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View Full Version : "Vintage" -- fancy name for old & low-tech?



bellgamin
12-20-2017, 12:31 PM
I have bought a few "vintage" (sic) items from Ebay. None of them was the equal of modern, less expensive items. Ergo, I think that labelling something as "vintage" is often just a selling gimmick in order to over-price old junk.

I have never bought a "vintage" uke. Is "vintage" a true descriptor when applied to ukes, or is it just puffery? Is a vintage uke better sounding than modern ukes, or is it simply something really old & over-priced for folks who enjoy old, over-priced stuff?

RichM
12-20-2017, 12:45 PM
The answer to all of your questions is "yes." Yes, some people sell old, unexceptional, and useless old stuff and call it vintage. Yes, there is some vintage stuff that is truly special and worth a premium because they don't make 'em like that anymore. Yes, some vintage ukes are cheap junk that wasn't very good the day it was made. And, yes, some vintage ukes are remarkable instruments.

bellgamin
12-20-2017, 03:59 PM
Very good "yes" answers, Rich -- I get your point.


... ...Yes, some vintage ukes are cheap junk that wasn't very good the day it was made. And, yes, some vintage ukes are remarkable instruments.Ahh so, but how can a neophyte discern (via online) which is which?

:old: Aloha from old Bell

EDW
12-20-2017, 04:11 PM
Ahh so, but how can a neophyte discern (via online) which is which?



Reading up on these instruments so you know a bit about what to look for and what to avoid can help. Lots of good advice is available on this forum. To some extent you may also have to end up buying and trying. Instruments, even if from the same era and maker can vary. It will depend on your desires and taste. Some of the vintage instruments can really be quite special, whether it be due to the old craftsmanship, quality of wood, or just years of aging and settling in. I used to wonder if it was a lot of hooey, but I have had the chance to play some older instruments that had a character and presence that is truly unique.

70sSanO
12-20-2017, 06:03 PM
Cheap instruments of today are made much better than their older counterparts due to computerized manufacturing. But that can probably be tossed aside when comparing a well made high quality acoustic from years ago to one made today. A true craftsman knows woods and can probably coax more sound out of the same materials than a sterile machine. So a lot depends on the quality of the instrument.

Vintage is a totally different subject. When I was a kid, buying an old used anything meant getting something a lot cheaper than a similar new item. Nothing was vintage. Vintage is a term invented to garner additional value on anything from cars to guitars. Classic is synonymous depending on the item.

In 1965, my younger brother bought a used Hofner 500/1 bass with a case for $95. It was in excellent condition. Truth is, I thought it was a horrible sounding bass. But even though it is really just an old used bass it commands the status of a highly collectible vintage instrument and the price tag that goes with it.

John

Xtradust
12-20-2017, 06:06 PM
I only take "vintage" to mean "not new". Like antique.

A Harmony and a Martin can both be vintage. But they don't sound the same. :)

"Ahh so, but how can a neophyte discern (via online) which is which?"

It's easy! Inexpensive vintage instruments are the ones that people don't want.

If you want a sweet old uke, ya gotta part with some $$$$$$$$

kypfer
12-20-2017, 09:50 PM
Very good "yes" answers, Rich -- I get your point.

Ahh so, but how can a neophyte discern (via online) which is which?

:old: Aloha from old Bell

The truth of the matter, probably even more so with musical instruments than many other things, is that you can't tell the difference without actually handling the item.

I buy the occasional used musical and photographic item on eBay. Unless it's an item I "really must have", (very few and far between), I look for the poorly described items at a low price and put in a nominal bid. If others recognise it's true (potential) worth and the bids climb, I let it go, there'll be another.

Every few weeks I get a "winner". Once or twice a year I have to invoke the "not as described" clause, return the item and get my money back (or at least an agreeable proportion and keep the item). Having to re-pack and re-post can be a nuisance, but that's part of the gamble ... I feel I win, overall, so I'm happy :)

Go in with both eyes wide open, double-check all the photographs and ask for more pictures if you want/need more detail. Check the seller's feedback. Have they sold a lot of stuff successfully or have they racked up their figures by buying a lot of cheap items just to boost their ratings!

I've not yet (in over a thousand transactions) met a seller who wasn't concerned about negative feedback. eBay can make it very "inconvenient" for traders with poor records, so it's not been necessary (for me) to involve eBay in any refund/replacement scenario. A simple message to the seller has all that's ever been necessary.

