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View Full Version : 1950s Martin Tenor Ukulele -- $1400 . . . good value??



toque
12-21-2014, 01:52 PM
I have my eye on a 1950s Martin Tenor all mahogany Uke. Looks to be in good shape. Tuners are open gear Grovers -- would these be original?? Also, a 1/4 inch endpin jack has been installed.

Sounds really good to my ear -- NOTE: I'm pretty new to "UkeWorld" and so not sure what a tenor Uke should sound like. I've never played or even heard one!

Given all the above, I would like to know if $1400 is a "reasonable" price. Partly, I want to know that I can get my money back if I need to resell it at some point.

Also, how useful is a Tenor Uke? I mostly see/hear Soprano and Concert Ukes. Are they kind of rare in UkeWorld?

Thanks for reading.

Brian1
12-21-2014, 02:32 PM
I am going to reply not as a ukulele player but like I would answer as a friend who doesn't even play a ukulele and just ask you a few questions.

Why is it you think that a 65 year old ukulele is a better deal than a new one ? And might a special edition of a new one last longer and not need any repairs"
http://www.musiciansfriend.com/folk-traditional-instruments/martin-1t-iz-tenor-ukulele/h92885?src=3XBACR

If you are not sure what the value is or what they "should" sound like why are you considering buying one now, or before you have had time to compare ?

Have you had experience where you got all of your money back or made money selling an instrument, because someone who is selling a vintage ukulele probably has, they probably found it and bought it because they felt they could sell it for more than they paid for it. (just like you want to)

Also consider if you think the Ukulele market is going to go up, down or stay the same in the next few years.

dismount
12-21-2014, 03:35 PM
My findings are that geared tuners are not original to the uke. I see other 50's tenors for sale at that price with original friction tuners. For resale people who would be interested in vintage martins, generally want original tuners on them. If you convert the geared back to friction tuners you will leave holes in the head stock which is not cool. My opinion is if you tried to resale this you're looking at about 800.00 tops. All that said that is not gospel just my personal opinion which with 1.25$ will buy one cup of coffee.

coolkayaker1
12-21-2014, 03:42 PM
I agree with dismount. Everything they wrote.

katysax
12-21-2014, 05:41 PM
I have a late 40s early 50s Martin Tenor - and it has friction (not geared) tuners. I've put it up for sale and there is no way it will sell for $1400. That's overpriced. Vintage ukes are best for people who know and understand what vintage instruments are about. If you are new to the uke world you'd be better off with a $100 tenor. If you are set on a Martin the current generation T1K is a great value and plays well with none of the issues surrounding vintage.

Patrick Madsen
12-21-2014, 05:49 PM
Agree with everything said so far. A vintage is much like a vintage car; you're not sure what's wrong with it til you own it and have to know what to look for. IMO 1400 is way too high for a '50's tenor. They only have 12 frets to the body rather than 14 in the newer ukes.

Just because it's a Martin doesn't mean it's good and at 1400, it'll be a long time before you'd get your money back and only if it's in exceptional shape.

IamNoMan
12-21-2014, 06:33 PM
You can get a new Martin high end mahogany tenor uke for $1000 to $1200.
http://www.elderly.com/brand/180U_MARTIN.html - Figure 10-15% profit included here. The price quoted in the link brian1 posted is not a bargain. It is not a bad price but you can buy that ukulele new for under $1200. I did!

Does this ukulele look to be in good shape? Wear marks are OK but cracks need repaired. Luthier rates are $60/hr where I live.

If you can't play ukulele get somebody to play it for you. A video would probably work if available. In any case if you don't like the sound don't buy it. Your ears should really like the sound of an instrument but that may not be relevant to you at this stage of your career.

Tenors are a popular size uke. They are a little louder than Concert and Sopranos because of the body depth. The big consideration is scale length. There is a 2" difference in scale length between each size. If you have big hands tenor is probably the way to go. If you have tiny hands maybe not. You to the local guitar store and hold the different sizes to get an idea of this.

