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View Full Version : Fashion or Function? Vintage Martin vs. Kiwaya



Trader Todd
04-15-2016, 04:31 AM
I'm in the market for a new soprano. This will be the last soprano I will ever buy. (HA!) I mean I plan on keeping it and passing it along to the kids. Trying to create a family heirloom of sorts.

I'm torn between a vintage Martin, new Martin of some sort or one of the Kiwaya ukes.

Of course I love the mojo and sound of an old Martin. My concern with buying even a mint condition uke that is 50-90 years old is how will it age over the next 50 years? Visions of cracks and future repairs. I'm a low maintenance, plug and play kind of guy.

I recently dug up a old UU post where the poster had compared 5 Martin ukes from new, budget and vintage with sound samples from all and had the UU'ers try to guess which one was what. At the end of the day they all sounded good. Can't seem to find the original post.

New uke, plug and play. Last for another 125 years. Change the strings. Rinse and repeat. Martin or Kiwaya?

My heart says get the vintage Martin, old wood saves the day, but my wallet says get something new. What do you say?

Mivo
04-15-2016, 05:30 AM
I hope I'm also done buying sopranos (I have three, a Lyon&Healy Washburn vintage, a KoAloha longneck, and now a Black Bear one), but if I were faced with your choices, I'd probably go for a new Kiwaya (KTS-5 or KTS-6 depending on whether you want 15 or 17 frets, and the KTS-7 if you really wanted the bling, which I wouldn't).

This is purely for the combination of quality/craftsmanship, price/availability, and convenience/maintenance, but without a romantic element. If I were to include sentimental aspects, I'd probably go for a vintage Martin that was built in the US (if I lived in the US). Then again, it may be more meaningful if you were the first player of a new instrument ("Great-great-great-grandfather bought and played this in 2016!!!!"), in which case perhaps an US-built newer Martin would be more ideal. (They still make a soprano line in the States, right?)

coolkayaker1
04-15-2016, 05:48 AM
I'd get the vintage Martin. Don't be afraid.

cml
04-15-2016, 06:01 AM
Why not get a Timms if you are looking at a Martin but hesitant to buy a vintage one?
Lovely and stunning ukes, will be making a NUD about my one later on tonight!

Trader Todd
04-21-2016, 03:48 AM
Was hoping by now, more people would have responded with "get the vintage Martin", which is what I'm going to do. What do you recommend? Budget up to $750...

cml
04-21-2016, 04:07 AM
Isnt there a nice one in the marketplace atm? I might be remembering wrong though...

vinceherman
04-21-2016, 04:13 AM
I plan on keeping it and passing it along to the kids.
Kids. Plural. Sounds like you need more than one heirloom ukulele. Just sayin. ;)

UkerDanno
04-21-2016, 04:25 AM
Was hoping by now, more people would have responded with "get the vintage Martin", which is what I'm going to do. What do you recommend? Budget up to $750...

good choice, I have a 30's vintage that has been well used/abused for 80+ years and it's still a great player!
90429

Nickie
04-21-2016, 04:31 AM
It's a tossup. Do your homework, though. If it were I, I'd be choosing between buying a Timms reproduction or a vintage Martin, and having it reconditioned.

cml
04-21-2016, 04:34 AM
This was the one I was thinking of: http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?119753-FS-Late-20s-Martin-O-Soprano-Ukulele

Tigershark
04-21-2016, 07:27 AM
You must follow your heart. It's different for everybody and on this forum at least, more people have experience with newer ukuleles.

For me, there is nothing like a ukulele from the very beginning of the Hawaiian music movement in the early 20th century. Martin is the gold standard for vintage ukuleles. It is hard to go wrong with a vintage Martin - they were designed and built for professional players. I have some that are 100 years old and still sounding great.

There is no great difference in maintenance between new and vintage. They can both crack if stored or handled improperly. They both need occasional attention to setup details but once dialed in you won't spend too much time on that.

In terms of cost, you might pay more initially for a vintage ukulele, but they retain their value and may even increase. New stuff generally drops in value. And vintage is definitely more inspiring, for me at least.

http://ditson-ukulele.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/boston-trio-01-1030x687.jpg

MARKbOC
04-21-2016, 07:45 AM
ive never played a martin but can attest to the ridiculously high quality of Kiwaya. look, sound and feel great.

i dont think you can go wrong here, tho. i'd be happy with either!

cml
04-21-2016, 07:58 AM
Those yours Tigershark? Damn nice collection, they look like new!

strumsilly
04-21-2016, 12:12 PM
kiwaya.....................................

