Need Help ID'ing an Old Archtop

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by chucke99, Aug 29, 2009.

  1. chucke99

    chucke99 Member

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    I know a guy prepping his parents house for an estate sale and he has an old acoustic archtop guitar. I told him I'd take a look at it (to see if it was something special) and turns out it is a no-brand model, but has (to me) all the hallmarks of a 1940's era box. There are no markings I can find, either on the outside or inside, though I didn't have a mirror to check under the top.

    I've linked a few pictures below. The guitar is in great shape, though it has a pretty good bow in the neck (nothing that would affect acoustic/chord playing, but you wouldn't want it for solos). Binding is intact and not overly cracked, and all the parts look to be original. I forgot to get a picture of the butt end of the guitar, but the trapeze tail is the two-prong style, not coming together in one piece.

    Apart from identifying it, he wants to know what it's worth. I said that even as a no-name, the original parts (especially the bridge and bakelite pickguard) would bring good money on eBay, and that a "sum of the parts" to me says the guitar is worth at least $200. I'd like to make sure it's not something more significant, or else he should be asking for more than that. If it may be worth more, I'd point him to www.archtop.com to request an appraisal, but that will cost him $35.

    I know it's a longshot, since this forum is mostly about electrics, but appreciate any insight you all can give me. Thanks in advance!

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  2. LTE

    LTE Member

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    Looks like a Harmony.

    But there were so many brands and very few manufactures those days.
     
  3. NYJim

    NYJim Member

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    I agree it looks like an old Harmony, Stella, or Kay guitar who made guitars for Sears under the Silvertone brand, but it looks very similar to an Airline brand that was made for Montgomery Ward by Harmony, Kay, and Valco. :knitting

    The Airline had that plain squared off headstock as opposed to more decorative headstocks made by the other brands. The pickguard on that guitar doesn't look original to me, but I'm not an expert. Whoever owned that guitar, it looks like they enjoyed playing it by the wear on the fretboard. :rockin

    I've seen similar looking guitars in "antique" shops (more like junk shops) that were found in an attic or basement while cleaning out an old house. It could be worth a couple of hundred dollars at best if someone is looking for that guitar to fill a hole in a collection, but it looks like a plain, no name guitar that's only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. :dunno

    You may want to check on the Unofficial Martin Guitar board. They have some people there that are very good at identifying old acoustic guitars. :dude

    http://www.guitar-museum.com/guitar-10924-Vintage-Airline-Archtop-Acoustic-Guitar

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  4. chucke99

    chucke99 Member

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    Thanks for the lead on the Martin board. I think the pick guard is original, as it looks as undisturbed as the rest of the hardware. Interesting thought about it being an Airline too.

    I used to own an archtop made by Sovereign (before they went bankrupt and the name was bought by Oscar Schmidt) and it had the exact same kind of f holes (with the ends detached from the main opening) but other than that the guitars are different. I found a couple pictures online of guitars with the same f holes, but they also differ in significant ways otherwise. Grrrr.

    I love a good mystery, though.
     
  5. nmiller

    nmiller Drowning in lap steels Gold Supporting Member

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    The tailpiece makes it a Regal from before Harmony bought the company ca. 1950.
     
  6. chucke99

    chucke99 Member

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    Great lead! What about the headstock? Do you know who made guitars for Regal?
     
  7. NYJim

    NYJim Member

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    That's not a Regal. My vintage guitar book says Regal made some very fancy archtops in the 30's. That is not a fancy archtop if you google some pictures of Regal guitars. I just typed out a whole post that got lost because it asked for me to sign in again and I lost my post.

    I'll still say it's a low end archtop guitar made by either Kay, Harmony, or Valco for a department store like Montgomery Ward or Sears back in the 50's or 60's.

    There's nothing fancy or elaborate on that guitar from its plain square headstock, open tuners, and the plain looking tailpiece. It probably had a decal on the headstock that wore off over the years which makes identifying these guitars difficult because they didn't stamp serial numbers or put a label in the guitar like Martin and Gibson did so you could identify and date the guitars.
     
