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View Full Version : Do you want to own a vintage Martin?



garyg
06-13-2012, 02:03 PM
I fell in love with vintage Martins about a year ago but was put off by the high prices. But I always follow them on ebay and in the last few months picked up a 1M from the 20's with a few easily repaired cracks for under $400 and a pre 1932 0 with newer tuners but otherwise in excellent condition for under $500. These seem to be bargain prices, at least they're the best that I've seen in a year of watching, so if you want to pick up a vintage Martin I would start watching the auction sites. Maybe the prices will drop even more but great buys are definitely available now, especially when you compare these ukes to what you can get for $500 in a new uke. Of course there are *lots* of overpriced Martins up too, but I've seen quite a few lately worth bidding on. Perhaps Howard, Chris and Rick and other vintage Martin watchers can give their opinions.

mm stan
06-13-2012, 02:15 PM
Aloha Gary,
Ha ha don't tempt me...I am having a hard enough time controlling my UAS....hee hee :)

garyg
06-13-2012, 02:21 PM
Stanley, okay I won't so long as you never ask me how many I have <g>. But really I think now is the time. aloha, g

ukuleledaveey
06-13-2012, 02:24 PM
one day i hope to own one they are my dream uke, my holy grail :)

mm stan
06-13-2012, 02:38 PM
Stanley, okay I won't so long as you never ask me how many I have <g>. But really I think now is the time. aloha, g


Aloha Gary,
I have been buying ukes for a long time.. and I guess it is timing...do you know certain times of the year, ukes sell better and better prices... for instance between thanksgiving and december
people need money and sell...and other times of the year I won't tell...lol really....Stan

1937Scott
06-13-2012, 03:07 PM
Har.

I shop them up all the time.....but have a bunch of real good players. It helps me push off UAS, well, that and bills to pay.

I missed a 'The Gibson' that went on a short ebay auction last week for $250. (!!!???) I was at work. :(

Scott

UKISOCIETY
06-13-2012, 03:09 PM
I was fortunate to acquire a 1960's Martin Style 0 a while ago. It is my hands-down favorite uke. If I had to give up all but one of my ukes, I'd keep the vintage Martin.

E'nuff said!

1937Scott
06-13-2012, 03:12 PM
Uki,

That was not very helpful for my UAS bug.....

;)

Chris Tarman
06-13-2012, 06:22 PM
I agree with Stan about certain times of year being better. My Gibson U3 ended at about noon on Christmas Day, and I was the sole bidder.
Martin prices vary a lot, and seem to be headed upward, but there are still good deals to be had. I watch them regularly on eBay, and sometimes I'm surprised at how low they end. On the other hand, I'm sometimes surprised by how HIGH they end!

garyg
06-14-2012, 01:03 AM
I agree with Stan about certain times of year being better. My Gibson U3 ended at about noon on Christmas Day, and I was the sole bidder.
Martin prices vary a lot, and seem to be headed upward, but there are still good deals to be had. I watch them regularly on eBay, and sometimes I'm surprised at how low they end. On the other hand, I'm sometimes surprised by how HIGH they end!


Chris and Stan make interesting points and they've been watching longer than I have so I'll bow to their superior knowledge. And maybe I wasn't specific enough. No doubt that Stan is right that the Thanksgiving to Chanukah period is a time of better prices every year. And now that I think about what Chris said about rising prices, I would agree that in the last few months more vintage Martins have been listed with high opening bids, so to be specific what I am suggesting is that there are Martins in very good playable condition that are going for lower prices than I've seen before and much lower prices than "experienced" folks quoted me a year ago. As for owning a vintage Martin, I suppose that it always depends on your "ear" and what you prefer, and being a natural skeptic I didn't believe all the "player on Martin" love but after buying my first 1M here (a 40's uke in excellent condition) for $600 I fell in love with their sound and playability. Those Martin lovers are right, there just is nothing like a vintage Martin (at least for my ears and hands). cheers, g2

