is insensentive to applied polarity. It just gives the reading and wheather it was positive or negative with respect to the common kead.
When you say VOM, I think of Simpson 260. It had P-poor overvoltage and you just watched the needle bounce off the left stop when testing the wrong polarity.
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by Luke James