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Old 08-25-2017, 03:46 PM   #1
Georg IV
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Default Help with identifying guitar

Hi everyone!
I've found a guitar that, I was told, is from 1930s or a little bit earlier:



It looks like an old parlor and it has something that looks like a glyph or a logo on a tuning key:

It is the only one native key from these guitar. The others were changed for more modern.
Two guys with horns and PI and PHI Greek letters between them.

Maybe someone can identify this guitar?
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Old 08-26-2017, 08:57 AM   #2
JanVigne
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I never knew the Free Masons built guitars. LOL!

Tuning keys are pretty easy to change out so I wouldn't take this one key to be "native" to the guitar unless you have further proof.

It does look like a Spruce top, which would make this guitar a bit more "expensive" than the typical birch bodied models of the time. Bindings and rosette still look painted on which suggests this was not a high end builder. Without any labeling, this could have come from someone's workshop kit which would make it a more or less one off.

Looking at the fretboard, it's pretty clean. For any vintage guitar the oils from the player's fingers would have stained and discolored the fretboard with time and use. That sort of deep staining can't be cleaned up and would only not appear on a well used guitar if the fretboard had been replaced.

This guitar doesn't appear to have seen much use, for whatever reason. The fretboard does look to be made of rosewood though, which is in the guitar's favor.

It seems to be a "better" guitar built by a lower end builder. However, other than looking much like the generic guitars from Chicago builders, there's nothing to say this guitar even originated in the US.

Even if this guitar came from the 1960's it would likely have an organic finish rather than the more modern poly type. The one photo indicates the builder didn't pay a lot of attention to the finish but that could be redone of you decide to spiff the guitar up a bit.

Otherwise, IMO there are no other identifiers which make this out to be any specific builder's guitar. You'll likely hear it was probably built by Kay or Harmony but those companies are just two of the numerous builders creating non-descript models lacking ID; https://www.premierguitar.com/articl...chicago-built; https://www.premierguitar.com/articl...-chicago-built

The instruments coming from those builders were very much alike company to company and year to year. The shape of the fretboard at the body joint, the tailpiece and the wooden floating bridge are about the only semi-unique features to go on but those existed for a lot of companies and continued to be common well into the 1970's. I really can't find anything in your photos that would specifically date this guitar to the '30's.

As is common with vintage guitars, condition is what you're after. Lacking a truss rod in most cases, these guitars are notorious for not being playable today. If the guitar is playable (if the neck is not boogered), then you have a few hundred $'s in value. If not, then you probably have a nice wall hanging. Looking at your photos, the seams of the body look to be intact. Any cracks in the body that your photos don't show?

Small bodied guitars such as this, no matter the builder or the wood on the top plate tend to have a "jukey", bluesy sound that is best suited for music of its time; roots, acoustic blues, early western music. Many of the lower cost guitars from the first half of the 20th c/ would have had a wooden saddle and nut. This guitar looks as though both have been upgraded, either by the builder or at a later date. Woods are very likely solid and not laminates, which is good for sound. The woods used can't be found today as these were from much earlier growths and they have aged through the years. Even the less expensive solid wood guitars from the 20th c/ are desirable for the sound coming from aged woods.

There needs to be more identification found before any specific builder or model is assigned. Unique or brand specific bridges, marked headstocks and labels (serial numbers if found) are what you're after. If the guitar doesn't have anything that say's this was built by so and so in the year of "X", then you really can't be sure of much. Have you examined the interior of the guitar with a mirror?

https://www.google.com/search?q=vint...iw=911&bih=452


http://vintageparlorguitars.com/

Last edited by JanVigne; 08-26-2017 at 09:29 AM.
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Old 08-26-2017, 09:52 AM   #3
Georg IV
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I know that this guitar is older than 1950s. It belonged to my friend's grandfather. He was a soviet tankman and brought it after the WW2 in 1947 from Dresden. At first my friend thought that it was a German trophy, but this guitar could be American and came with Lend-Lease.
And the friend's grandfather told that he passed two last years of WW2 with it. So it seems that it was made at least in 1943.
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Old 08-26-2017, 11:14 AM   #4
Cozmik Cowboy
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The wire saddle also seems to point to lower end - but also points, in my experience, to the 1960s.
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Old 08-26-2017, 03:12 PM   #5
JanVigne
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"It belonged to my friend's grandfather. He was a soviet tankman and brought it after the WW2 in 1947 from Dresden. At first my friend thought that it was a German trophy, but this guitar could be American and came with Lend-Lease."


I'll just go ahead and ask the most obvious question; any idea just how many manufacturers might be represented if this isn't an American build?

As I said in my first post, there's not much to say this is a US built guitar. Not much to say it isn't but, certainly, not much to say it is.

There are only so many ways to build a guitar but there are dozens and dozens of ways to decorate a guitar. So ...

First, you have no label or headstock branding. That suggests it did not come from one of the better known US builders of the 20th c/ to be sold under their brand. That, at the least, knocks out a few million guitars it might be.



Did you read the article I linked to? If you did, then you would have seen many of the better known builders did subcontracting work for brands that weren't really brands. They were just guitars sold to general stores, hardware stores and five and dimes throughout the US and sold (usually on a payment plan for less than $10 total) without a label of sorts.