Trader Todd
04-21-2016, 03:50 PM
Thanks for all the insight. Tigershark, that is one nice collection (and some great photography) of ukes! Agreed, vintage is more inspiring.

Tigershark
04-21-2016, 04:18 PM
Those yours Tigershark? Damn nice collection, they look like new!

That's a photo I took a while back of the Ditsons I had that were made for the Boston store between 1922-26, the ones with the standard Martin shape & the Ditson stamp. From left to right a Style 0, Style 1, and Style 2. All three have really excellent tone, with slight differences that made it fun to explore and compare. Boston Ditsons are pretty rare, they actually made less of them than the dreadnought models for New York.

My collection is always changing, some have been added and some are in new homes :)

Soundbored
04-22-2016, 01:49 AM
OP's budget is $750, which is way too low to find an "heirloom" vintage Martin. In that price range you're going to be looking at Style 0's with a repaired crack or three. UU'ers who bought their Martin stockpiles 10 years ago for peanuts should take a peek at current prices before they chime in.

And the idea that a 90+ year-old instrument will have the same maintenance concerns as a brand new one is absurd.

Kiwaya makes beautiful, great playing and sounding ukes for a fair price, unlike the current Martin company (IMO). My KTS-7 is all I was hoping for and more.

cml
04-22-2016, 02:29 AM
OP's budget is $750, which is way too low to find an "heirloom" vintage Martin. In that price range you're going to be looking at Style 0's with a repaired crack or three. UU'ers who bought their Martin stockpiles 10 years ago for peanuts should take a peek at current prices before they chime in.

And the idea that a 90+ year-old instrument will have the same maintenance concerns as a brand new one is absurd.

Kiwaya makes beautiful, great playing and sounding ukes for a fair price, unlike the current Martin company (IMO). My KTS-7 is all I was hoping for and more.

Am I missing something here? The Style 0 in the marketplace has no cracks and seems to be in good condition. It's priced at 650. Where are you getting your numbers from, eBay perhaps? I did a check and there are many resellers and auction houses that try to get premium prices out of beat up ukes.
That doesn't necessarily reflect the value imo...

Pukulele Pete
04-22-2016, 02:42 AM
And the idea that a 90+ year-old instrument will have the same maintenance concerns as a brand new one is absurd.


Absurd ? ? I have new and old Martins and they all are treated the
same. I must be doing something wrong? :confused:

TheBathBird
04-22-2016, 02:55 AM
Absurd ? ? I have new and old Martins and they all are treated the
same. I must be doing something wrong? :confused:

This is my experience, too. I only have one vintage Martin, but I treat it the same as any of my ukes - they're not even humidified here in the UK. I'm no expert, but it seems to me that after 90 years a ukulele is likely to have done most of the shifting it's going to do, and be relatively stable (provided it's not suddenly exposed to completely new climatic conditions, obviously).

Soundbored
04-22-2016, 02:59 AM
Where are you getting your numbers from, eBay perhaps?

eBay, yes, but also Gruhn, Elderly, Umanov, and a dozen other online vintage stores fairly recently. To me, it's just not worth the price for what you're getting. But if you believe in "old wood", and "mojo", then YMMV.

cml
04-22-2016, 03:13 AM
But you can bet that these stores (resellers) bought them for significantly less. They are trying to make a profit after all. I think Todd should be able to get a nice one at 750 here on the forums.

Personally, I feel a bit like you. I got a great Timms rather than a vintage one, and it's brilliant, and didnt cost me near as much as a flawless Martin style 0 would.

mm stan
04-22-2016, 03:40 AM
Vintage martin any day, sounds better..the new ones depriciate too, while vintage prices stay stable..
If you just like a new uke, and dont care for tone...go with the new... i wouldn't
All those old thread trying to compare means nothing, when you have your ears and one in your hands,
After all, its your needs and preference that matter to enjoy playing it and the sweet tone. Good luck, happy strummings

mm stan
04-22-2016, 03:41 AM
My last martin buy was a 1930s concert....need i say more

kkimura
04-22-2016, 04:31 AM
Reading the future is very hard to do. Consider that a 20s to 30s Martin uke, which is considered very collectable today, may have been a copy of a local koa uke which in turn may have been a copy of some Portuguese instrument.

Following that line of reasoning an Eastman uke, which may be a copy of a Collins that may be a copy of a Martin, could become tomorrow's very collectable vintage uke.