Get lucky :music:

To quote Pete Seeger: "Take it easy, but take it!"

raffrox
12-20-2017, 09:59 PM
If you want to find out about them start buying and selling and playing them.

Simple but good advice I reckon.

I've bought a terrible terrible cheap one and learnt bit and now I'm about to hopefully buy a more expensive better quality one. It's an interesting question though.

I was tossing up between a Anuenue Vision 1879 and a Kumalae in very good condition. I've got a feeling the newer 'remake' would sound better than the Kumalae.

bellgamin
12-20-2017, 10:06 PM
... ...If you want a sweet old uke, ya gotta part with some $$$$$$$$So... price almost always denotes intrinsic worth when it comes to old ukes? Hmm.

ProfChris
12-21-2017, 01:27 AM
Simple but good advice I reckon.

I've bought a terrible terrible cheap one and learnt bit and now I'm about to hopefully buy a more expensive better quality one. It's an interesting question though.

I was tossing up between a Anuenue Vision 1879 and a Kumalae in very good condition. I've got a feeling the newer 'remake' would sound better than the Kumalae.

The Anuenue is unlikely to sound anything like the Kumalae. No modern manufacturer would dare to build that light. My own Kumalae weighs 220 grams/7 ounces, and I'd guess the Anuenue weighs at least 50% more. That makes a big difference.

But the Anuenue will have better intonation, a less "agricultural" neck carve and a lower action. It will feel familiar to play, at first the Kumalae will feel odd.

No idea which will sound best to you, but they are radically different instruments. I wouldn't be without my Kumalae but it's (by modern standards) a quirky thing which many uke players don't much enjoy playing. But those who do like working with its quirks, love it.

RichM
12-21-2017, 01:51 AM
So... price almost always denotes intrinsic worth when it comes to old ukes? Hmm.

Of course not. Price is a function of market forces. Generally speaking, instruments that are in high demand cost more. Demand often equates with quality, but there is not a direct correlation. For example: when I was a lad in the 1970's, just starting to play guitar, you could buy any of a dozen 1950's Les Pauls from the classifieds for around $350. They were old guitars, and people wanted the newer, better stuff. Those same guitar today sell for $10K. Did they really improve that much over the ensuing years? Nope, the demand just went up, either because of the vintage mythology, the acquisition of disposable income by buyers, or maybe an appreciation of how good those old guitars were. In any case, the guitars are the same; it's the demand that changed.

In the early 20th century, mandolins were designed to be played in chamber groups and mandolin orchestras, where the goal was to blend in. Lloyd Loar designed the F5 mandolin for Gibson in 1923, giving it a punchy, urgent tone that really wasn't all that popular with player of the era. 20 years later, Bill Monroe purchased a Lloyd Loar F5 and made it the centerpiece of Bluegrass music. Suddenly, EVERYBODY loved the Lloyd Loar F5 sound, and it may be the most copied design in history. Original Lloyd Loar F5 mandolins sell in the six figure range, despite being factory-produced instruments. They are remarkable instruments, but their value is driven by their association with Bill Monroe and the remarkable fealty of bluegrass players.

I could go on, but I think the point is made. High price doesn't mean good quality, but good quality often means high price. If I sell my Waterman for $10K, it's still a Waterman. Early instruments often sell for a premium because of their rarity, but that doesn't mean you'll like the way they sound. I was enamored of the old Gibson oval hole archtops, because I thought they had one of the most beautiful guitars design I'd ever seen. I payed fairly large bucks to acquire a 1915 L-4, then sold it within the year. It sure was pretty, but it had a dull, thuddy tone that didn't appeal to me at all. Perhaps worth the money as a collectible, not worth the money as a playable instrument.

Several posters have provided the best advice: if you're interested in vintage instruments, get out and play as many as you can. Nobody can tell you what you like. I bought a 1920's Oscar Schmidt uke from Jake Wildwood for relatively small money that sounds awesome. Awesome doesn't have to be expensive. I also have a 1930 Martin Style 0 that cost a bunch more that also sounds awesome. Often awesome *is* expensive.

But you're the one who has to love it. So why listen to a bunch of strangers? :)

Croaky Keith
12-21-2017, 02:00 AM
The only thing about old wooden instruments is the fact that they were made from properly seasoned timber, a minimum of three years to dry out naturally, today wood comes from quickly grown trees & is kiln dried, this alone, I think, would make a difference in quality. Having said that, I would not pay big money for any old instrument, I'd buy new, always.

bellgamin
12-21-2017, 11:23 AM
VERY useful comments, especially Rich's.