Martins are considered to be the Rolls Royce of the ukulele world. They hold their value well. The Style 1 and 2 tenors were discontinued in 1965, but have since been reintroduced. There is some rarity value there. The grover tuners might be original or might be replacements.If they have a serial number check with Grover. Martin may be able to give you this info too.

Resale is tricky. I have no experience in selling vintage instruments. The real issue is timing. If you have to sell quickly to raise money odds are you will take a loss. If you can wait you should be able to make at least some money. If you wait 20 to 30 years and don't have to sell quickly you may make more money and should keep up with inflation besides. It is possible you could make a good rate of return on your investment.

Your real rate of return isn't monetary. It is the fun, and joy you get out of it. That will be dependent on how much time you put into it too.

This is what a an older Martin Mahogany Tenor can sound like:

https://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play;_ylt=A0LEVih8oZdUGeIACGoPxQt.;_ylu=X3oDMTBsa3 ZzMnBvBHNlYwNzYwRjb2xvA2JmMQR2dGlkAw--?p=Iz+rainbow&tnr=21&vid=546DD08F7C9D0F7E8317546DD 08F7C9D0F7E8317&l=222&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts4.mm.bin g.net%2Fth%3Fid%3DUN.608049584336275247%26pid%3D15 .1&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dailymotion.com%2Fvideo% 2 Fx2g43w_israel-kamakawiwo-ole-over-the-rain_music&sigr=12h38bvl4&tt=b&tit=Israel+Kamakawi wo%26%2339%3Bole+-+...Over+The+Rainbow&sigt=11fmplf0t&back=https%3A% 2F%2Fsearch.yahoo.com%2Fyhs%2Fsearch%3Fp%3DIz%2Bra inbow%26ei%3DUTF-8%26hsimp%3Dyhs-001%26hspart%3Dmozilla&sigb=12m2ovr2s&hspart=mozil la&hsimp=yhs-001

Edit: I have re-read these posts. I can't evaluate what the folks are saying about value. There is one thing I am in strong disagreement about. Changing out the tuners for good tuners will not decrease the resale value and will probably increase it a little. One poster indicated friction pegs were OEM. Probably true. Martins are player instruments worn out tuners will not generate increased price amongst players.

Brian1
12-21-2014, 07:13 PM
One thing to notice about the instruments IAmNoMan linked to is they have not sold.

(Please know I only linked to the uke I did because it was a very similar price.
The other day I showed a link to IAmNoMan for the same uke for about $1200)

Doc_J
12-21-2014, 07:25 PM
......

Edit: I have re-read these posts. I can't evaluate what the folks are saying about value. There is one thing I am in strong disagreement about. Changing out the tuners for good tuners will not decrease the resale value and will probably increase it a little. One poster indicated friction pegs were OEM. Probably true. Martins are player instruments worn out tuners will not generate increased price amongst players.

Most folks buy antique/vintage instruments to be as authentic as possible. That is part of the instrument's value and charm. If you swap out for modern gear tuners, it may function better to some people, but it has lost some of it's authenticity of a period instrument. Similar to a vintage auto with a modern steering wheel, it looks out of place.

BTW Grover still makes the 40s'-50s' style Champion tuners (http://www.stewmac.com/Hardware_and_Parts/Tuning_Machines/Ukulele/Grover_Champion_Dulcimer_Uke_Friction_Pegs_Nickel_ set_of_4.html) if the originals were lost or not repairable.

Some folks really dislike the look of the typical modern gear tuners on a uke that wasn't meant to have them.

Personally, when I was looking for a vintage Martin tenor I wanted authentic parts, not modern replacements. Any vintage Martin with replaced modern parts was not considered. I agree with earlier posts from dismount, CoolKayaker, and Patrick.

mm stan
12-21-2014, 08:24 PM
74282 Do you have pictures of this uke, I agree it should come with friction tuners...aside from that price it is above the high end....let me say if this ukulele is asking
for this amount on money it has to extra mint pristine..almost in new unused collector condition...no nothing damage or sctatches for me to even consider..Where do you live too.....
Also I believe the martin concert is an even more rare bird to me than the tenor.. post a picture and we can date this bird or turd for you...