hmgberg
06-14-2012, 01:37 AM
Prices for many auction items seem to vary according to the time of year. Like the others say about ukes, it's when buyers don't have money to buy because they need the money for gifts or other things and sellers are selling because they need money for other things. I also have noticed the phenomenon Gary describes. After the bidding for a Martin goes particularly high, sellers will list their Martins at ridiculously high prices. About a month ago, a beautiful 3K sold for, as I recall, $4,700.00; a few days earlier of later, I can't remember, a Ditson 3M sold very high as well. Now, you have people listing their Style Os with damage and other problems at opening bids at prices just shy of $1,000.00. It's just basic market forces at play. When these Os don't sell at the opening prices, we won't see Martins for a while. When they begin to reappear, the prices won't be so high initially...but the cycle will start again.

As for the quality of Martin ukes, I'm with Gary and Alan. The Os, in particular, can be had at reasonably affordable prices, Davey (you should save for one), at various times. Understand, though, that when I say "reasonable," I'm factoring the quality, or my perception of it. To me, $500.00 for perhaps the best sounding and playing uke in your collection is not a lot.

ukuleledaveey
06-14-2012, 01:50 AM
Davey (you should save for one),
:) yeah i am desperately trying to save my coppers. I to often spend hours going through ebay looking at the Martin's up for auction, and although a relative noobie to the uke scene, i have read the threads and listened to people to hopefully get some facts :)
I to have noticed some poor quality style O's that start off with ridicuously high prices. I think as well, but i could be wrong lol, I think they go for a higher price over here in the Uk as they are not so much readily available as in the states. That is the other thing that hinders a purchase (also lack of funds !!!) is that if i get one from the states , there is al the import duty and all the other rip off taxes to pay, but I have vowed to myself one day i will own a Style O, i gotta keep believing the dream :)
Great thread by the way.

OldePhart
06-14-2012, 06:37 AM
I'm not much into the vintage scene but I think if I was going to own a Martin it would probably have to be a vintage one. I say that after visiting an independent music store in Springfield, MO that actually had a fair variety of ukes, most of them lower end but including a current Martin 0.

Granted, it's a single sample but I was pretty underwhelmed by the Martin, frankly. Both of my Mainland satin sopranos (mango and mahogany) could wipe the floor with it in all categories (fit, finish, volume, tone, playability). Even a couple of the Cordobas the same store had hanging on the wall were nearly as good as the Martin and I'm not much of a fan of the Cordoba ukes.

It wasn't a bad uke, don't get me wrong; it was just no way worth its $400 price tag. I don't know what strings were on it, looked like maybe Aquila but I'm not certain. In any case better strings might improve it some but I just don't understand the fascination other than name loyalty, I guess. The price on the Mexican Martins is within spitting distance of the Hawaiian ukes so I would expect the quality to be in spitting distance, too, and based on that sample I'd say it's not.

A vintage Martin, though...yeah...maybe if I find the right one. :)

John

garyg
06-14-2012, 06:55 AM
John, I'm not sure if you're talking about a vintage Martin or a recent production S-0 but let me assure you they are completely different beasts. g2

OldePhart
06-14-2012, 12:14 PM
John, I'm not sure if you're talking about a vintage Martin or a recent production S-0 but let me assure you they are completely different beasts. g2

THat's what I mean - the recent one I saw in a store was unimpressive so if I was going to get a Martin it would have to be a vintage, I'm thinking.