My cousin is fairly well off & tends to think price = value. The grapevine tells me that she is (secretly) going to give me a uke for Christmas. If by some fluke the store she chooses had a KeAloha priced at $300 & a Caramel priced at $1700, I shudder at the question of which one she would buy. :uhoh:

raffrox
12-21-2017, 12:38 PM
The Anuenue is unlikely to sound anything like the Kumalae. No modern manufacturer would dare to build that light. My own Kumalae weighs 220 grams/7 ounces, and I'd guess the Anuenue weighs at least 50% more. That makes a big difference.

But the Anuenue will have better intonation, a less "agricultural" neck carve and a lower action. It will feel familiar to play, at first the Kumalae will feel odd.

No idea which will sound best to you, but they are radically different instruments. I wouldn't be without my Kumalae but it's (by modern standards) a quirky thing which many uke players don't much enjoy playing. But those who do like working with its quirks, love it.

Thanks ProfChris. The 'joy' of being in Australia is that due to lack of options I'm buying online having not played them. Your post was super helpful to at least give me more of an idea of what to expect.

ProfChris
12-22-2017, 01:27 AM
Thanks ProfChris. The 'joy' of being in Australia is that due to lack of options I'm buying online having not played them. Your post was super helpful to at least give me more of an idea of what to expect.

You're welcome. If you are tempted by the Kumalae, ask for the action at the 12th fret (top of fret to bottom of strings) to be measured. I'd expect it to be between 3 and 4 mm. This is high by modern standards, but perfectly playable on the lower 5 frets. Intonation will suffer, especially on the C string , higher up. The saddle is just a small lip on the bridge, so there's no real room to lower the action. This is the main playing quirk.

And ideally I'd want to hear the 12th note and the open note on each string. The C will be sharp at the 12th, but the others should be pretty close. If not, again I'd reject, as there's too little saddle to adjust much.

If the action is above 4mm I'd not buy it. Kumalaes in arid climates usually crack, and the body can distort. Cracks are ok if properly repaired. I'm lucky that mine lived in the UK all its life, so no cracks, but that's quite rare.

wayfarer75
12-22-2017, 02:43 AM
I would like to get a vintage soprano, not so much because I think they sound "better" than a more modern uke, but because it will have that old-timey soprano sound. It would be different from my other instruments, and it would be fun to play some Tin Pan Alley stuff on it.

Vintage doesn't always mean "better"--I'm into fountain pens, for example, and "vintage" often just means "used" or "old". In some cases, however, that is absolutely not true. Nowadays, fountain pen nibs are typically not flexible, but many vintage fountain pen nibs are, so you can do some calligraphy style writing without the inconvenience of a dip pen. Modern fountain pens that are flexible can't hold a candle to the old ones. They just don't make them that way any more.

RichM
12-22-2017, 03:56 AM
That's funny-- I also collect fountain pens and was going to use that exact example. Small world!



I would like to get a vintage soprano, not so much because I think they sound "better" than a more modern uke, but because it will have that old-timey soprano sound. It would be different from my other instruments, and it would be fun to play some Tin Pan Alley stuff on it.

Vintage doesn't always mean "better"--I'm into fountain pens, for example, and "vintage" often just means "used" or "old". In some cases, however, that is absolutely not true. Nowadays, fountain pen nibs are typically not flexible, but many vintage fountain pen nibs are, so you can do some calligraphy style writing without the inconvenience of a dip pen. Modern fountain pens that are flexible can't hold a candle to the old ones. They just don't make them that way any more.

Rllink
12-22-2017, 03:57 AM
I don't accept the proposition that stuff was made better in the old days. I'm old, and I have friends who like to get in their way-back-machine and talk about how good things were back in the day, and that can be everything from kids to cars, and if they played ukuleles they would say that they just don't make them like that anymore, but I don't buy that way of thinking.

Tootler
12-22-2017, 07:15 AM
The only thing about old wooden instruments is the fact that they were made from properly seasoned timber, a minimum of three years to dry out naturally, today wood comes from quickly grown trees & is kiln dried, this alone, I think, would make a difference in quality. Having said that, I would not pay big money for any old instrument, I'd buy new, always.

