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View Full Version : Want a Vintage Martin soprano...need help.



Astein2006
02-21-2019, 06:59 PM
So Iíve decided I want a vintage mahogany Martin soprano. Style O or Style 1. My budget will be somewhere around $800. What is my checklist for deciding what to look for, what years to stay away from etc. I realize ultimately I have to play one and trust my hands and ears but any advice you Martin aficionados can give me would be much appreciated.

CommonCurt
02-21-2019, 07:04 PM
Very interested in this topic myself.

spongeuke
02-21-2019, 08:00 PM
I have sold, or gifted at least 16 Martins, all to satisfied players. I still have 2 Vintage Martins available.
I will not move out any ukuleles that are not totally playable, this is my personal philosophy concerning instruments.
The repairs and replacements I make are described and I do not attempt to hide them. They have a presentable fit and finish as well.

The market has diminished so you can get vintage Martin Ukuleles at very reasonable prices.
As I do not seem to be able to upload pictures, email me at spongeuke@yahoo.com for pictures, descriptions and such.

ukulelekarcsi
02-21-2019, 10:50 PM
What Spongeuke says!

Also, try contacting Martin players (they usually have more than one, and could be convinced/begged/coerced into selling one off), look on ebay (several on offer, but be careful about the condition) and on other webforums (there was a wonderful 1950s style 2 on sale this week, well within your budget, on the French forum).

TheBathBird
02-22-2019, 01:01 AM
I bought a wonderful vintage Martin from Spongeuke a couple of years ago; he was a pleasure to deal with, the uke was exactly as described and thanks to his excellent packing it made it safely all the way across The Pond.

If Spongeuke has the model you're after you really couldn't do better than buying from him.

Jerryc41
02-22-2019, 01:08 AM
From what I've seen, pricing and condition vary widely. And what is a vintage uke? I bought a 1944 Martin soprano that had it's damaged top replaced with a spruce top. I paid just $425, but I suspect the spruce top is why it was priced lower. I like the top, and I like the fact that it was made in 1944 - just like me. : )

Reverb has serveral oldies for sale.
https://reverb.com/marketplace?query=martin%20ukulele&condition=used

EDW
02-22-2019, 02:05 AM
I don't know too much about playing and tone differences between different eras. I think that there will also be differences from instrument to instrument. That said, I believe most any Martins will be great players no matter what. There are some really pricey ones out there and there are some bargains. I would not worry about finding something in pristine condition. Often there are instruments that have been "well loved" and played and are terrific. I would certainly trust those that spongeuke has available.

Graham Greenbag
02-22-2019, 02:30 AM
So I’ve decided I want a vintage mahogany Martin soprano. Style O or Style 1. My budget will be somewhere around $800. What is my checklist for deciding what to look for, what years to stay away from etc. I realize ultimately I have to play one and trust my hands and ears but any advice you Martin aficionados can give me would be much appreciated.

I’m not a Martin expert (so cannot give you the particular details you seek) but offer a few general comments.
- Ken Timms makes a Martin copy that’s very well regarded. Prices for them vary a little but are basically within your budget. Ken effectively allows you to buy a new Martin that will play and last like the old ones.
- Old Ukes can be in any condition and can cost a fortune to restore, many sellers either don’t know the actual condition or willfully conceal it.
- Old Ukes tend to cost more than they are actually worth as second hand instruments, they often sell at a premium based on their antique nature and investment value - beware, investments can go down in value as well as up.
- Genuine enthusiasts who are more interested in the item than its monetary value are hard to find. But if you can find such a person then they might steer you towards something worth having. Such people typically put faults right and only have items of merit in their collection. You might pay a bit more for an item from such a person but it’s money well spent because (high) quality is assured.
- if you are handy with tools then genuine enthusiasts will help you with restoration planing and work, they might even know of projects waiting for the right person.
- Talk to Songeuke, have a conversation, I believe that he’s the type of person who’d be happy to assist someone with a common interest. He might well be able to direct you towards other like minded people too.

Swamp Yankee
02-22-2019, 02:39 AM
I believe I lucked out with my $500 1940s-50s Martin concert uke that I found on FMM. The cracks it has are old and stable, it sounds great, and it was fully playable right out of the box.

But if you're contemplating buying one on line from an unknown private party, I think it's important to gets lots and lots of pictures and ask plenty of questions. Get an action measurement at the 12th fret for the G and A strings. Don't assume there's no problem just because the seller doesn't mention it.

edited to add: ^^^ what Graham said^^^

Cluze
02-22-2019, 04:03 AM
I might suggest you keep an eye on a trusted retailer who carries vintage Martin's and has a world class in-house repair shop: Elderly Instruments.