John

strumsilly
06-14-2012, 01:52 PM
yea, the Martins are nice, but I think you can get very close to the "Martin sound" in a new or recently made uke. I believe Kiwaya [ I have a concert] and some of the custom builders make a uke that is every bit as nice, and sometimes less expensive. I compared my 2 Martins side by side with my Kiwaya and the Kiwaya won out. I'm not saying Martins are not great ukes, but their prices are high for what you are getting. and many vintage ukes have "issues"

soupking
06-14-2012, 02:21 PM
yea, the Martins are nice, but I think you can get very close to the "Martin sound" in a new or recently made uke. I believe Kiwaya [ I have a concert] and some of the custom builders make a uke that is every bit as nice, and sometimes less expensive. I compared my 2 Martins side by side with my Kiwaya and the Kiwaya won out. I'm not saying Martins are not great ukes, but their prices are high for what you are getting. and many vintage ukes have "issues"

This is something I've always wondered and am admittedly totally ignorant about: is there that much of a difference between say a Kiwaya KTS-4 and a Martin 0? The reason I ask is because I have no clue, and my preference would be to buy a brand new Kiwaya; which, avoiding to my knowledge would be around the same price. Having said all this, I understand the older mahogany of the vintage Martin Ike's may sound better or whatnot, based on what I've read; but is it THAT much better? Im a novice in this uncharted realm and am asking because I'm interested...

1300cc
06-14-2012, 02:25 PM
I am new to this uke world, only 6month since i started playing, but whats so special with martin ukes?

Eyeguy
06-14-2012, 04:57 PM
I do own a vintage Martin - a baritone (pic below) - and I'm currently on the prowl for a tenor. I also own 5 vintage Martin guitars. Contrary to popular belief, nice vintage Martin ukes can be had for fairly reasonable prices, although, of course, your definition of reasonable may differ from mine, and, you will have to be patient, do your homework, and be ready to pull the trigger when the opportunity arises. Given that prices for tenor Mya-Moes or Collings or Moore Bettah's, etc, can easily run $1200 to $2000 or more, being able to acquire an expertly crafted Martin tenor uke in great condition for less than a grand seems like a pretty good deal to me, and sopranos can be much less than that, the rarer concert model a little more. Most issues in vintage Martins, and others, involve cracks, which are inexpensive to have professionally repaired and do not alter sound quality. In the world of vintage guitars, cracks are almost a given and while collectors certainly covet pristine crack free instruments, cracks are pretty far down on the list of major structural or tone killing issues and are not deal breakers unless they involve the headstock or neck itself. While many would argue that today's Martin instruments do not measure up to the standards of those built from their inception through the 50's or 60's, those that were built during their golden era are among the finest instruments ever built in the world, bar none, and are still a relative bargain in my humble opinion. Not overly fancy in most cases, but the attention to detail and exquisite craftsmanship are clearly evident from a bygone era when Martin set the standard for excellence in building first rate musical instruments. Obviously, if you desire a uke in something other than mahogany, and occasionally koa, then vintage Martins may not be for you, or, if you want more bling, you can get certainly some of that in the higher series Martins, but it will also cost you accordingly. I personally think the basic series vintage Martin ukes are elegant and classy enough in their simplicity.

Basic vintage Martin uke info:

http://www.geocities.com/%7Eukulele/martin.html

http://i16.photobucket.com/albums/b42/iguy/DSC_0079-1.jpg

soupking
06-14-2012, 05:06 PM
I do own a vintage Martin - a baritone (pic below) - and I'm currently on the prowl for a tenor. I also own 5 vintage Martin guitars. Contrary to popular belief, nice vintage Martin ukes can be had for fairly reasonable prices, although, of course, your definition of reasonable may differ from mine, and, you will have to be patient, do your homework, and be ready to pull the trigger when the opportunity arises. Given that prices for tenor Mya-Moes or Collings or Moore Bettah's, etc, can easily run $1200 to $2000 or more, being able to acquire an expertly crafted Martin tenor uke in great condition for less than a grand seems like a pretty good deal to me, and sopranos can be much less than that, the rarer concert model a little more. Most issues in vintage Martins, and others, involve cracks, which are inexpensive to have professionally repaired and do not alter sound quality. In the world of vintage guitars, cracks are almost a given and while collectors certainly covet pristine crack free instruments, cracks are pretty far down on the list of major structural or tone killing issues and are not deal breakers unless they involve the headstock or neck itself. While many would argue that today's Martin instruments do not measure up to the standards of those built from their inception through the 50's or 60's, those that were built during their golden era are among the finest instruments ever built in the world, bar none, and are still a relative bargain in my humble opinion. Not overly fancy in most cases, but the attention to detail and exquisite craftsmanship are clearly evident from a bygone era when Martin set the standard for excellence in building first rate musical instruments. Obviously, if you desire a uke in something other than mahogany, and occasionally koa, then vintage Martins may not be for you, or, if you want more bling, you can get certainly some of that in the higher series Martins, but it will also cost you accordingly. I personally think the basic series vintage Martin ukes are elegant and classy enough in their simplicity.