Top quality luthiers making hand built instruments will use properly seasoned timber. It's the mass production instruments that will be using kiln dried wood.

On the whole. There will always be exceptions.

raffrox
12-23-2017, 01:38 PM
You're welcome. If you are tempted by the Kumalae, ask for the action at the 12th fret (top of fret to bottom of strings) to be measured. I'd expect it to be between 3 and 4 mm. This is high by modern standards, but perfectly playable on the lower 5 frets. Intonation will suffer, especially on the C string , higher up. The saddle is just a small lip on the bridge, so there's no real room to lower the action. This is the main playing quirk.

And ideally I'd want to hear the 12th note and the open note on each string. The C will be sharp at the 12th, but the others should be pretty close. If not, again I'd reject, as there's too little saddle to adjust much.

If the action is above 4mm I'd not buy it. Kumalaes in arid climates usually crack, and the body can distort. Cracks are ok if properly repaired. I'm lucky that mine lived in the UK all its life, so no cracks, but that's quite rare.

I bought the uke before seeing your post so I'll see how I go. It has no cracks and one small scratch apparently. It's a player according to the seller but see how we go. Thanks again! :)

wayfarer75
12-24-2017, 01:46 AM
That's funny-- I also collect fountain pens and was going to use that exact example. Small world!

LOL! Fountain pens are so nice.


I don't accept the proposition that stuff was made better in the old days. I'm old, and I have friends who like to get in their way-back-machine and talk about how good things were back in the day, and that can be everything from kids to cars, and if they played ukuleles they would say that they just don't make them like that anymore, but I don't buy that way of thinking.

Some things were made better, I think. Not machines, necessarily, but there was more of a sense that things need to be durable. Clothes, for example. But I don’t think that applies to everything.

My fountain pen example is of something that was made in a different way that’s not done any more, and to some they are better old. Ukes were made of better materials early on, but I think overall construction is better today. They made them with a particular l sound in mind, not so much sustain, etc. So they’re different. “Better” is strictly one’s opinion.

ProfChris
12-24-2017, 05:05 AM
I bought the uke before seeing your post so I'll see how I go. It has no cracks and one small scratch apparently. It's a player according to the seller but see how we go. Thanks again! :)

Hope it's a good 'un! One scratch in 80-100 years is pretty good going.

You will be surprised by how (comparatively) loud it is, and also that it weighs nothing in your hands. I wouldn't part with mine.

EDW
12-24-2017, 06:58 AM
I don't accept the proposition that stuff was made better in the old days. I'm old, and I have friends who like to get in their way-back-machine and talk about how good things were back in the day, and that can be everything from kids to cars, and if they played ukuleles they would say that they just don't make them like that anymore, but I don't buy that way of thinking.

My answer would be that it all depends on what it is. Some products were made to last and be durable. It was not unheard of for someone to have a Maytag washer that would last 40 years. I doubt today's appliances would last a quarter of that. Some products today have the advantage of computer aided design and manufacture which in some cases has meant better quality control.

raffrox
01-03-2018, 01:08 AM
Hope it's a good 'un! One scratch in 80-100 years is pretty good going.

You will be surprised by how (comparatively) loud it is, and also that it weighs nothing in your hands. I wouldn't part with mine.

So my Kumalae arrived today. Really happy with it. No cracks or major anything wrong. The scratch is pretty minor. No label in the sound hole and one not original tuning peg but otherwise a really nice uke.

Like your said ProfChris it's amazingly light for its volume and projection. I'm still getting my head around wooden friction tuning pegs as far as precise tuning goes but it sounds great so far :o

ProfChris
01-03-2018, 11:57 AM
Mine has wooden pegs too, and they're rather vague - this because they (or the holes) have changed shape with age.

A violin repair shop could fix this very easily, as they have the reamers and peg shapers needed. Once fitted, wooden pegs work well.

I really should sort mine out, but because I have a reamer I could (in theory) make a peg shapers, and so it's all waiting on my doing that. Maybe this year :)

Any pics yet? Glad you're happy with it, like I said, mine's a definite keeper.

raffrox
01-03-2018, 06:41 PM
105756

Here's a pic. I'm quite happy with the figuring on the sound board. That's a good idea as far as taking it to a violin repair shop. There's a very fancy looking one that I went past the other day. I'm a bit worried about what the cost might be from a place like that but no doubt they would do a great job. Although i think I'd consider having a go at it myself as well :) I've been having a dabble making a cigar box uke and I think wooden pegs would suit pretty well so I'm keen to learn more.

