Fear of vintage?

collarbone

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Check reputable places like Gruhn's and Elderly. Both have nice vintage instruments. There are probably plenty more out there too.
 

collarbone

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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

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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

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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

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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

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If you could just play my Martin pre-war O style soprano, you'd never rest until you had one.
 

KamakOzzie

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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

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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

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My 83-year-old Johnny Marvin is every bit as stable and reliable as my newish Pono. Just take good care of it!
 

PhilUSAFRet

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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

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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

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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?
 
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Lalz

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Forum member Jake Wildwood sells vintage instruments that he refurbishes beautifully before selling them. They all sound amazing. Have a look at his website and youtube channel where he demoes them.
 

bynapkinart

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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

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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.