Basic vintage Martin uke info:

http://www.geocities.com/%7Eukulele/martin.html

http://i16.photobucket.com/albums/b42/iguy/DSC_0079-1.jpg

Appreciate the info. If it's just a case of making simple, unappointed instruments, as seems to be stated here, then why do the new ones not compare similarly? I just don't "get" the disconnect that there seems to be. Is Martin incapable of reproducing the 0s? And do the Kiwayas compare or not?

garyg
06-15-2012, 05:10 AM
Well I've never played a Kiwaya but I have played lots of new (including high-end makes like Collings and Kamaka) and lots of vintage ukes (Gretsch, Gibson, Favilla, Martin, Regal, Harmony, etc) and in my opinion vintage Martins, especially pre-40's ukes have a sound that no other uke has. But as I said in my OP, people's hearing abilities and "sound interests" differ and this wasn't supposed to be a thread about how vintage Martins compare to contemporary ukes (use the search function and you'll come up with threads like that). It was just supposed to be a thread letting folks who aspired to own a vintage Martin, know that now may be the time to plunk down the cash. As for why contemporary Martins are not the same quality, well I can't really answer that scientifically, however there are a variety of reasons that immediately come to mind: wood quality, construction quality, etc. I've played a modern 5M and the sound quality wasn't close to warranting a $5000 price tag IMO. But as I said, whether you like vintage Martins or not is a combination of your hearing abilities and individual sound preferences and there's just no point getting into a "back and forth" about that. Personally, because I'm pretty much just interested in how a uke plays, I'd take a great sounding vintage Martin with nicks and cracks over a good sounding pristine new uke with a guarantee anyway. And the high sound quality seems fairly consistent across these instruments, I own three 1M's (1 late teens, 1 mid 20's and 1 40's, one 1K (early 20's), 1 2M (mid 20's), and a 0 (pre-1932) and although there is variation in tone and projection, even the worst is nicer than any contemporary modern mahogany uke that I've played, especially when you consider the price. Just some thoughts on a highly opinionated subjected. cheers, g2

strumsilly
06-15-2012, 08:21 AM
what would you pay for '40's 3M with a few repaired back cracks? someone wants to sell me one? looks like you need a 3M to complete your series, and a 5K haha

gaspar
06-15-2012, 11:58 AM
I absolutely LOVE my Style 0 from the 40īs. I also got a vintage 3M with holes, cracks, replaced back. The 3M is the best sounding ukulele that I ever had.
I doubt soprano ukuleles could get any better than a vintage 3M.

strumsilly
06-15-2012, 12:59 PM
I absolutely LOVE my Style 0 from the 40īs. I also got a vintage 3M with holes, cracks, replaced back. The 3M is the best sounding ukulele that I ever had.
I doubt soprano ukuleles could get any better than a vintage 3M.
glad to hear that , maybe I'll take a crack at it.

gaspar
06-15-2012, 01:33 PM
so here is a good deal on a martin Style 1:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Late-1950s-Martin-Style-1-Ukulele-Old-Mahogany-Uke-Vintage-Soprano-/190691564526?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2c661a5bee

not mine!

