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View Full Version : Martin Baritone Ukulele Cautionary Tale - Advice for people hunting vintage ukes!



Baskervils
07-22-2011, 01:34 PM
I finally got a Martin baritone ukulele and I love it, but it was a costly process. I thought that I’d share my story for those people purchasing vintage ukes on eBay or Craigslist in the future. I want to help people so they don’t make the same mistakes I did.

I really wanted a great player baritone that I could record with. I've tried and liked some newer models, but the Martin has a unique vintage guitar warmth that I really enjoy.

I purchased my first Martin Baritone on Craigslist from a very nice seller (who was not a player), for $1000 advertised in flawless condition. Physically, it was in beautiful condition. I've had pretty good luck purchasing other musical gear on line, so I decided to give this a go.

Looks can be very deceiving, unfortunately. After spending $80 to ship with fees and $50 at the luthier, I learned that the neck had a .5 back bow. I could have heat treated the neck, re-fretted and replaced the saddle, may have cost up to $400. There was no guarantee that this was going to make the ukulele 100% playable. I decided it was a little pricey for an already expensive instrument and luckily the guy was nice enough to take it back. Total loss = $200.

A local music store in NYC had one for sale for $1800, which I thought was insanely ungodly expensive, but I decided to go and try theirs out. They hadn't set it up and the neck on this uke didn't appear to be straight either. I sat around while they took it to the back for set up, but 30 minutes later they were still working on it. I split. The thing probably wasn't worth that much even if it was showroom mint, which it wasn’t.

Finally, I found one that was in great shape from the Music Emporium in Mass. Joe, the owner, was super cool and did a very thorough set up. It's a great player Martin baritone.

This was a painful lesson that I hope others will avoid. Perhaps it's common sense to vintage guitar collectors, but I should have asked much more specific questions before I bought my first one. The seller of the ukulele (that had the back bow) said that the music store checked it out and said that it was great, but they clearly did not have a qualified person on staff.

If you purchase an expensive uke on eBay or Craigslist, you should definitely ask if the instrument has been inspected or set up by a luthier (guitar technician) and get documentation on that. Also, see if the seller will accept returns. Luckily the seller I purchased from was honest and my $200 mistake wasn’t a $1200 mistake

SuzukHammer
07-22-2011, 01:43 PM
That's a really good post with good practical experience.

Because of my location, I've had to buy my ukes unseen.

I feel I've been lucky; but, this site has a good reputation from my experience of upfront honest people.

I'm sure some day, I may end up with an expensive lesson; but, it hasn't happened from my experience at the Marketplace here.

Baskervils
07-22-2011, 02:13 PM
That's a really good post with good practical experience.

Because of my location, I've had to buy my ukes unseen.

I feel I've been lucky; but, this site has a good reputation from my experience of upfront honest people.

I'm sure some day, I may end up with an expensive lesson; but, it hasn't happened from my experience at the Marketplace here.

Most of my high end purchases have been audio gear, like mic pres and compressors.

This was the first expensive instrument that I've purchased in a long time.

What I learned: Ukuleles are more sensitive than guitars. The necks are thin, and are more likely to warp. The lack of a truss rod makes them more difficult to fix later on. It seems that most ukes have not been babied and stored correctly (guitars, too, for that matter).

There were lots of recommendation posts on uke underground on WHAT to buy, but very few people added asides about how difficult it may be to find an old ukulele that is ready to play. I paid a bit more for mine in the end, but it came from a shop with a luthier that knew what he was doing and could honestly evaluate the instrument, which made it worthwhile!

bdukes
07-22-2011, 02:39 PM
Good advice. Congrats on finding a player. BTW, I played that Martin at the Music Emporium. It's a sweet uke. Looking forward to hearing your recordings.

patico
07-22-2011, 02:47 PM
my cautionary tale:
one time i was looking for a beater guitar, an old guitar that i could take to the beach, camping, raining, etc.

i found an old guitar, with its original case. after arguing for the price i got a U$20 discount, from 100 -->80 U$

as soon as i reached home, i googled the (unknown for me) brand of the guitar.
"collectors item"
"may sell up to 50.000 if it's in good condition"

mine is fairly nice for a 100 years old spanish guitar.
i need to find an expert luthier to evaluate the guitar, so it's stored till her time comes. i still can't find a beater guitar.

Baskervils
07-22-2011, 02:54 PM
my cautionary tale:
one time i was looking for a beater guitar, an old guitar that i could take to the beach, camping, raining, etc.

i found an old guitar, with its original case. after arguing for the price i got a U$20 discount, from 100 -->80 U$

as soon as i reached home, i googled the (unknown for me) brand of the guitar.
"collectors item"
"may sell up to 50.000 if it's in good condition"

mine is fairly nice for a 100 years old spanish guitar.
i need to find an expert luthier to evaluate the guitar, so it's stored till her time comes. i still can't find a beater guitar.

Yamaha makes GREAT cheap beater guitars. I had 2 Eternas back in the day. They sounded good, and more importantly, they stayed in tune! It's phenomenal that you got a great old Spanish guitar.

bdukes: Cool that you played my little Martin baritone! I am thrilled with it. And relieved!

hmgberg
07-22-2011, 04:59 PM
Good advice. Congrats on finding a player. BTW, I played that Martin at the Music Emporium. It's a sweet uke. Looking forward to hearing your recordings.

So did I. About 2 weeks ago. Very nice ukulele. I was after a soprano that they sold the day before and hadn't removed from the website. Awww! But, I played a lot of fine instruments, Martins and Collings, and the folks at the store were nice. I'm glad you bought the bari Baskervils, because I have to admit that I thought about getting it myself.

mm stan
07-22-2011, 05:59 PM
There was a martin baritone here for about 600..00 but it has cracks in the sides...and was not in perfect condition..I love my martins..buy from a reputable dealer..
Nothing beats a martin vintage sound for the price....

hmgberg
07-22-2011, 06:13 PM
my cautionary tale:
one time i was looking for a beater guitar, an old guitar that i could take to the beach, camping, raining, etc.

i found an old guitar, with its original case. after arguing for the price i got a U$20 discount, from 100 -->80 U$

as soon as i reached home, i googled the (unknown for me) brand of the guitar.
"collectors item"
"may sell up to 50.000 if it's in good condition"

mine is fairly nice for a 100 years old spanish guitar.
i need to find an expert luthier to evaluate the guitar, so it's stored till her time comes. i still can't find a beater guitar.

I have a beater classical guitar. I'll trade you for your collector's item ;-))

SuzukHammer
07-23-2011, 04:56 AM
my cautionary tale:
one time i was looking for a beater guitar, an old guitar that i could take to the beach, camping, raining, etc.

i found an old guitar, with its original case. after arguing for the price i got a U$20 discount, from 100 -->80 U$

as soon as i reached home, i googled the (unknown for me) brand of the guitar.
"collectors item"
"may sell up to 50.000 if it's in good condition"

mine is fairly nice for a 100 years old spanish guitar.
i need to find an expert luthier to evaluate the guitar, so it's stored till her time comes. i still can't find a beater guitar.

Never. Happens. to. me.