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collarbone
11-20-2012, 02:17 PM
I have been thinking a lot about getting my hands on an old Martin uke. A style 0 would fit my budget nicely, but I am a little worried about what a 60-80 year old instrument would be like. I once had a classic car that cost a small fortune every time I put the key in the ignition which has put me off buying "old" things. I would buy it from a reputable source but because of my location I will probably not be able to play before I pay. Is my fear unfounded or am I right to worry?

Paul December
11-20-2012, 02:47 PM
I have been thinking a lot about getting my hands on an old Martin uke. A style 0 would fit my budget nicely, but I am a little worried about what a 60-80 year old instrument would be like. I once had a classic car that cost a small fortune every time I put the key in the ignition which has put me off buying "old" things. I would buy it from a reputable source but because of my location I will probably not be able to play before I pay. Is my fear unfounded or am I right to worry?

The good vintage stuff ain't cheap. For similar $$$$ you can get a great sounding , shiny new uke (with warranty), with less DNA smeared between the frets.
No thanks!

EDW
11-20-2012, 02:57 PM
There are some great vintage instruments out there. But- you have to know what you are looking at. There are many times that instruments have been subject to questionable repairs. If you are not concerned about having a museum piece, there are nice players to be had for less money. I would consider buying from reputable shops or sellers, being able to see the instrument first hand and have a luthier check it out, or at least have a trial/return policy when buying from a distance.

wendellfiddler
11-20-2012, 03:27 PM
I love vintage instruments and have owned a bunch of different types including vintage flattop and arch top guitars, a 60's Martin Uke, some very old violins and chromatic harmonicas. I've almost always bought them from dealers who repaired them and set them up before I bought them. It may seem like a more expensive way to do it, but unless you do that work yourself, it may not be. Sometimes you get a good deal on vintage instrument and then you discover that you really would like to have an expert repair person go over it, maybe it needs a neck reset, maybe the cracks are worse than you thought, etc. By the time you get the work done, you might have been better off buying it from the guy who bought it on spec knowing he or she would have to repair before they could sell it as playable, stable and ready to go. That's why you can find a Martin uke on Ebay for under $1,000 but the dealers all want more. Reputable dealers/restoration shops are well worth the extra expense IMHO. It does remove a lot of the risk as they often provide some level of warranty on them. I currently have three vintage instruments that I use pretty regularly and I love them all - they've been very stable and reliable (a 60's Martin baritone uke, a 60's Guild jazz guitar and an American made violin from the 20's)

doug

HBolte
11-20-2012, 03:35 PM
Check reputable places like Gruhn's and Elderly. Both have nice vintage instruments. There are probably plenty more out there too.

collarbone
11-20-2012, 03:58 PM
Thanks for the tips. I was only really considering buying from a reputable vintage instrument shop. I don't mind paying a premium to have something that is set up properly and playable. I don't want a wall hanger or museum piece, I'm really looking for something I can use regularly. Anyone have any experience with other shops like Gruhn's and Elderly. I was looking at those plus Gryphon Stings, and Musurgia but would like some other names too,

rpfrogner
11-20-2012, 04:06 PM
I personally am a huge fan of vintage ukuleles (in particular Martin Ukes). If you are careful, and purchase from a reputable dealer (or individual) I would not hesitate to buy the older type Martin you desire. I too have not had the opportunity to "play before I pay" on any of the vintage ukuleles I own today, but by purchasing from trusted sources I have been very happy to date. I have taken a "few" chances as well, but only after I studied carefully the type ukulele I wanted and asked (and received) thorough answers to any questions I had.

rpfrogner
11-20-2012, 04:11 PM
I have purchased from both Gruhn and Elderly. Also from Bernunzio and Intermountain Banjo and Guitar (and a few others when it comes to vintage). All great shops with very knowledgable and helpful staff. They would all love to sell you something, but it is not my personal experience that any of them would talk you into anything you would regret buying.

OldePhart
11-20-2012, 04:25 PM
I've never owned a vintage uke but I've played a few. They were very good but not really any better than more modern high-end ukes I've played. The only exception is if you get one old enough to have the smaller bar-style frets. I do like those over the medium guitar frets it seems that everybody is putting on ukes these days.

Even then I'd probably go for a Kiwaya before a vintage - even my Kiwaya eco series has the small frets - not really bar frets but more like them than I've seen on any other production uke. I assume that the high-end Kiwaya ukes probably have those small frets as well.

Of course, if you like old stuff for the sake of it being old, a 20's Martin might be just what scratches your itch. Just make sure you buy from someone reputable and get a "right of return" if it's not what you expected (assuming you can't play it first).