  8. in a little row

    in a little row Member

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    i dont know about that...i have a post '50s silvertone with the same tail...theres tons of them out there...

    i does look like could be a regal however, but man there were SO many of those birds made during that time...could be anything...marking inside the guitar might help, but i have seen many, many old archtops that have various parts, made by various companies and facilities...squared headstock means it probably wasnt a dept store job...too plain
     
  9. nmiller

    nmiller Drowning in lap steels Gold Supporting Member

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    Regal made their own guitars before Harmony bought the company, and they also made guitars for National, Dobro, and a variety of other brands. Most Regal headstocks had fancier shapes, but they might have varied based on the actual brand. The same tailpiece was used on resonators as well, and is a distinctive Regal feature regardless of the brand (example 1, example 2, example 3). Regal did make some fancy instruments, but the vast majority of them were low-budget ones.
     
  10. chucke99

    chucke99 Member

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    I keep coming back to those F holes, though. I don't see a match for them on any Regals, Harmony's, or Kay's I've run across today. Here's a picture of my old Sovereign, and it actually has very closely matching F holes. I'll have to dig back into my information on that one, to see if I ever uncovered what factory Sovereign used before they went bankrupt.

    Sovereign was brand of the Oscar Schmidt company, before it went bankrupt, at which point its brand assets were sold to Harmony (that happened in about 1938/39). They started making archtops as a last resort effort to build market share. Notes I can find say that early O/S guitars were made at times at Lyon & Healy, in Chicago. I'll check on some L&H archtops next.


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  11. NYJim

    NYJim Member

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    In the late 30's, Harmony purchased several trade names from the Schmidt Company, including Sovereign and Stella. Sovereign then ceased as a brand, but Harmony continued using it on a model line of Harmony guitars. (From Vintage Guitar Price Guide)

    I still say that tortoise shell pickguard was added on. The headstock is square. The Regals used as examples are flat tops with round sound holes. I don't think this guitar is that old to be a Regal archtop from the 30's.

    Is there a better picture of the headstock? I've been zooming in and using editing software to be able to make out what appears to be letters, but it's like looking at those prints you stare at and it becomes the starship Enterprise. My head is spinning.

    Notice also no fret dot on the 3rd fret and only single dots.

    Just reading that Washburn guitars was founded in Chicago as one of the lines for Lyon & Healy (as the plot thickens). The rights to Washburn were sold to J.R. Stewart Co. in '28, but rights to the Washburn name was sold to Tonk Brothers of Chicago. Tonk Brothers bought at auction all Stewart trade names when they went bankrupt during the depression and sold them to the Regal Musical Instrument Co. These Washburn models lasted until around 1949. Did you follow all that? So we're back to this guitar possibly being a Regal. Let me see if I can make out any of those names on the headstock and google those names and see what comes up.
     
  12. RMcFarland

    RMcFarland Member

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    Maybe Kalamazoo, but the corners of the headstock don't look sharp enough.
     
  13. 62swingmaster

    62swingmaster Member

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    It looks like it could be a Supertone, I have a Supertone with that headstock from 1936, but the pickguard is kinda a Kalamazoo thing like the guy before me said, so maybe a Supertone.
     
  14. NYJim

    NYJim Member

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    I found some Slingerland archtops that have a similar F-hole but not the headstock. That square headstock is throwing everything off.

    Slingerland Archtops
     
  15. NYJim

    NYJim Member

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    I think I found it. There's a few differences in the fretboard, but that could be from different years or another variation of the model. It could also be that a dot fret marker is missing from the guitar in question here. The H1277 even has the square headstock and what looks like dust making like a triangle image on the headstock is the same. There's more pictures where the headstock looks a little more rounded, but that may be from a different year too where the body remained the same but there were changes in the fretboard markers and in the headstock. The F-holes are the same too.

    http://harmony.demont.net/

    Now I think it's either the Rex Royal or the H1270 - Vogue model E which is the same model.