They get in vintage Martin's all the time, and if something is wrong with it, they will tell you about it. Just go to their ukulele section, select Martin, and sort by arrival date to see what they have gotten in recently. (I tried to post a link to this search, but the system decided it was probably spam...)

EDW
02-22-2019, 05:32 AM
You can also look at the As Is section at Elderly. You can get some deals and have a decent luthier fit them up.

https://www.elderly.com/vintage/as-is-instruments/as-is-ukuleles?manufacturer=203

There are some other places that have vintage instruments and are reputable shops

https://vintage-instruments.com

https://gryphonstrings.com

You can see if they will give you a trial so you don't have to worry as you might on eBay or Reverb.

Astein2006
02-22-2019, 08:48 AM
I might suggest you keep an eye on a trusted retailer who carries vintage Martin's and has a world class in-house repair shop: Elderly Instruments.

They get in vintage Martin's all the time, and if something is wrong with it, they will tell you about it. Just go to their ukulele section, select Martin, and sort by arrival date to see what they have gotten in recently. (I tried to post a link to this search, but the system decided it was probably spam...)
Thank you for the suggestion. They sounds like a great resource. I know of them but have never bought anything through them.

Astein2006
02-22-2019, 08:49 AM
You can also look at the As Is section at Elderly. You can get some deals and have a decent luthier fit them up.

https://www.elderly.com/vintage/as-is-instruments/as-is-ukuleles?manufacturer=203

There are some other places that have vintage instruments and are reputable shops

https://vintage-instruments.com

https://gryphonstrings.com

You can see if they will give you a trial so you don't have to worry as you might on eBay or Reverb.

Thank you for these links!! Will check them out.

bobhost
02-22-2019, 09:02 AM
Thank you for the suggestion. They sounds like a great resource. I know of them but have never bought anything through them.
I made a pilgrimage to Elderly. Spent the afternoon taking one vintage uke after another off the wall. Plinking on it to my hearts content. Getting a feel for the sound and intonation. I was in heaven. End even though I brought enough to buy any of them, none sang to me in a way that meant I "HAD TO HAVE IT".
I was a little surprised. But I am still working on determining what my preferences are. At that time, nothing met my needs.
But it sure was *fun* trying them all.

Side note, my wife almost bought a banjo-uke.

Astein2006
02-22-2019, 07:43 PM
I made a pilgrimage to Elderly. Spent the afternoon taking one vintage uke after another off the wall. Plinking on it to my hearts content. Getting a feel for the sound and intonation. I was in heaven. End even though I brought enough to buy any of them, none sang to me in a way that meant I "HAD TO HAVE IT".
I was a little surprised. But I am still working on determining what my preferences are. At that time, nothing met my needs.
But it sure was *fun* trying them all.

Side note, my wife almost bought a banjo-uke.
I feel you. I am very picky about what speaks to me. There was this koaloha pineapple that I played at a local music store a few years ago that I fell in love with but I did not have the money at the time. Now I have the money I just need to fall in love again lol.

Jerryc41
02-22-2019, 11:57 PM
(I tried to post a link to this search, but the system decided it was probably spam...)

If you post the link as an Edit, it will probably work.

https://www.elderly.com/whats-new/recent-arrival.html?cat=5&dir=desc&manufacturer=203&order=news_from_date

They had a couple I don't see today - $375 and $500+, both from the 1920s.
https://www.elderly.com/acoustics/ukuleles?dir=desc&new_used=413&order=news_from_date

Vintageukes
02-26-2019, 10:36 AM
Overall, you find amazing consistency with vintage Martin ukuleles. What I mean more specifically is that they are consistently good. Luckily, Martin made a lot of them and they often survive quite well. It is helpful to hold one in your hands and see if it speaks to you but that isn't always an option. I have A LOT of vintage ukuleles and I have often bought them from far off lands, and I have yet to be disappointed with one. However, I am not looking for a specific thing in a uke and I don't expect all ukuleles to sound like modern tenor ukes (which I find most people expect). Vintage soprano ukuleles from Martin tend to be bright and punchy sounding and not "guitar-like" at all. I only mention that because I find most people expect a deep bassy guitar like sound which vintage ukuleles were never intended to have.

Places like Elderly and Grphyon are excellent and you will pay a premium but you will likely get an excellent instrument. However, keep your eyes open out there. I see completed auctions on eBay all the time that I think were steals for the buyer. Of course, everyone is onto Martin so you don't see that often with Martin ukes but you do see it with others that are as good or IMHO even better. Good luck!