Ernie
06-15-2012, 02:19 PM
I've heard it argued that the plainer Martin sopranos (0s, 1s) sound better than the 3s & 5s. I know Winin' Boy (on this very forum) is a proponent of that belief.
I don't know how universal that is, but I've had and sold several 3s and 3Ks, because my style 1 sounded SO much better.

gaspar
06-15-2012, 02:38 PM
I've heard it argued that the plainer Martin sopranos (0s, 1s) sound better than the 3s & 5s. I know Winin' Boy (on this very forum) is a proponent of that belief.
I don't know how universal that is, but I've had and sold several 3s and 3Ks, because my style 1 sounded SO much better.

You got a point. I think that 0s and 1s are the best sounding sopranos ever invented. The 3M sounds different from any other soprano I ever had. Is a tone monster but It has less volume than the 0s. I still prefer the 3M

Chris Tarman
06-15-2012, 06:09 PM
I am new to this uke world, only 6month since i started playing, but whats so special with martin ukes?

Ahhhh... if you ever play an old one, you'll know the answer to that!

Chris Tarman
06-15-2012, 06:15 PM
This is something I've always wondered and am admittedly totally ignorant about: is there that much of a difference between say a Kiwaya KTS-4 and a Martin 0? The reason I ask is because I have no clue, and my preference would be to buy a brand new Kiwaya; which, avoiding to my knowledge would be around the same price. Having said all this, I understand the older mahogany of the vintage Martin Ike's may sound better or whatnot, based on what I've read; but is it THAT much better? Im a novice in this uncharted realm and am asking because I'm interested...

I don't know the difference between an 0 and a KTS-4, since I've never played either of those. I do, however, own both a Martin Style 3 and a Kiwaya KTS-7. The KTS-7 is about as close as you're going to get to going back in time and buying a brand new "old" Martin Style 3 (without commissioning a custom). It's got some slight differences, chiefly that the back doesn't have as much (if ANY) arch to it as does a Martin. But it's a GREAT ukulele, and way the heck better than any of the new Martins I've seen (although, granted, that's not too many).
I would think that a KTS-4 would be a very fine instrument, and have the same or similar relationship to an 0 as the KTS-7 has to a Style 3.

hmgberg
06-15-2012, 06:59 PM
The differences between the Martin styles has been often discussed. I agree with Gaspar. The Os and 1s are louder...more pop, but the 3s (I don't have nor have I ever played a vintage 5) have an elegant and rich sound with more than adequate volume. There is definitely a difference, though. As is the case with string choices, it's a matter of personal preference, I think. What would your ideal ukulele sound like? I would hate to have to make a choice between them. What puzzles me is that whenever the debate comes up, it's always 0s and 1s vs. 3s and 5s. Now, we know Martin made no Style 4, but why all the disrespect for Style 2s? I love mine. It may be my ideal uke - full, loud, beautiful. And, the most powerful sounding uke I ever played was a 1920s 2M. Still wish I got that one, despite the replaced bridge and the ridiculously high price.

garyg
06-16-2012, 02:34 AM
I think that I already posted that I own three 1M's a 1K an 0M and a 2M and I would say that the 2M is the best sounding of the lot, both volume and tone wise although it's difficult to compare it to the 1K which has a mellower sound that is less bell-ringy. Chris T told me once that of all his Martins his 2M sounded the best, although maybe he's bought a new one that superseded the 2M. One thing that did surprise me with my 0M purchase is that it is heavier and slightly bulkier than my 1 & 2 series ukes from the same period (all 20's ukes although the 0 came with modern tuners so it could be as old as '32). Tone is still great though and I'll still defend my OP that you can't get a better uke for $486 <g> . keep pickin, g2

G Hill
06-16-2012, 11:54 PM
A few months ago I bought my Martin Baritone from a fellow UU member
here on the UU marketplace.
Without doubt it is the finest iinstument I have played.
Everything about it is quality. The sound is delicious, the quality of build extrordinary.
And it is an absolute pleasure to play, in fact apart from when I travel, I play nothiing else nowadays.
The price was reasonable (IMHO) and a great example of the ethos that `you get what you pay for`
As you probably guessed I am a fan. This uke is a keeper `Without doubt`
Cheers
Gary