PDA

View Full Version : Vintage Ukulele market?



Griole
04-02-2019, 12:33 PM
As a recovering guitar addict, I've seen the "Vintage" scene change over the last half century, resulting in the fact that there are a lot more vintage guitars in the hands of collectors rather than ordinary players. It got me thinking about the ukulele community, and its makeup.

I may be wrong, but it seems to me that we are living in the golden age of ukuleles. For example, I had a Martin baritone a while back. It played and sounded great, but I didn't think there was anything magical about it, except for the fact that it was a Martin, and was over 50 years old. When I compared it to my pro-level Pono, I'd have to give the nod to the Pono.

Couple that with the fact that there are many talented luthiers building great custom instruments today and I can't see there being an "older is better" bias, when it comes to ukes. Rather, I see the quality of today's ukes being consistently higher across the board, regardless of where they're made.

It seems that the ukulele community is more focused on playing, learning, and enjoyiing their ukes than viewing them as "investments" which may pay off at a later date.

Am I all wet? Is there a subset of the uke community that's in it for the money? From what I've experienced, it sure seems to me to be a lot healthier attitude shared by folks on this forum. Believe me, I am not demeaning the guitar community, of which I am still a part. It just seems to me that there's more focus on fun here. Thanks.

Vintageukes
04-02-2019, 01:17 PM
There just isn't the demand for vintage ukuleles as compared to vintage guitars.

Is the average modern ukulele better then the average vintage ukulele? Honestly, I think they are about the same. Ukulele building has not progressed dramatically over the past 100 plus years. I have some vintage ukuleles that are absolutely superb, and I paid far less then I would have for a comparable modern instrument.

I think you are right though, there aren't people buying vintage ukuleles for the investment value. Collectors, like me and others I know are into vintage because that is what gets us charged up, and most of us have passion for other vintage things as well. A lot of people have misconceptions about vintage instruments...that they are fickle or that they require more care or attention but they are just ukuleles. There are cheap vintage and high end vintage just like there is today. One major difference, which I believe is a result of the guitar revolution is that people now want big ukuleles, usually tenors which have a deeper sound which is a little more "guitar like" which is the sound they are used to. I'm not criticizing that, it is just a difference between now and then.

Ukecaster
04-02-2019, 02:37 PM
There just isn't the demand for vintage ukuleles as compared to vintage guitars.

Is the average modern ukulele better then the average vintage ukulele? Honestly, I think they are about the same. Ukulele building has not progressed dramatically over the past 100 plus years. I have some vintage ukuleles that are absolutely superb, and I paid far less then I would have for a comparable modern instrument.

I think you are right though, there aren't people buying vintage ukuleles for the investment value. Collectors, like me and others I know are into vintage because that is what gets us charged up, and most of us have passion for other vintage things as well. A lot of people have misconceptions about vintage instruments...that they are fickle or that they require more care or attention but they are just ukuleles. There are cheap vintage and high end vintage just like there is today. One major difference, which I believe is a result of the guitar revolution is that people now want big ukuleles, usually tenors which have a deeper sound which is a little more "guitar like" which is the sound they are used to. I'm not criticizing that, it is just a difference between now and then.

Agreed, and that's good (if you're buying), as it may keep the price of vintage sopranos down

actadh
04-02-2019, 05:04 PM
I have more vintage ukes than current ukes, and of the current ukes, half of them are not in production anymore. I like owning something that will never be made again.

raffrox
04-02-2019, 05:33 PM
I have more vintage ukes than current ukes, and of the current ukes, half of them are not in production anymore. I like owning something that will never be made again.

It's an interesting point about them not being made again. I realise that I have pretty much done the same with most of mine.

Another tyranny of distance thing being based in Australia but there very few vintage ukes around but when they are on the market they seem to go for cheaper than what they go for in other countries as there's just not the demand. It mean they there's some bargains around but resale value isn't great.

Graham Greenbag
04-02-2019, 07:15 PM
I’ve been looking for a vintage Uke for a while but short supply in the U.K. and having particular characteristics in mind have stopped me from buying. Vintage can be a whole heap of bother too and for potentially little financial return, once you put a Luthier’s repair costs into the sums you can soon make a significant loss on a purchase. I tend to go the DIY route but once you start to value your time the costs can be suprising. Unless you are well informed and have specific needs (some UU members are and do) then there’s not a lot of reason to take that purchase risk when new or recently made Ukes can give greater certainty of outcome, good value and good playing.