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    H1270 - Vogue model E


    Okay, that's it, I'm going to bed. I spent all night on this. So much for my social life.
     
  16. chucke99

    chucke99 Member

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    The headstock is frustratingly clean of any logo whatsoever. The lacquer is smooth and shiny, and there is zero indication of there ever being a logo there. No shadow, no scratches, nothing. Not a mark on the dang thing other than those three initial decals applied by the original owner.

    I haven't digested the rest of the new posts yet, but at first glance, there's some good stuff. More responses to follow.
     
  17. chucke99

    chucke99 Member

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    Jim, you earn the research prize. This may be as close as we can get. The F hole on mine is different (it has pronouced points in the middle of the middle sections) but, like you, I'm exhausted from looking. That the guitar dates from 1939-1940 makes a lot of sense too. My friend remembers his dad playing the guitar when he was a boy, circa early 1950s, and his dad always said he had bought it years before.

    That, and it just "feels" like a Harmony. Does that make any sense?

    I probably put in a good three days researching my Sovereign before finally getting the corroboration I needed so I could post it on eBay and make the case that I wanted a premium price for it.

    OK, so, for the sake of argument, if it is an early Harmony (albeit a no-name version made for distribution by who-the-F-knows) what's the value? I keep coming back to $200 to $300. If he were to part it out (uggh, I know, I'd hate that) the original bridge is going to get $100 on fleabay all by itself, as would that pick guard (original or not to the guitar). Those tuners are in great shape too, have all six ferules, and would grab maybe $25, mabye even more. The tail will earn $15 or more. A stripped body would still bring in more than $100. But can it get that price "all together"?

    Or could it be worth more?
     
  18. chucke99

    chucke99 Member

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    Do you have links to Kalamazoo pics? The ones I can find don't match the F holes of the guitar, nor the dots of the neck, nor the headstock. That would be great if this was a Kalamzoo (it's price would quintuple) but I don't think so.
     
  19. NYJim

    NYJim Member

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    It's not a Kalamazoo because it wouldn't have a squared off headstock. I think that guitar had the harmony circle sticker or decal that got worn away over the years or it was peeled off on purpose and something else written on it just like whoever put those initial stickers on the guitar. Maybe he was going for a "SRV" look like Stevie Ray Vaughn did to his guitar.

    Look at those links I posted and compare the headstock. You'll see it has that same "V" pattern on it. Like I said, there could be little variations from year to year, but the difference in the F-holes could be from the hand labor to cut them out. I'm not sure what kind of production they had, but it certainly wasn't cut out by computerized saws like they have today to keep everything consistent. I'm sure there's minor variations even within the same model just from the manual finishing process so no two guitars looked exactly alike.

    Take Martin for example. The D-35 came about from the shortage of Brazilian rosewood so they used the scraps to make a 3-piece back as opposed to the D-28's 2-piece back. Other than that, it was pretty much the same guitar.

    I wouldn't piece it out. I would just sell the thing whole and if you get $200 for it, that's not a bad price for a budget guitar in that condition. I don't know where it was kept and if it was in a damp basement or even a flood that all the stickers are worn away. According to Harmony, there should be a date stamp inside the guitar. You're going to have to get a little flashlight and have a better look through the F-holes. If someone is interested in a part, then they may as well buy the whole guitar. It doesn't make sense to break it up for a few dollars more by selling parts. I wouldn't do it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2009
  20. NYJim

    NYJim Member

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    Kalamazoo Archtop guitar

    Check out that link to a Kalamazoo archtop. The F-holes are completely cut out, it has a rounded headstock, and the tuners are individual and closed.

    Just add to the last post, if you piece out the parts, who knows where they came from. If they're on the guitar, then you know the parts are authentic. I'd sell the guitar whole as is. If you want $300, then just ask for that price and don't budge. If somebody is looking to restore a Harmony, just like restoring an old car and trying to keep it as original as possible, then you'll get your price.

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