John

PhilUSAFRet
11-20-2012, 04:31 PM
If you could just play my Martin pre-war O style soprano, you'd never rest until you had one.

EDW
11-20-2012, 04:40 PM
Various sites that I have heard good things about-

http://bernunzio.com

http://www.buffalobrosguitars.com/ukuleles.html

http://www.gryphonstrings.com

http://www.retrofret.com

http://www.vintage-instruments.com

http://www.themusicemporium.com

http://www.guitarandbanjo.com

http://www.gruhn.com

http://www.sprucetreemusic.com/miscinst.html#ukes

http://ukulelefriend.com

Some have been previously mentioned, but I thought I would add links

KamakOzzie
11-20-2012, 06:02 PM
If you could just play my Martin pre-war O style soprano, you'd never rest until you had one.
+1
I have a pre 1933 style 1K that is a tone monster and I just got a pre 1933 style 0 on election day that is almost as good.

Bill

Patrick Madsen
11-20-2012, 07:36 PM
If you could just play my Martin pre-war O style soprano, you'd never rest until you had one.


Boy, was just thinking the same about my old Martin Bari Phil. I bought it from a woman who is the vintage instrument appraiser for McCabes Music in Santa Monica. She specializes in Martin guitars and ukes. McCabes is like Elderly and Gruhns, they've been around many, many years and have a great reputation for wonderful vintage instruments.

bynapkinart
11-20-2012, 08:29 PM
My 83-year-old Johnny Marvin is every bit as stable and reliable as my newish Pono. Just take good care of it!

PhilUSAFRet
11-21-2012, 04:52 AM
Boy, was just thinking the same about my old Martin Bari Phil. I bought it from a woman who is the vintage instrument appraiser for McCabes Music in Santa Monica. She specializes in Martin guitars and ukes. McCabes is like Elderly and Gruhns, they've been around many, many years and have a great reputation for wonderful vintage instruments.

There's an elderly gentleman on YOuTube that plays a pristine vintage Martin bari.....so sweet it brings a tear to your eye.

buddhuu
11-21-2012, 11:03 AM
I recently (and reluctantly) sold my 100+ year-old German fiddle. It was as solid as a rock and sounded good. Nothing wrong with vintage! :)

hawaii 50
11-21-2012, 11:10 AM
Kind of hard to believe that a vintage uke can sound that much better than a custom uke in the same price range..to me it seems like right now there are great sounding ukes built by great builders..

i do have a Maui Music Koa tenor built in 1998..which i like alot..but for me right now>> one kind of old uke is enough.
.
but i guess if you want one..do you think they sound better because they are older?

Lalz
11-21-2012, 11:50 AM
Forum member Jake Wildwood sells vintage instruments that he refurbishes beautifully before selling them. They all sound amazing. Have a look at his website (http://antebelluminstruments.blogspot.co.uk/) and youtube channel (http://www.youtube.com/jakewildwood) where he demoes them.

bynapkinart
11-21-2012, 03:40 PM
Kind of hard to believe that a vintage uke can sound that much better than a custom uke in the same price range..to me it seems like right now there are great sounding ukes built by great builders..

i do have a Maui Music Koa tenor built in 1998..which i like alot..but for me right now>> one kind of old uke is enough.
.
but i guess if you want one..do you think they sound better because they are older?

Honestly, yes. There's something about the way wood sounds when it's old, and the way it feels when you play it. I've played a new uke in almost every spectrum of price, and none of them vibrate as much as my 20's era uke. Granted, there is a similar effect with vintage ukes, certain ukes from the same era played side by side will have different characteristics but they'll all vibrate and have a fullness to their tone that I haven't really heard from new ukes.

My main gripe with vintage enthusiasm is that some people believe that just because it's old, it's good. I've played about 15 vintage Gretschs, 25-30 vintage Martins, and lots of 20's-era Kumalae ukes and some of them are just awful ukes that I wouldn't buy even for a child. Gretsch in particular was incredibly inconsistent...I've played some with intonation issues so bad you can't even make a chord without throwing some strings sharp and others flat, and then I played one a few months ago that sounded as good as the #1 dream uke I've encoutered (a 20's Martin 3M). They all shared that openness and fullness of a vintage instrument, though. You just couldn't play them without resetting the bridge/neck and getting the dang thing in tune.

RichM
11-21-2012, 04:14 PM
Kind of hard to believe that a vintage uke can sound that much better than a custom uke in the same price range..to me it seems like right now there are great sounding ukes built by great builders..

i do have a Maui Music Koa tenor built in 1998..which i like alot..but for me right now>> one kind of old uke is enough.
.
but i guess if you want one..do you think they sound better because they are older?

