Hamer Guitars

Gas Hed

Member
Messages
1,249
There was always something about a Hamer USA that got my attention back in the '90s. Problem is I never actually got my hands on one. Well, that's not true. I did play a 1994 Wine Red Special at Cintioli's in North East Philadelphia. Saved up my money to buy that guitar only to save up some more and go with my first Gibson Les Paul Standard.

But anyways, what was I missing with the Hamers? Were they that good? What would you Hamer owners compare it to today? I have a handful of Suhr guitars. Were Hamers of the same build quality? Better?
 

Steady

Member
Messages
266
I had several Hamers back in the day ... Let's see, a Special, TV yellow with P-90s - a DuoTone - an Artist, semi-hollow with a carved FlaMaple top - a Vanguard, all mahogany, semi-hollow painted metallic silver .... I think that's it. OH! and a T-51, too.
Anyways, I always viewed Hamers as semi-boutique, but a lot more accessible price-wise - PRS was way out of reach for me at the time. Also, they made F-style and G-style guitars that were not F-brand or G-brand, and I wanted to be different.
To be honest, at the time (mid- to late-90s) I had more money than experience (and not that much money) so while I liked them and kept buying them, I can't say for sure that they were better quality or better value than others. They were good, to be sure, but how good? Dunno. I'd love to come across an orange Newport, just to try it out one more ... Anyways, the last of them got sold off in '05 when I was out of work.
Sorry, that wasn't really helpful at all was it?
 

Tommy Biggs

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,891
I liked the Special a lot, nice planks of mahogany with 2 p90s. Well built, great fit and finish.
The dual hb flame top double cut - man I wish could have got my hands on one of those back in the day!
Good stuff out of Chicago.
 

sedawkgrep

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,459
My only experience with Hamer was a Newport Pro. Superb, superb guitar that I hope to re-acquire someday. I let it go because I was on a hunt for a 335 and it didn’t quite scratch that itch. But man what an instrument.
 

fossilfuel

dismember
Messages
1,681
They're like a custom shop guitar, equivilant to an LP RI.

My first really good guitar was a Californian that I bought new in the late '80s.
I've since had a few others, a nice Artist Custom and a Sunburst along the way.
All great quality, well made instruments.
 

54GT

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,758
It is a really good question as to why Hamer wasn't more successful. I played a bunch, owned several (still have a couple) and without exception, they were high quality, sounded good or great (didn't always like their pickup choices) and really good value for money. Maybe it's because they were kind of pioneers of non-F, non-G accessible boutique-y and that wasn't quite a sustainable position. I still keep an eye out for them.

I've had a couple of Suhrs and I would say Hamer quality was equal (with the possible exception of Hamer-itis cosmetic issue).
 

John C

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
7,030
I liked them too. Wonder why they went away.
It is a really good question as to why Hamer wasn't more successful. I played a bunch, owned several (still have a couple) and without exception, they were high quality, sounded good or great (didn't always like their pickup choices) and really good value for money. Maybe it's because they were kind of pioneers of non-F, non-G accessible boutique-y and that wasn't quite a sustainable position. I still keep an eye out for them.

I've had a couple of Suhrs and I would say Hamer quality was equal (with the possible exception of Hamer-itis cosmetic issue).

@54GT you're probably correct - they were among the first boutique brands. But I think they lost a bit of focus - they started out in the Gibson space, moving from variations on Gibson designs to their own thing (I always dug the Prototype models back then). But they followed the crowd in the mid-80s to SuperStrats - while Hamer's were as good as anyone's at the time (specifically Charvel/Jackson - well I guess it was just Jackson for USA models by then). Then in the mid-late 90s the Fender-style models were dropped and they refocused on the Gibson-style models but downsized the company.

They went through some ownership issues as well - first purchased by Kaman music, which lead to Jol Danzig leaving for a while. Kaman moved them from Arlington Heights IL around 1997 and put them into the Connecticut shop that housed Ovation's USA operations - but they dropped the bolt ons then and reduced their output to around 300 per year. But Jol was back; he stayed there until Fender (FMIC) bought Kaman Music. I don't think that FMIC really wanted Hamer (or Ovation for that matter); they wanted Kaman's distribution business and other things so Hamer was more or less the "free floor mats" in the deal. They tried to keep Hamer afloat for a while but eventually shuttered the company and sold the name off.