Patrick Madsen
12-21-2014, 08:49 PM
Todays new Martins are hit and miss, even the high end ones; vintage are even more so. No two instruments are the same which is why many will tell you to play them before buying. But since you have no idea anyway, that would be kind of futile. IMO, If buying new, the most important thing is to buy from a reputable dealer, HMS, Uke Republic, Mim's etc. They do a thorough setup, in house, before sending it out. As you get more knowledgable about what you want then go to a higher end uke. You will end up buying more than one I can assure you lol.. There are some terrific bargains here on the Marketplace right now. A few high ends that are priced very reasonably.

Back to your '50's uke. You have no experience on what to look for. The frets may need dressing or even replaced, braces could be loose, cracks may be present or have been repaired by who knows who. If you are truly interested, I suggest you take it to a reputable luthier, NOT Guitar Center etc., to get their opinion if it needs any work.

As far as size you may want depends on personal preference. I just bought back a '62 Martin baritone because the lady couldn't handle the larger fretboard. I sold a soprano pinecone because my larger hands couldn't handle the smaller fretboard. I love the tenor size with a thin, fast, low action radiused neck.

Since you are a beginner, it really doesn't matter what uke you buy as long as it has been setup properly. Stans right, with photos we would have a better idea of the instrument itself.

NewKid
12-21-2014, 10:20 PM
I agree with Brian1's questions. They are more relevant to you than whether this particular instrument is worth $1400. If you had more experience to know what you like then it certainly could be worth that price. But then again, you would also have a better understanding of the instrument's true value.

UkerDanno
12-22-2014, 03:39 AM
I have a late 40s early 50s Martin Tenor - and it has friction (not geared) tuners. I've put it up for sale and there is no way it will sell for $1400. That's overpriced. Vintage ukes are best for people who know and understand what vintage instruments are about. If you are new to the uke world you'd be better off with a $100 tenor. If you are set on a Martin the current generation T1K is a great value and plays well with none of the issues surrounding vintage.

and there's a T1K for sale in the marketplace...
http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?102827-For-Sale-Martin-T1K-Tenor&p=1620805#post1620805

on the other hand, Tenors are pretty common and if you like the vintage Martin and it's in good shape, get it! It's upgraded to be a player, it seems, with upgraded tuners and a pickup. But, there are lots of other options for a beginner. Heck, you can get a Hawaiian uke for less than $1000. Browse theukulelesite, Mim's and ukerepublic.

ukegirl
12-22-2014, 05:35 AM
Just ask yourself if you want to be a collector or a player. I've owned a number of vintage martins and never brought them out of the house for fear of damage.

Ukulele Eddie
12-22-2014, 07:37 AM
I'm not a vintage guy so defer to the others' comments. I will add that there is a 1950's Martin Tenor on reverb.com that is listed for $1K, price negotiable. The bridge has been replaced with a replica but it's otherwise in excellent shape in terms of appearance.

katysax
12-22-2014, 08:20 AM
Gee my vintage Martin tenor has the original bridge and is in great condition with the original case. I would see it in a minute for $1000.

http://i1382.photobucket.com/albums/ah264/Sheryl_Katz/IMG_0501_zps9472edb9.jpg (http://s1382.photobucket.com/user/Sheryl_Katz/media/IMG_0501_zps9472edb9.jpg.html)

http://i1382.photobucket.com/albums/ah264/Sheryl_Katz/IMG_0504_zps9b5a81ad.jpg (http://s1382.photobucket.com/user/Sheryl_Katz/media/IMG_0504_zps9b5a81ad.jpg.html)

http://i1382.photobucket.com/albums/ah264/Sheryl_Katz/IMG_0503_zps46c21d27.jpg (http://s1382.photobucket.com/user/Sheryl_Katz/media/IMG_0503_zps46c21d27.jpg.html)

http://i1382.photobucket.com/albums/ah264/Sheryl_Katz/IMG_0502_zps3436cec8.jpg (http://s1382.photobucket.com/user/Sheryl_Katz/media/IMG_0502_zps3436cec8.jpg.html)