When you're talking about quality instruments, it's sort of silly to talk about instruments sounding "better." They sound "different." If the sound of a vintage Martin doesn't appeal to you, feel free to walk away. It sounds wonderful to me, and I have plenty of quality instruments to compare it to.

soupking
11-21-2012, 04:25 PM
When you're talking about quality instruments, it's sort of silly to talk about instruments sounding "better." They sound "different." If the sound of a vintage Martin doesn't appeal to you, feel free to walk away. It sounds wonderful to me, and I have plenty of quality instruments to compare it to.

Totally agree, Rich. I think people have a tendency to think that just because a uke is "custom," that it's somehow superior. I have a vintage Martin 0, too, and Rich is right, it's wonderful. And just because a uke costs a lot of money or whatever doesn't mean it's anything special, either. It's whatever is right for you. There are so many options out there, just gotta do your homework.

RyanMFT
11-21-2012, 05:11 PM
I haven't had a single problem with any of the vintage ukuleles I have bought. A couple had cracks, which because of the rarity of a couple of them, I didn't worry about, knowing I would have to have them fixed. I love the history and the richness of the history of playing/owning instruments 70, 80, and even over 100 years old!

collarbone
11-21-2012, 06:17 PM
I'm convinced... now I must start preparing for negotiations with my wife.

rocko
11-21-2012, 07:00 PM
I'm convinced... now I must start preparing for negotiations with my wife.

I know that drill... seven days of fasting, two days of meditation in a dark hole -- ended with a small cup of stewed eucalyptus leaves. It creates a sense of being cleansed, focused and supple.

I always open the negotiations strong, but it always ends with my salty tears.

Ya do what you gotta do!

Bill Mc
11-21-2012, 07:08 PM
I have been thinking a lot about getting my hands on an old Martin uke. A style 0 would fit my budget nicely, but I am a little worried about what a 60-80 year old instrument would be like. I once had a classic car that cost a small fortune every time I put the key in the ignition which has put me off buying "old" things. I would buy it from a reputable source but because of my location I will probably not be able to play before I pay. Is my fear unfounded or am I right to worry?

I'm getting old - I like new things around me.

we tigers
11-21-2012, 09:05 PM
I've never owned a vintage uke but I've played a few. They were very good but not really any better than more modern high-end ukes I've played. The only exception is if you get one old enough to have the smaller bar-style frets. I do like those over the medium guitar frets it seems that everybody is putting on ukes these days.

Even then I'd probably go for a Kiwaya before a vintage - even my Kiwaya eco series has the small frets - not really bar frets but more like them than I've seen on any other production uke. I assume that the high-end Kiwaya ukes probably have those small frets as well.

John
Last week I got to hold and play a vintage Martin Style O. It was something I've been wanting to do for a long time. It was great. Loved the sound, loved the feel of the neck, the frets, everything. BUT: I also had my Kiwaya KTS-4 present. I compared the two and I was blown away by how much the Kiwaya KTS-4 looks and feels similar to the old Martin! They were so incredibly close! Sure the Martin sounded a little (really just a little!) bit better. Older wood, ebony nut and saddle, but the difference was quite small. The Kiwaya looks, feels, and for 97%, sounds the part!

I came away falling in love with my Kiwaya all over again and with a lot less Martin UAS...

thesillydave
11-21-2012, 09:43 PM
i happen to have a 30's -40's martin O soprano that i bought in my early UAS fixation..along with a camp uke soprano, , a pono soprano, a eddie finn soprano, all for sale...
i have since found out that the concert size is my size...and really want a collings concert..so, if interested, pm. me, also have a solid koa pono tenor electric (not made any more) to get me to my collings...
oh, the UAS continues...no matter what you think!

hawaii 50
11-24-2012, 11:52 AM
Honestly, yes. There's something about the way wood sounds when it's old, and the way it feels when you play it. I've played a new uke in almost every spectrum of price, and none of them vibrate as much as my 20's era uke. Granted, there is a similar effect with vintage ukes, certain ukes from the same era played side by side will have different characteristics but they'll all vibrate and have a fullness to their tone that I haven't really heard from new ukes.

My main gripe with vintage enthusiasm is that some people believe that just because it's old, it's good. I've played about 15 vintage Gretschs, 25-30 vintage Martins, and lots of 20's-era Kumalae ukes and some of them are just awful ukes that I wouldn't buy even for a child. Gretsch in particular was incredibly inconsistent...I've played some with intonation issues so bad you can't even make a chord without throwing some strings sharp and others flat, and then I played one a few months ago that sounded as good as the #1 dream uke I've encoutered (a 20's Martin 3M). They all shared that openness and fullness of a vintage instrument, though. You just couldn't play them without resetting the bridge/neck and getting the dang thing in tune.



