Identify this 1920's (?) Koa Ukulele?


Jan 21, 2024
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This was my grandfather's soprano uke but I don't know much more than that. He came from a wealthy Honolulu family who came to the islands in the late 1800's but I am not clear when he obtained this uke. It is 100% Koa body, neck, nut, saddle and has wooden friction pegs. 12 Brass bar frets that stop at body. Curved back with extended back forming the heal plate. Head profile and 3 concentric inlayed rings around sound hole is similar to Nunes models. It has a Hawaii Seal on head and teh text Hawaii but it is different than other Nunes seals I have seen online. Its in its original case from early 1900's. Wondering if this is a Nunes, knock-off Nunes or some other brand.


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Did some home work and based on an E-bay photo my "seal" decal looks more like the John Kumalae decal shown below. I have no idea if other manufactures also used this seal and would appreciate being educated to other possibilities. There are three crowns on top of the Kumalae seal decal where a Nunes seal decal has only one along with other features. Mine appears to be earlier than 1915 as it is missing the gold medal reference Kumalae was awarded in 1915. He started building ~1911 so I think I should expect expect mine to have been built 1911-1914. Teh web page below suggested:
"Kumalae ukulele style 1 (or A): plain, no inlays except three thin rings around sound hole, penciled serial# inside with the letter "a"."

* (I have yet to see any serial number or A mark inside.)

Thanks to this reference:


  • 1915 Jonah Kumalae decal after 1915.jpg
    1915 Jonah Kumalae decal after 1915.jpg
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I have also seen photos of many Kumalae decals made after 1915 that had only one crown.
The reason the Hawaiian builders started using the "made in Hawaii" logos was because of the uke's mainland popularity started by the 1915 Panama Expo in San Fran. Mainland instrument factories started cranking out ukulele's in time for the 1915 Christmas season, and the Hawaiian builders wanted to differentiate their ukes from the mass produced versions. So this might have been post 1915. Still a great looking uke, and special because it's been in the family since it was bought!
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