Astein2006
02-26-2019, 02:30 PM
Overall, you find amazing consistency with vintage Martin ukuleles. What I mean more specifically is that they are consistently good. Luckily, Martin made a lot of them and they often survive quite well. It is helpful to hold one in your hands and see if it speaks to you but that isn't always an option. I have A LOT of vintage ukuleles and I have often bought them from far off lands, and I have yet to be disappointed with one. However, I am not looking for a specific thing in a uke and I don't expect all ukuleles to sound like modern tenor ukes (which I find most people expect). Vintage soprano ukuleles from Martin tend to be bright and punchy sounding and not "guitar-like" at all. I only mention that because I find most people expect a deep bassy guitar like sound which vintage ukuleles were never intended to have.

Places like Elderly and Grphyon are excellent and you will pay a premium but you will likely get an excellent instrument. However, keep your eyes open out there. I see completed auctions on eBay all the time that I think were steals for the buyer. Of course, everyone is onto Martin so you don't see that often with Martin ukes but you do see it with others that are as good or IMHO even better. Good luck!
Great comment. I’ve been playing guitar for 40 years I do not want a guitar sound in any way. I am enamored with that mahogany soprano punchy sound. I’m chasing a soprano that will satisfy my desire. I’ve had the same acoustic guitar since I was ten and have no need for another. I have 7 ukes. One being a tenor and the others sopranos. I have finally figured out what I want from a soprano. Now just finding one. A Martin I believe.

EDW
02-26-2019, 03:12 PM
Have you looked at

https://shop.gryphonstrings.com/products/c-1929-soprano-martin-ukulele-style-0-55369

I have a similar vintage and it is a killer instrument.

BTW-I agree with your comments about the sound of a good soprano. I sometimes hear ukes that sound like small guitars, but it is the traditional sound that I find most appealing. Good luck with the search.

Astein2006
02-26-2019, 05:14 PM
Have you looked at

https://shop.gryphonstrings.com/products/c-1929-soprano-martin-ukulele-style-0-55369

I have a similar vintage and it is a killer instrument.

BTW-I agree with your comments about the sound of a good soprano. I sometimes hear ukes that sound like small guitars, but it is the traditional sound that I find most appealing. Good luck with the search.

Very tempting....why the low price. All the O’s I’ve seen of this vintage are much more expensive. What should I be concerned about?

EDW
02-27-2019, 02:21 AM
My guess might be because it has had a few repaired cracks. If they are done well it should not be any issue. With the age and the very thin wood that you find on these it is not uncommon. I see many instruments that seem to have very inflated priced. This seems very reasonable. I have seen many in lousy condition going for much more.

Swamp Yankee
02-27-2019, 02:31 AM
Very tempting....why the low price. All the O’s I’ve seen of this vintage are much more expensive. What should I be concerned about?

It looks a bit chewed up at the back/ side joints on both sides of the lower bout. Also, the tuners are not original. Also, as mentioned, repaired cracks. In my limited experience, I'd say it's fairly priced. Not a steal.

Ukecaster
02-27-2019, 03:59 AM
......Places like Elderly and Grphyon are excellent and you will pay a premium but you will likely get an excellent instrument. However, keep your eyes open out there. I see completed auctions on eBay all the time that I think were steals for the buyer. Of course, everyone is onto Martin so you don't see that often with Martin ukes but you do see it with others that are as good or IMHO even better. Good luck!

I'd love to hear you opinion of what those "others that are as good or IMHO even better" are. I bet Favilla is one of them, but am curious about others.

jelow1966
02-27-2019, 04:57 AM
I don't know much about vintage Martin ukes, I've never played any of them other then the one I own (see the road worn uke thread) which I think is from the 50's. I paid $125 with case in 1987 which would be ~$270 in 2017 (last year I could find with a quick search). Have the prices really gone up that much or are more 'modern' vintage Martins still selling for about the equivalent of what I paid? I suppose the next question would be, even if cheaper would a Martin from the 50's instead of the 20-30's be as good?

John

Sharpshin
02-27-2019, 06:57 PM
Vintage martins really do seem to be consistently lovely in sound.I have purchased 3 players: a 1918, 1948ish, 1960 ish. on this forum and all were good. My daily driver is a 2015 Timms, but there is really no reason the 1918 could not be the daily player, and it sounds better. Spongeuke on this forum is a wealth of information and very good to deal with, several forum members have vintage Martins and perhaps you will get a email from someone who wants to rehome one. In addition to Eldery and Gryphon, I notice vintage sopranos at LA guitars sales. I have never purchased one via eBay or Reverb, but I am often tempted, then I remind myself that I really don't need anymore!

MD1948
02-28-2019, 05:10 AM
I've never played a vintage uke - such as a Martin from the '20s. I have a 2017 Martin 1K Concert, which I love compared to my previous 3 or 4 new ukes I had previous to investing in the Martin.

So, can anyone describe generally "how a vintage Martin sound would differ from modern?" I think I do understand the idea of "aged wood"- but in a ukulele, in the hands of an amateur musician, is this quality audible?

spongeuke
02-28-2019, 04:46 PM
I've never played a vintage uke - such as a Martin from the '20s. I have a 2017 Martin 1K Concert, which I love compared to my previous 3 or 4 new ukes I had previous to investing in the Martin.