I'd be keen to hear how you go if you do give it a try to change your wooden pegs. Cheers ProfChris!

pritch
01-03-2018, 11:04 PM
A great looking instrument. Enjoy.

ProfChris
01-04-2018, 02:28 AM
105756

Here's a pic. I'm quite happy with the figuring on the sound board. That's a good idea as far as taking it to a violin repair shop. There's a very fancy looking one that I went past the other day. I'm a bit worried about what the cost might be from a place like that but no doubt they would do a great job. Although i think I'd consider having a go at it myself as well :) I've been having a dabble making a cigar box uke and I think wooden pegs would suit pretty well so I'm keen to learn more.

I'd be keen to hear how you go if you do give it a try to change your wooden pegs. Cheers ProfChris!

Very nice indeed! You have a Style C, there should be a pencilled serial number inside ending in c.

Ask the violin shop how much - it should only take 30 mins or so to refit the pegs. To do it yourself you need a 30:1 taper reamer and a peg shaper, which will cost USD 60-200 depending where you buy them, so it's not an easy job at home. You can get close by glueing sandpaper to a peg (maybe the next size down), but not close enough to get them working above "acceptable".

raffrox
01-04-2018, 03:16 AM
A great looking instrument. Enjoy.

Cheers :D


Very nice indeed! You have a Style C, there should be a pencilled serial number inside ending in c.

Ask the violin shop how much - it should only take 30 mins or so to refit the pegs. To do it yourself you need a 30:1 taper reamer and a peg shaper, which will cost USD 60-200 depending where you buy them, so it's not an easy job at home. You can get close by glueing sandpaper to a peg (maybe the next size down), but not close enough to get them working above "acceptable".

Sounds like I'm getting the violin shop to do it!! Happy to if it keeps it going for the foreseeable future. I think it will make quite a difference getting it done propoerly as the non-original peg losens after 20 min or so, so its currently pretty tough to keep it in tune but when it is it sings! The action is pretty high compared to my other ukes but I can live with it.

You're right about the serial number. Cheers for that. A style C it is. I didn't realise the serial number was there until I looked for it :)

bratsche
01-04-2018, 07:00 AM
My answer would be that it all depends on what it is. Some products were made to last and be durable. It was not unheard of for someone to have a Maytag washer that would last 40 years. I doubt today's appliances would last a quarter of that. Some products today have the advantage of computer aided design and manufacture which in some cases has meant better quality control.

I inherited my mother's sewing machine; and while I'm not into sewing like she was, it has worked for me every time I've had to use it, and I've only replaced a belt. It's over 65 years old.

We have a refrigerator that was in our house when we moved here (1999) that was already old then, and it's still running, despite having outlived a couple of newer models. (We need at least two working ones here.) We were recently told by several technicians that nowadays, if a fridge is 6+ years old, it's cheaper to replace it than repair it. Some life expectancy!

bratsche

spookelele
01-04-2018, 09:28 AM
I think the thing about vintage... is time.
Over time, many many things have been made.
Some of which were good, some bad, and some a fluke.

To get the old/good, and flukes, sometimes you have to rescue them from that point in time.

Sometimes age does something, like.. "opens" a wood, which Im on the fence about, and somewhat unsure what to think about it.

Sometimes it's a period/fluke thing. Like the TV pal uke. That didn't open up, because it's plastic, but its a better plastic uke than what you can get today, mostly.

Sometimes is just a wierd fluke thing.

But time is double edged. Things get broken, warp, lost, etc. So.. there's just a smaller number of them that survive and that rarity contributes to their cost. And if that rarity hits a perfect storm of fluke... or whatever, it will jack up the price.

Like.. a strativarius... the special wood from the very cold winter forest + being mostly unknown during his life + the romanticism + blah. Those are crazy expensive, but even so, they are not necessarily the best instruments, and in blind assessments, they don't always win. But.. if you want one, you have to shell out the $$

dinghy
01-04-2018, 10:15 AM
ahoy

i use vintage only
when talking about wine

far too often old is just old
nothing special just old

am in the second hand book business
most old books are simply old
with little or no value

but then
have two very old wood peg Martin uks
which are nothing short of a joy

yours truly
mac