Edit. Investment Instruments aside at the end of the day a vintage Uke is a second hand Uke. When it’s practical for me to do so I prefer to purchase second hand items, but only some second hand things make good utility purchases - others are just OK and some can leave you somewhat out of pocket.

kerneltime
04-02-2019, 07:37 PM
The only vintage market seems to be for Martins and specifically sopranos and more specifically from 1920s +- decade. There are others that show up, but Martins are the popular ones.
I do own a couple, they sound great and unique but are they better in sound than the modern Martins? Hard to say and it is a preference.
My mind is blown that I own an instrument that is close to 100 years old and plays fine and I quite like the sound.
The vintage sound is a bit unique but can I reliably detect it in a blind test? That is a good question indeed..

Jerryc41
04-03-2019, 02:37 AM
As a recovering guitar addict, I've seen the "Vintage" scene change over the last half century, resulting in the fact that there are a lot more vintage guitars in the hands of collectors rather than ordinary players.

Is there a subset of the uke community that's in it for the money?

I think the guitar money-market will always be strong. Interest in ukuleles is tiny in comparison, and it wanes like the phases of the moon. I have never bought a ukulele with the intention of making a killing by selling it as a "collectible" some day. I buy what I want for myself. Old Martins and old K brands maintain their value, but buying today and selling for a profit in the near future isn't going to become "a thing." Maybe the many "Anniversary" models will hold their value.

Jerryc41
04-03-2019, 02:40 AM
Vintage can be a whole heap of bother too and for potentially little financial return, once you put a Luthierís repair costs into the sums you can soon make a significant loss on a purchase.

Right. And how much repair would you want to do on an old instrument. Many people favor the patina and signs of use in an old instrument. Unlike restoring antique cars to look like new, People seem to like old instruments to show their experience.

Graham Greenbag
04-03-2019, 06:27 AM
Right. And how much repair would you want to do on an old instrument. Many people favor the patina and signs of use in an old instrument. Unlike restoring antique cars to look like new, People seem to like old instruments to show their experience.

Quite, what is or will be the expectations of the resale market.

For me (but not for some others) too much of a vintage purchase is an uniformed gamble: what is its true market value, what will it actually play like, what is its true condition and what will I be charged for necessary restoration work / what time will it take of mine.

Of course if the outlay is low then that can limit losses and allow a vintage purchase for both simple pleasure and a link with history at an insignificant cost. However, it seems like a lot of other people have that concept in mind too and hence ‘bargins’ are in short supply, and what’s available often seems expensive for what it is (when valued as just an instrument to play).

Vintageukes
04-03-2019, 07:34 AM
The only vintage market seems to be for Martins and specifically sopranos and more specifically from 1920s +- decade. There are others that show up, but Martins are the popular ones.
I have seen this a lot...guys who have a bunch of vintage Martin and don't look for other vintage brands. It's true,Martin put out an excellent ukulele but there are many others that are outstanding. Heck, I have a Regal that stands toe to toe with any Martin uke...and people tend to thumb their noses at the mere mention of Regal! That is fine with me...I'll keep getting great ukes that no one else wants.

Jerryc41
04-03-2019, 08:02 AM
I have seen this a lot...guys who have a bunch of vintage Martin and don't look for other vintage brands. It's true, Martin put out an excellent ukulele but there are many others that are outstanding. Heck, I have a Regal that stands toe to toe with any Martin uke...and people tend to thumb their noses at the mere mention of Regal. That is fine with me...I'll keep getting great ukes that no one else wants.

A great local player I know has several Martins, but he wanted a cheapie knock-around uke. He got a generic Chinese uke (concert), and he's amazed at how good it is.

BBegall
04-03-2019, 09:54 AM
I was gifted a vintage Kamaka gold label in poor condition. Because it is a Kamaka and I live nearby, I brought it in to the Loprinzi workshop and got it repaired. There was a crack in the back but they told me they had to strengthen the whole top, sides back assembly. They did almost nothing cosmetic and charged me a very fair price. When I picked it up, Donna LoPrinzi said the ukulele had an amazing volume and tone.

I like big ukuleles and feel clumsy playing the Kamaka but it does have an amazing sound despite the rather primitive (to my inexpert eyes) design. Compared to modern ukes it seems odd with a wood nut and bridge and neck with metal frets placed right on the neck wood with no real fingerboard and not a fret marker in sight. Later I had the old tuners replaced with more modern Waverly's.

Despite the improvements and great sound I still prefer my tenors and baritone and I'm thinking of selling. I have no idea what might be a fair price so I thought of listing it on Ebay with a low minimum bid. On the other hand it's small and doesn't take up much room so maybe not.