So, can anyone describe generally "how a vintage Martin sound would differ from modern?" I think I do understand the idea of "aged wood"- but in a ukulele, in the hands of an amateur musician, is this quality audible?

I've seen online postings of old verses new comparisons that don't capture the presence of the old Martins probably a microphone/recording effect. This also can't let you experience the vibration you feel when playing. If you run across one, ask if you could have a few strums on it, then you will know.
The "aged wood" thing could be a subjective perception or just the person getting used to playing. My take on the New and Vintage is that they were made different after WWII and even more so with the recent offerings. Martin also had easier access to quality mahogany back then.

UkerDanno
02-28-2019, 05:47 PM
Very tempting....why the low price. All the Oís Iíve seen of this vintage are much more expensive. What should I be concerned about?

That is a nice player, it's priced about right for the condition. Wouldn't worry about buying from Gryphon...

andy2353
03-07-2019, 03:13 PM
Started looking into vintage Martins as well...are the differences between Style 1,2,3,5 mainly cosmetic and length of fretboard? Are there any differences in construction?

Andy

Ukecaster
03-07-2019, 04:45 PM
Styles 0,1 and 2 pretty much the same, except for body binding and fingerboard dots. The 3 and 5 have more bling, and possibly a higher grade of wood, but same construction except for longer fingerboards, and in many cases, the same sound as lower models.

Chevytothelevy
03-08-2019, 05:15 AM
As a longtime guitarist, I knew the magic of vintage Martins--I own a vintage 00-18 mahogany, and it is a pure joy. The only "reasonably" priced new guitars approaching this sound were those from Bill Collings, so I acquired one, and it too is a dream. So when I took up the ukulele a few months ago, I decided to get my first "nice" ukulele and wound up with a Collings. The wider, radiused fretboard is perfect for my fingerpicking, and the attention to detail and sound are otherworldly.

But my mind kept going back to the vintage Martins and the sound of my old guitar.

So I took a big chance and bought a 40's--50's Martin mahogany tenor on ebay, and I got lucky.(It's the one I talked about in my previous post about seeing images in the wood grain--the infamous Dragon/Moose thread!) It is totally crack-free and I've finally got it cleaned up, and humidified, and playing, and let me just say--there's something DIFFERENT about these old Martins. I'm not smart enough to know about the mahogany of the era, or the construction techniques, or the phases of the moon during the build, but I Hear it and I Feel it. That's all I know to say. I'm going to post some before/after pics, and maybe a short video (when I finally get the accursed friction pegs rebuilt!), but I know it won't convey the sounds and resonances this little wooden box puts out.

If you do buy one without getting to test it, talk to the seller, ask about cracks and repairs, ask about action measurements, get more pics, talk to the seller some more, get some more detailed pics, ask again about cracks and repairs, and then cross your fingers.

If mine had turned out to be a dog, it's so pretty that I would have just hung it on the wall and admired it for the way the thing looks.

kkimura
03-08-2019, 04:36 PM
Something to consider is that today's Mexican Martin S1 may become tomorrows, highly sought after, vintage Martin soprano.

Jerryc41
03-09-2019, 12:29 AM
Something to consider is that today's Mexican Martin S1 may become tomorrows, highly sought after, vintage Martin soprano.

When there is no choice but Mexican-made, those ukes will become "vintage," but will the prices be as high as for the PA ukes?

kkimura
03-09-2019, 01:15 AM
When there is no choice but Mexican-made, those ukes will become "vintage," but will the prices be as high as for the PA ukes?

Yes, it's hard to compete head to head with a Pennsylvania built Martin ukulele. But, Mexican Martins may carve out their own niche in the world of collectable ukuleles. Hanging on to my S1 just in case. :D

andy2353
03-09-2019, 02:59 AM
Yes, it's hard to compete head to head with a Pennsylvania built Martin ukulele. But, Mexican Martins may carve out their own niche in the world of collectable ukuleles. Hanging on to my S1 just in case. :D

Let’s revive this thread 75 years from now and see where things stand on tone and collectibility:)

kkimura
03-09-2019, 09:09 AM
Let’s revive this thread 75 years from now and see where things stand on tone and collectibility:)

I probably won't make it but my great grand kids may weigh in.

mm stan
03-09-2019, 08:40 PM
Don't rush in getting one and you'll find one for half the price, I found a late thirties style 2
For 200..00 put in for repairs and gloss refinish at 400.00

Jerryc41
03-10-2019, 01:04 AM
Let’s revive this thread 75 years from now...

2094: "Ukulele? What's a ukulele?" :D