Yes, my latest is an Eastman, but, purchased for it's tone and build quality. If it becomes any more than that for my grand kids, so much the better.

buddhuu
04-22-2016, 05:02 AM
If it were me I'd go Kiwaya. I have a friend who has one and I borrow it whenever I can. A great little player.

coolkayaker1
04-22-2016, 01:37 PM
Vintage martin any day, sounds better..the new ones depriciate too, while vintage prices stay stable..
If you just like a new uke, and dont care for tone...go with the new... i wouldn't


Yep. Right advice

MARKbOC
04-22-2016, 01:50 PM
Haha. Glad we could help you Trader Todd! So we've narrowed your search down to either Kiwaya or Vintage Martin. You're welcome! :)

SteveZ
04-22-2016, 02:14 PM
Well, going against the grain somewhat....the vintage Martin may be a special piece of musical history - who used to own it, who played it and where, how did it get those scars, etc.? It's "resale value" only matters to someone who sees the instrument as a commodity to be vended sometime in the near future versus a work of art which, even when it's playing days are over, still remains because of its history and beauty. Sometimes these gems are discovered in the strangest places under stranger circumstances, and they just "siren's song" their way into your heart.

http://youtu.be/81le-Dnc-UY

strumsilly
04-22-2016, 02:41 PM
Vintage martin any day, sounds better..the new ones depriciate too, while vintage prices stay stable..
If you just like a new uke, and dont care for tone...go with the new... i wouldn't
All those old thread trying to compare means nothing, when you have your ears and one in your hands,
After all, its your needs and preference that matter to enjoy playing it and the sweet tone. Good luck, happy strummings
I had a vintage Martin and a Kiwaya . The Kiwaya wasn't "new" , but it wasn't vintage. I could not tell the difference in tone [maybe I'm tone deaf]. The Kiwaya was a KTC1, a concert, and I liked the slightly bigger fretboard so I sold the Martin. I know it's not alwaya possible , but a side by side comparison is the only way to really tell.

coolkayaker1
04-22-2016, 03:13 PM
I had a vintage Martin and a Kiwaya . The Kiwaya wasn't "new" , but it wasn't vintage. I could not tell the difference in tone [maybe I'm tone deaf]. The Kiwaya was a KTC1, a concert, and I liked the slightly bigger fretboard so I sold the Martin. I know it's not alwaya possible , but a side by side comparison is the only way to really tell.

True info from brother strum. All else being equal, Martin. Why? Appreciation in value. 😀

Trader Todd
04-23-2016, 04:03 AM
Kids. Plural. Sounds like you need more than one heirloom ukulele. Just sayin. ;)

This is the most sound advice I've heard yet. I suppose I could even have a third child...

Mivo
04-23-2016, 04:37 AM
Well, I think mostly it should come down to what you want to play, not what happens when you're gone. Heirlooms are prone to getting cashed in when funds are tight, because typically they don't have the same meaning to the next generation(s) as they did to the previous ones.

Maybe that can't be generalized, and I'm just a bit preconditioned by my own family. I had grandparents who were very concerned with passing something on. A house that they sacrificed a lot for, and an attic and basement full of stuff drenched in memories. In the end, they had to sell the house because they got ill and couldn't afford the medical costs otherwise. When they passed, most things had been sold, and what was left ended up mostly in the trash because nobody else had room for it, either. And probably no interest, because the stuff was from someone else's life, had once held meaning for someone else. I saw the same thing happen when my great-grandmother died, after she had (what would today be called) Alzheimer's. Same exact thing, just a generation earlier.

So, personally, I try to just live here and now, and don't try to make too many plans for the future. I'd just buy a ukulele that YOU want to play and own, and if your kids inherit and value it one day, then that is a bonus, but not the sole objective.

SteveZ
04-23-2016, 04:48 AM
Well, I think mostly it should come down to what you want to play, not what happens when you're gone. Heirlooms are prone to getting cashed in when funds are tight, because typically they don't have the same meaning to the next generation(s) as they did to the previous ones.

Maybe that can't be generalized, and I'm just a bit preconditioned by my own family. I had grandparents who were very concerned with passing something on. A house that they sacrificed a lot for, and an attic and basement full of stuff drenched in memories. In the end, they had to sell the house because they got ill and couldn't afford the medical costs otherwise. When they passed, most things had been sold, and what was left ended up mostly in the trash because nobody else had room for it, either. And probably no interest, because the stuff was from someone else's life, had once held meaning for someone else. I saw the same thing happen when my great-grandmother died, after she had (what would today be called) Alzheimer's. Same exact thing, just a generation earlier.

So, personally, I try to just live here and now, and don't try to make too many plans for the future. I'd just buy a ukulele that YOU want to play and own, and if your kids inherit and value it one day, then that is a bonus, but not the sole objective.

A lot of truth in the above. Heirlooms are what the other person may treasure for whatever reason, not often what the current owner perceives as having familial value.