Jerryc41
04-03-2019, 10:02 AM
I was gifted a vintage Kamaka gold label in poor condition. Because it is a Kamaka and I live nearby, I brought it in to the Loprinzi workshop and got it repaired. There was a crack in the back but they told me they had to strengthen the whole top, sides back assembly. They did almost nothing cosmetic and charged me a very fair price. When I picked it up, Donna LoPrinzi said the ukulele had an amazing volume and tone.

I like big ukuleles and feel clumsy playing the Kamaka but it does have an amazing sound despite the rather primitive (to my inexpert eyes) design. Compared to modern ukes it seems odd with a wood nut and bridge and neck with metal frets placed right on the neck wood with no real fingerboard and not a fret marker in sight. Later I had the old tuners replaced with more modern Waverly's.

Despite the improvements and great sound I still prefer my tenors and baritone and I'm thinking of selling. I have no idea what might be a fair price so I thought of listing it on Ebay with a low minimum bid. On the other hand it's small and doesn't take up much room so maybe not.

It must be nice living near a master builder. I consider my self a master of sorts. I'm very good at watching TV.

HBolte
04-04-2019, 07:08 AM
Money/resale is not a consideration when I buy a ukulele. It's only enjoyment for me.

Like a poster above I have a 20's Martin soprano. To play a ukulele that is almost 100 years old that sounds great and is in mint condition is fun! I also have a vintage style(new) Laughlin 3M Martin clone that plays great and is better than any new Martin that I have tried out. My Moore Bettah Concert may or may not appreciate in value but I'd never sell it so that does not matter.

Griole
04-05-2019, 04:08 AM
Yep! That perspective is where I was going with my original post. Whether or not one has vintage ukuleles, this community seems to be represented by players, not purely "vintage collectors". Sure, we all understand the value of a vintage instrument and its history, but the "old is gold" mindset doesn't seem to prevail here. Sound, craftsmanship, and playability seem to be the yardsticks, not just chronological age. Players dominate this community, which is what is so cool to me. There's nothing wrong with owning a piece of history, don't get me wrong. But it's incidental to the enjoyment we get from playing. Thanks.

70sSanO
04-05-2019, 11:18 AM
So much of collecting is generational. The stuff you wanted but couldnít have, or want to have again, becomes accessible as the years go on and the generation has more disposable income. As that generation passes away the next generation has other stuff that they want and demand, and prices, start to wain. Many of us remember going into music stores and drooling over a Fender, or Vox, Rickenbacker, etc. I had a Guild electric, my older brother had a Gretsch, and my younger brother had a Hofner bass (which really was pretty crappy despite the high collectibility). There will always be some demand for vintage items that reflect a golden era, but probably not the same level as for those who lived through it.

Electric guitars from the 60ís were, (maybe still are), so overpriced for what you get. I lived that era and there was so much inconsistency it wasnít even funny. Guitars made today are so much better, but they donít have the mystique.

As for ukuleles, I agree that the popularity of tenors may have eliminated a large part of the vintage market. The other part is the variety of designs and woods that were never used in vintage ukuleles. Hard to find a cut-away redwood/walnut tenor with a side port from the 40ís or 50ís. From that perspective it is about playing the instrument and not just collecting. Finally, vintage ukuleles just donít have the interest from the public that vintage guitars command. People will go to a vintage guitar exhibit, but Iím not sure what the draw would be for one with vintage ukuleles.

John

Vintageukes
04-05-2019, 12:05 PM
Finally, vintage ukuleles just donít have the interest from the public that vintage guitars command. People will go to a vintage guitar exhibit, but Iím not sure what the draw would be for one with vintage ukuleles.

John

I agree with all of what you wrote John but I started to laugh at the last sentence when I thought "Are you kidding, I know all the guys who would be in line...all 10 of us!"

PetalumaRescuke
04-05-2019, 02:34 PM
I regularly put rescued vintage ones on the market. The Martins are the most rewarding, as they come out singing. There is a very small collectors market that seems to want pristine examples. I've had a couple of those that I felt guilty playing (potential for wear and tare). The current projects are a labour of love and not for profit. My players come and go out into the world, as demand dictates, with the exception of a WWII Martin Concert. Wish my playing was good as my craft. I probably put too much time in the shop or on line at the expense of practice.
Dave

frianm
04-05-2019, 02:36 PM
I have some "vintage" instruments and really enjoy playing them. The same goes for guitars and banjos. None of mine are, or were, perfect. They have history and that is of course in the dark. However it gives me joy to play and wonder. Some instruments I have had to repair, some not. Often I will put on Gotoh upt tuners to make them easily tunable. They are not investments, they are to be played and I am so thankful that their costs are usually modest.