As much as I like Hamers I only wound up owning one - a USA Studio model from 1996 that had a wraparound bridge and a back contour, options that were only available for a short time toward the end of Arlington Heights production. I got it in early 1998, but it was NOS from late 1996 at the store. I traded my PRS CE24 maple top straight up for it.
 

Masa

Member
Messages
709
I bought my first Hamer in 1992 or 1993. That was a Hamer Studio (not Custom). I traded a 1990 Gibson SG for it, and the Hamer was way better than the SG. About 5 years later, I traded the Hamer + $250 for a 1963 Fender Bassman head.

I was (still is) a strat guy, and the Hamer was the only guitar with humbuckers. I kind of missed it, so I bought a Hamer Studio Custom in around 1997. Then, I bought a Korina Artist Custom. Then, an Eclipse, just because it was $400. I still have those three, and still play them regularly, especially the Artist. I bought an R0 in 2007, and I actually play the Hamer Studio Custom more than the R0.

I should have bought a lot more Hamers in the 90s and early 2000s. The used ones were really cheap. You could buy like a Studio Custom for $700 and a Special for $450.

I want to get a Newport, but it's kind of hard to find.
 

willyboy

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,489
After many years of drooling over and searching for the right specimen at the best price, i finally found and purchased a 1990 reverse headstock HSS Hamer Centaura in cherry metallic just before the end of this last year. It's an absolutely fantastic playing and sounding instrument with an excellent build quality. It almost looks like a brand new guitar unless you see it close up, it's in such good condition.

For comparison, I do have a couple Suhrs and this Hamer is every bit as great a guitar as they are and equally a joy to play. It was a high quality USA made instrument in it's day even though it was a lesser expensive line than the Chaparrals and Californians, both of which I'd also love to add to my stable of instruments someday.
 

gunslinger

Member
Messages
5,066
I always wanted one too. Maybe someday.

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Rossi163

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,483
Way back in the day ( early 80's?) I bought one of the double cutaway flamed maple top, dual humbucker Hamers. Could not get that guitar to play in tune. Had good luthiers set it up and intonate but it was always just a little "off". I eventually sold it. Later on I read or heard that the early Hamers had the frets not spaced quite right.
Anyone know anything about this?
 

Cragar

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
575
i started getting into hamers in the mid 90's. i have owned and played about 15 of them and my current #1 is a custom ordered hamer newport pro.
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never owned one that wasn't a great playing and sounding guitar. great attention to detail and they were pretty early in the game for making new guitars that felt and played like vintage ones. fender bought them in the early 00's seemingly to get into the HB custom shop market and eventually closed them down. used prices have been slowly moving north but the guitars are well worth it. i have owned standards (explorers), vees, and mot of the double cut variants over the years.
 

outdoorpja

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,914
Had an Eclipse for a bit, but I didn't quite bond with the tone of it (even with a couple pup swaps). Tried out a Newport and HOLLLLLlly crap. Stunning in looks, feel and tone. Big, woody, punchy, articulate. It came with non-stock pickups so I did a little swapping and settled on Creamery full-size Firebirds. It's amazing. I'll never let it go.

 

Average Joe

Member
Messages
12,267
My only experience with Hamer was a Newport Pro. Superb, superb guitar that I hope to re-acquire someday. I let it go because I was on a hunt for a 335 and it didn’t quite scratch that itch. But man what an instrument.
WHat he said. I had a Newport Pro and it was a superb guitar. Fantastic neck, overall very, very well build and cool sounds. Only it didn't sound like a 335 so I sold it. I may have to get another one down the line.

I also had an early 90s Special FM. Slim neck and it got the hameritis finish lift around the neck, but a very nice and dependable guitar, probably the single instrument I gigged most with over the years.

Hamer USA were very good instruments. I think there earlier stuff tend towards the more utalitarian, while the late ones wen't for the same market as upscale PRSi. If you compare their marketing from various eras it sort of support that point - from a focus on instruments that work to more cork sniffery writeups. But the actual instruments were always very good throughout the years.
 




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