So, the "what do you want - the why doesn't matter" philosophy on what are really very personal items is a reasonable approach. Heck - get both!

Trader Todd
04-23-2016, 06:20 AM
The heirloom thing is really only a small part of it, but my kids do play uke and do love music. So hopefully they break out the Maritn at Christmas in 40 years and not the Ohana. (nothing against Ohana, I love mine)

At the moment torn between a mint condition early 60's Martin style 1 vs. 20's style 1 in good condition...

UkulelesRcooL
04-26-2016, 05:39 PM
If I had a choice the way you put it.. Id get the vintage martin.. The newer martins dont sound as good as the older ones.. The newer ones seem to have thicker soundboards, and I would imagine the rest of the wood is thicker as well.. back, sides... I have a vintage martin soprano.. Ive played the new ones..... they dont come close.

cml .............the 600 price on that martin you linked sounds good to me...

coolkayaker1
04-26-2016, 06:17 PM
If I had a choice the way you put it.. Id get the vintage martin.. The newer martins dont sound as good as the older ones.. The newer ones seem to have thicker soundboards, and I would imagine the rest of the wood is thicker as well.. back, sides... I have a vintage martin soprano.. Ive played the new ones..... they dont come close..

This is absolutely accurate.

Soundbored
04-27-2016, 12:53 AM
This is absolutely accurate.

Except the thread topic is vintage Martin vs Kiwaya.

cml
04-27-2016, 01:18 AM
The heirloom thing is really only a small part of it, but my kids do play uke and do love music. So hopefully they break out the Maritn at Christmas in 40 years and not the Ohana. (nothing against Ohana, I love mine)

At the moment torn between a mint condition early 60's Martin style 1 vs. 20's style 1 in good condition...
What are you after? A 100 year old instrument, or the looks? I am guessing the older the better for you since you arent interested in any new replicas or the like.

coolkayaker1
04-27-2016, 05:29 AM
Except the thread topic is vintage Martin vs Kiwaya.

Actually, his statement is still accurate...even if the thread topic is the price of gasoline on Pluto.

Mivo
04-27-2016, 06:02 AM
Todd did say he was "torn between a vintage Martin, new Martin of some sort or one of the Kiwaya ukes."

Trader Todd
04-27-2016, 08:14 AM
Thanks for all the input. I've had great advice in this thread, PM messages and emails. What a great community.

I decided to pull the trigger on a 60's Martin 0 which I got from a UU'er. Looks to be in mint condition, should be here at the end of the week. Stay tuned for details.

I figured this was my best option as I will now have an old Martin to play with while I keep searching for "The One". The one theme that kept coming up from all the vintage nerds and geeks was that I need to be patient. Sorry, not my style. So I bought the 60's Martin to scratch the itch in the meantime. Funny how the vintage Martin crowd doesn't really consider a 60's 0 vintage.

Best argument for going vintage Martin vs. new was that it should hold value better than say the Kiwaya. Couldn't justify the expense of that Laughlin. My Pono took a big hit as soon as I drove it off the lot.

I recently sold an expensive Gibson guitar, so I still have plenty of funds to hunt for "The One". They say the hunt is half the fun, but after 25 years of chasing guitars, strings, amps and tubes I just want a quiver of about 4-5 (maybe 6-7) ukes (well geez, like 8 max - not counting baritones, those are more like guitars and don't count..) that I love and don't want to put down.

Thanks again for all the input. It's what makes the UU great. Looking forward to hearing my new uke.

Post Less, Play More.

UkulelesRcooL
04-27-2016, 05:20 PM
Except the thread topic is vintage Martin vs Kiwaya.

and if you read his post under the topic you will see he also mentions the newer martins in whether he should get a older vintage martin, a Kiwaya or a newer martin... just in case you missed it.. ;)

Trader Todd
05-01-2016, 12:30 PM
I received my 60's Martin 0 yesterday. Plays like a dream, very loud if I dig in and nice tone. This is my first Martin and all mahogany uke, so I don't have anything to compare it to. I am starting to realize that I might be a die hard cedar/rosewood kinda guy, so my ear needs some time to adjust. It is very bright, almost sounds like a banjo uke when strummed with bell like tone when finger picked. Has a nice old timey sound when I play some clawhammer style tunes. Looking forward to a few more hours of playing it to find the sweet spots.

Overall I am happy with it, should get plenty of play time while I hunt down a 20's - 40's of some sort. Will post some more pictures at some point. Thanks again for all the insight and offers.

90770

SteveZ
05-01-2016, 03:51 PM
Congrats! Enjoy!