IamNoMan
12-22-2014, 08:33 AM
The Martin T1K previously mentioned looks like a good deal. If you don't have your heart set on a vintage instrument This is a superior starter uke. I would check it out quickly though it won't last long. I have no financial interest in this.
http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?102827-For-Sale-Martin-T1K-Tenor&p=1620805#post1620805

Ukulele Eddie
12-22-2014, 08:33 AM
Gee my vintage Martin tenor has the original bridge and is in great condition with the original case. I would see it in a minute for $1000.

http://i1382.photobucket.com/albums/ah264/Sheryl_Katz/Martinold_zps0355adc6.jpg (http://s1382.photobucket.com/user/Sheryl_Katz/media/Martinold_zps0355adc6.jpg.html)


OP, you should check with katysax on this. Very reputable member of this community.

Peterjens
12-22-2014, 08:59 AM
I have no clown in this circus but I do have an opinion - buy Katysax's tenor. I wouldn't pay $1400 for the vintage Martin.

mm stan
12-22-2014, 11:00 AM
Value to you should not be decided on cost only but that should be one of the main factors.....but playability comfort, sound quality and tone....if it's worth it to you other factors than condition and cost.
What is worth to you?

70sSanO
12-22-2014, 12:02 PM
For a beginner, I'd be more in the T1K camp. I've played these in stores and they do sound and play quite nice.

The best thing is that you are getting a decent first ukulele, not that $100 ukes are necessarily bad, but it will return most of your investment if and when you want to move on. My first uke was a soprano KoAloha that returned what I paid when I sold it.

I like the brighter sound of koa and coming from a soprano, that may be more appealing.

Finally, If you want a vintage mahogany, you still have a grand left to get one.

John

katysax
12-22-2014, 12:24 PM
By the way I am not recommending that you buy my T1. I am pointing out that $1400 is a crazy price for a vintage Martin unless it is all original and mint. As a uke its not a good choice for a beginner. Not just because of the cost but because vintage ukes have issues. The tuners are harder to deal with, and they have suffered effects of aging. If you understand what you are getting and enjoy vintage that's one thing but just looking for a player, there are many better choices.

coolkayaker1
12-22-2014, 04:37 PM
Toque? Toque?

toque
12-23-2014, 02:01 PM
I'm still here😃
Reading carefully and learning lots! Today I went back to shop with Martin tenor. Today I noted treble strings sounded quite dull. Also, I tried some comparables from Kamaka and Other builders. As a result I'm thinking new, not vintage.
Unfortunately I can't locate any new Martins in town. I must say, tho, I am not a fan of new Martin guitars. . . .

coolkayaker1
12-23-2014, 02:20 PM
Toque, katysax is a long-time and respected UUer. Honest and kind. Her Martin tenor would be less expensive and much better than a new Martin. Something to think about.
#vintagemartin. #retainedvalue

PeteyHoudini
12-23-2014, 02:38 PM
I did a review of a new style 2 Martin tenor awhile ago. This might help. I did one for the T1K as well.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzXFtSVBWtE

Petey

brimmer
12-23-2014, 02:38 PM
Elderly instruments has 3 martin tenors from the same period, for price comparison...

mm stan
12-23-2014, 03:24 PM
I'm still here��
Reading carefully and learning lots! Today I went back to shop with Martin tenor. Today I noted treble strings sounded quite dull. Also, I tried some comparables from Kamaka and Other builders. As a result I'm thinking new, not vintage.
Unfortunately I can't locate any new Martins in town. I must say, tho, I am not a fan of new Martin guitars. . . .
Hey the strings may be old or a cheap brand...dont discount a uke because of this....of course the it could be not, but most times they are in a shop with vintage instruments