Thanks for the great fedback..

i get what you are saying..

but i guess because i am old..retiring at the end of the year..i like to have new stuff around me(Ha ha) i like the idea of passing down a beautiful uke that i have owned(by me only) and played until i can't play anymore..seems more special that way..

and when it comes to sound ..i know what my ears like to hear..not deaf yet..

pdxuke
12-21-2012, 10:51 AM
http://www.gryphonstrings.com/instpix/33126/Extra.php

Above is my vintage, 1948 Martin 0 from Gryphon Strings. Great service and shop all the way.

I did--temporarily--place new Ping friction tuners on the instrument for ease of play. Ping fits without drilling, which I would not do. I also have the original tuuners that can be swapped out at any time.

Tuners are the only thing that have been a universe problem on most vintage ukes I've owned. So I just swap them out and keep the originals.

Don't fear a vintage. Everyone needs at least one.

Plainsong
12-21-2012, 01:09 PM
If I bought from a reputable place, then absolutely. But there is no such thing here, unless the local uke-friendly luthier had one on offer. Like buying a vintage wind instrument back home. I'd go to the music shop of the local high school's retired director. He's always had a great reputation and any instrument coming from him is going to be meant to be played. But eBay? No way. There are too many great new ukes to be had. :)

Chris Tarman
12-21-2012, 02:59 PM
I have three vintage Martins and a vintage Gibson. I didn't get to play ANY of them before I bought them, although I had played the same model Gibson in a shop a few months earlier.

I bought the first Martin from Elderly (my '30-ish Style 2), and that was a great experience. I called and spent about 1/2 an hour talking with someone there (I can't remember who it was), discussing two Style 2s and a Style 1. The guy played all three of them into the phone, emailed me additional pictures, and told me what he thought about them sound-wise. I ended up buying the one I did on his recommendation. It wasn't as pretty as the other Style 2, but he said it was a "cannon", sound-wise. It certainly is!

I bought the second and third Martins (a Style 1 from maybe the '50s, I think, and a '30-ish Style 3) off of eBay. Both listings had a lot of really good pictures and showed the problem areas clearly. The Style 1 really just had a ding on the back of the neck, but the Style 3 had a really tight, old crack in the back. I got that repaired for not too much money, and it's my favorite ukulele.

I also bought the Gibson on eBay, and it was in better condition than it looked in the photos. It had a chipped bridge, which I got repaired later. The repair guy spliced a new piece of wood into the broken-off parts, and even made it look old. You can't see the seam AT ALL. It also had a loose back brace, which he re-glued at the same time. The two repairs together cost $100. That's the most I've spent fixing up a vintage uke.

I have a bunch of new ukes too, including a Kiwaya KTS-7 (like a modern vintage Style 3). I play them quite a bit, too, but I nearly always reach for one of the Martins or the Gibson. They sound great. Not better than a new instrument, necessarily, but DIFFERENT. They really do seem to be more resonant and to vibrate better (particularly the Martins).

I've always kind of liked old things, though. Some inanimate objects seem less inanimate to me than others, and I think that's particularly true of instruments. I hate the thought of something that was made to make music just sitting around in a closet (or worse!) because someone thinks it's old.

I still need a Style 0 though....

I say if you want one and can afford it, do it! You won't be sorry with a Martin!

HBolte
12-21-2012, 03:53 PM
Chris, what do you think of this one? http://elderly.com/vintage/names/martin-style-2-m-soprano-ukulele-%28c.1950%29--180U-1797.htm

I played it. It sounds really good. Just don't know about price and what looks almost like dog bites on the headstock.

collarbone
12-21-2012, 05:48 PM
I picked up a Style 0 from Gryphon stings a few weeks ago. I had a little trouble with the screws on the tuners but managed to sort that out with a quick trip to the hobby store. I love it!! I can't put it down. I love the feel of it, the playability, the sound and it looks great. I would love a Stye 3 which would be my dream uke but I'll have to do a bit of saving first.
Here's mine: http://gryphonstrings.com/instpix/39686/39686.php?z=y (http://gryphonstrings.com/instpix/39686/39686.php?z=y)
Thank you to everyone for the advice and encouragement. I look forward to many hours of playing. There may be a few more vintage ukes in my future.

Chris Tarman
12-21-2012, 06:04 PM
Chris, what do you think of this one? http://elderly.com/vintage/names/martin-style-2-m-soprano-ukulele-%28c.1950%29--180U-1797.htm

I played it. It sounds really good. Just don't know about price and what looks almost like dog bites on the headstock.