By the middle of the 20th c/, many of the smaller labels had gone out of business leaving no record of their existence to pull from or they have been purchased by the better known labels to use as another guitar to sell to anyone willing to pay the bill after 90 days.

That puts us right back into the possibly it's a "X" built guitar for about another few million guitars.

All you've really managed at this point is to say it wasn't built by Kay, Harmony, Stella, Regal, etc. At least not to sell as a Kay, Harmony, Stella, Regal, etc.

That's sort of like asking, who killed JFK? Well, I know I didn't, Sister Marjory wouldn't let me out of class that day, and I'll venture a guess Cowboy didn't. The other, what was it? the other slightly more than 3.19 billion of you around in 1963, I can't vouch for.



The bits we would typically use for identification of a vintage parlor are largely the parts which, on your guitar, could have easily been swapped out at any time.

I personally wouldn't go with the tuner's decoration unless you know with certainty it was OEM to the guitar. And, even if you do that, not many guitars get ID'ed by the tuners. They are too easy to swap out. You might however try looking up the glyph on the one tuner to see if you can possibly find the group who might have some association with the tuner and go from there.

It's very difficult for me to see a major organization identifying their guitar with just a carved tuner and absolutely no other markings but ... you know ... they had to put Oswald's fingerprints on the rifle after he'd been shot and he was laying in the morgue so you do what you have to do to prove the CIA wasn't involved.

Hey! Now THAT would make for an interesting guitar story!



Floating bridges can be removed by simply loosening the strings. The tailpiece looks a bit oversized for the body and it might have been a replacement. A slotted headstock kind of says before the '70's but, not really.

You do not indicate you've found any ID'ing marks or #'s inside the guitar. There just isn't much left to go on IMO. Kits were some what popular for the home builder in the first 1/2 of the last century and, if that's what this guitar is, ID'ing it is very difficult.



If you want a $ value for the guitar, it's worth what someone wants to pay for a no name guitar at this point. Look through the archives of people asking us for ID's and you'll see this is a pretty common item; no brand, no serial #, no distinctive markings to go on. Our general advice is to then just enjoy playing your guitar if it is playable. Unless you want to sell the guitar or insure the guitar, just play and enjoy a vintage parlor for what a vintage parlor has to offer. The spruce top should give it a decent sound and you can upgrade items to make the guitar worth having.

What are the woods on the back and sides of this guitar? Typically, for this style, they might either be rosewood or mahogany.

Given the slotted headstock and newer tuners and what looks to be a too large tailpiece, this might have started as a nylon/gut string guitar that was converted at a later date to use steel strings. That would certainly add to the enjoyment of finding the builder of this guitar.

I don't think there's any reason to insure this guitar as the best case scenario for an unbranded vintage guitar is typically under $100.



If you want to get more serious about an ID, take this to the people who deal more with repairing and selling vintage guitars. Most will give you a best guess for a few $'s in exchange.



Otherwise, the only thing you can say is very likely to be original and somewhat unique is the fretboard as it meets the body. Most Chicago based builders did not use a scalloped fretboard. Harmony and Kay, the most commonly named "coulda been" builders, have no models I can recollect which used this type of fretboard.

Use a search engine to gather potential builders with a search title something like "early 20th c/ parlor guitar builders" and you'll get something like this; https://www.google.com/search?q=earl...KeS5y4LunH_OM:

A quick look says there's nothing in those images which fits your guitar's outfitting.

So try "vintage acoustic parlor guitars"; https://www.google.com/search?q=vint...iw=911&bih=452

In each example, a tailpiece is very common as is the slotted headstock. Floating bridges were a quick and easy way to build a less expensive guitar (or to convert a guitar to steel strings) so you'll see a lot of floating bridges. The same goes for painted on decorations like the rosette and the body bindings on your guitar.

Look for the uncommon fretboard shape and, if you find one, then look for the other items which would distinguish your guitar from all the rest. You've shown us an "X" guitar and without something more to go on, that's what we would have to do.

The problem remains, there are lots of guitars to consider if you consider this guitar might not have even been built in the US.

Good luck, let us know what you find.
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Old 08-26-2017, 05:22 PM   #6
Cozmik Cowboy
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If we can agree that this piece is from the 1960s or earlier, I'm going to vote no on the nylon-to-steel conversion; if that were the case the neck - which appears to be very straight - would most likely be more fit for shooting arrows than being fretted.
And thanks for the vote of confidence vis a vis my activities 11-22-63, Jan!
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Old 08-27-2017, 08:47 AM   #7
JanVigne
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Got yer back, Cowboy! I figured you probably weren't even old enough to handle large weapons in '63. Though, ... you probably would have been small enough in '63 to fit in that storm drain.

???


Nah!



I don't believe this was a conversion to steel strings. Simply the idea it may have been is enough to throw yet another spanner into the gears.
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Old 08-27-2017, 04:30 PM   #8
Cozmik Cowboy
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I have rethought my stance on the saddle; I recalled I have an antique-store-rescue instrument labeled "The Third Man Zither Junior" (autoharp shaped but about half the size, 15 chromatic strings). It has the wire-saddle bridge, and The Third Man was released in '49.

And I was 7 in '63, so only Pap's BB gun under supervision (and Steve Archer's .22 when we could sneak it out). I eventually got to be a damn good shot, but at that age a moving head shot was, as you assumed, beyond my abilities.
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