It doesn't look that bad to me really. The dings on the headstock certainly wouldn't affect the sound or playability, and I don't think they would bother me at all. It's on consignment, which usually translates to a slightly higher price so the seller can get what they want out of it when the store takes their cut. But I've been watching Martins a lot on eBay, and that doesn't seem too out of line from what Style 2s have been selling for lately. It makes me glad I got mine when I did! Mine has a LOT of playing wear, but it's 20+years older, and was $850 3 years ago. I have to say, aesthetically, I like the Style 2 the least of the "original" Martin models (the Style 1 was the lowest-priced model originally, but they added the Style 0 a bit later on as a "Budget" model). But my Style 2 might actually sound the best out of all three of my Martins. Not sure why.... possibly because it had been played the most. It's REALLY punchy.

I still have quite a few things that our first dog chewed up as a puppy years ago. A couple of those things are treasures to my wife and I because we loved that dog so much. I don't know if anyone ELSE would want any of those things, but if I had a uke with someone else's dog's bite marks on it, it would still make me think of our sweet little lab puppy gnawing on our TV remote and Christmas ornaments 20 years ago. That's just me, though!

Chris Tarman
12-21-2012, 06:25 PM
I picked up a Style 0 from Gryphon stings a few weeks ago. I had a little trouble with the screws on the tuners but managed to sort that out with a quick trip to the hobby store. I love it!! I can't put it down. I love the feel of it, the playability, the sound and it looks great. I would love a Stye 3 which would be my dream uke but I'll have to do a bit of saving first.
Here's mine: http://gryphonstrings.com/instpix/39686/39686.php?z=y (http://gryphonstrings.com/instpix/39686/39686.php?z=y)
Thank you to everyone for the advice and encouragement. I look forward to many hours of playing. There may be a few more vintage ukes in my future.

Wow! That is really REALLY nice! When I replied to this post earlier today, I didn't realize it was a month old. I'm glad you found a good one and that you love it!

The Style 3 was always my dream uke too, and I was really glad to find a decent one at a decent price. I love everything about my Style 3. The action is a LITTLE high, even after I had it lowered some when I had the back crack repaired. It's not BAD, just a little higher than the other two Martins or the Gibson. But that's really the only thing I would change about it if I could. I love the styling of the extended fingerboard with the stripes, and I love the celluloid doo-hickey at the butt of the body (I know it's called a "parend", but I like calling it a "doo-hickey"). I wanted a Style 3 from the first time I saw a photo of one shortly after I started playing ukulele (oh, btw, the "Style 3" in my profile picture is actually my Kiwaya KTS-7... I didn't have the Martin yet at the time.... I ought to update that!).

I might be nuts for thinking this, but I've always thought that if (what am I saying? I mean WHEN!!!) I get a Style 0, I would like to try to get one with the wooden tuning pegs. I've never had a problem with friction tuners, and I have one old koa uke with wooden pegs. I kind of like the way those old ebony pegs look on a Style 0. I'm in no rush, but someday I will hunt down a nice one.

pdxuke
12-21-2012, 07:02 PM
Just started another thread that might be fun for us:

Vintage Roll Call
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?74436-Vintage-Roll-Call
What kind of vintage ukes do you own?

HBolte
12-22-2012, 05:06 AM
Wow! That is really REALLY nice! When I replied to this post earlier today, I didn't realize it was a month old. I'm glad you found a good one and that you love it!

The Style 3 was always my dream uke too, and I was really glad to find a decent one at a decent price. I love everything about my Style 3. The action is a LITTLE high, even after I had it lowered some when I had the back crack repaired. It's not BAD, just a little higher than the other two Martins or the Gibson. But that's really the only thing I would change about it if I could. I love the styling of the extended fingerboard with the stripes, and I love the celluloid doo-hickey at the butt of the body (I know it's called a "parend", but I like calling it a "doo-hickey"). I wanted a Style 3 from the first time I saw a photo of one shortly after I started playing ukulele (oh, btw, the "Style 3" in my profile picture is actually my Kiwaya KTS-7... I didn't have the Martin yet at the time.... I ought to update that!).

I might be nuts for thinking this, but I've always thought that if (what am I saying? I mean WHEN!!!) I get a Style 0, I would like to try to get one with the wooden tuning pegs. I've never had a problem with friction tuners, and I have one old koa uke with wooden pegs. I kind of like the way those old ebony pegs look on a Style 0. I'm in no rush, but someday I will hunt down a nice one.

Thanks for your thoughts Chris. One day ill have one!