Featured

Featured instruments from Vintage American Guitar.

  • Just acquired from the original owner – who bought this wonderful instrument directly from David Caro in the mountain town of the maker, one of the best luthiers that Paracho, Mexico has ever produced – in the mid 90’s and hand-carried it to California where it was lightly played. And it remains in remarkable original condition. The maker is David Caro, also known as David Caro Leonardo, or David Caro L. (In Mexico, the last/last name, in this case “Leonardo”, is the mother’s maiden name that is formally added after a person’s last [paternal] name but typically dropped in all but formal situations, documents etc.) Caro’s best instruments are among the best of a small, elite group that honed their craft at the top levels, and also benefited from visits and master classes given in Paracho by some world class luthiers from Spain, Germany, and the USA such as Felix Manzanero, Antonio Raya Pardo, Jose Romanillos, Thomas Humphery, and Herman Hauser III. Only a few Paracho luthiers have stood out over the years – Jose Navarro, Arturo Huipe, Abel Garcia, Enos Hernandez (his best work), German Vasquez Rubio, and Caro among them. See the enclosed photos from Fretboard Journal magazine, Spring 2008, that featured David Caro prominently in the feature article in that issue on Paracho luthiers. Paracho is an originally Tarascan village that sits in a high valley at 7,300 feet altitude, in the state of Michoacán, a relatively little visited state but renowned for its diversity and great beauty – and for some of the best classical guitar luthiers in the Americas. It extends from the Pacific coast, and is crossed by the Sierra Madre Del Sur in its southern part and by high volcanic mountains in its northern axis. When this guitar was made, in 1996, David Caro was at the height of his craft. And soon after, he was the first luthier to be added to the GSA calendar. This instrument is among the very best guitars ever made by Caro. And we love the model designation, it’s signed by hand on the label, “Mdo. 500”, i.e. “model 500” – sounds like a sports car name. Model 500 was the top model from Caro, in 1995/96 – using top woods, and also the best bindings, and all details. In those years, Caro’s best concert instruments went from model 100 at the base level, then ascending in tone woods and overall construction details to 200, 300, 400, then reaching the top level of “500”. So we’re calling this instrument, “el Quinientos”. (Spanish for “the 500” – nice ring to that – it’s pronounced “key-knee-éntose”) Several things make this guitar stand out as a gem: • It’s the top model from this luthier in the 1990’s • The great original condition • Scale length of 648mm. This scale length is reminiscent of Herman Hauser I’s guitars, and is firmly in the school of the shorter 650 range, not the longer scale lengths that crept in, in the last quarter of the 20th century. This is a great scale length – and note the nut width is a typical nut width of a full size classical guitar. And the neck thickness is great – on the thinner side. This combination makes it a joy to play and so easy to play – but the tone is superb. The full tone, and volume are better than most longer scale guitars. • Light weight/construction, that really allows it to sing. Its total weight, with strings, is a remarkably lithe 1430 grams • And it has great combination of woods: • Palo Escrito back and sides, bridge, and headplate veneer. DALBERGIA PALOESCRITO, is a true rosewood, a great wood that over the years came to be favored by the top luthiers in Paracho – for their top models. It sounds like Brazilian rosewood, but a tad different, and it’s not as “dark” in tone as Indian rosewood. Palo Escrito is lighter in weight and density than either brazilian or Indian rosewood. And weight, is of course part of the equation of a guitar that does translate to tone. Palo Escrito makes this guitar really breathe, and resonate. The lighter weight of this guitar is its charm, that translates to tone – slightly more airy and open, less “closed”, and with full round basses. The tone is clear, with superb string separation, as from the best spruce over rosewood guitars. Surprising volume – but it perhaps produces the best tone, in more delicate playing where you want each note to stand out – that’s of course called good “string separation”: the notes in a run or chord don’t all “blend together” but each note is discernable. And we think it’s accurate to say that this guitar, with its light weight and 648 scale length and combination of woods, has a tone that leans to a great Flamenco negra tone. Fast attack on the trebles, with a touch of growl in the bass when you play them hard. Yet the guitar responds very well to a light touch as well. If you’re looking for another ho-hum, non-descript spruce over Indian rosewood classical tone, this instrument is not for you. • Spruce top – European Alpine spruce • Ebony fingerboard • Ebony reinforcing strips, back of neck • Ebony heel cap • Beautiful rosette, with a hearts & rope pattern (another homage to Bernabe). • Palo Escrito is also used in the binding, back center strip, tie block, and purfling • The headstock shape is an homage to Paulino Bernabe. • Fan strutting, with 5 braces. The braces are very thin, and also scalloped – contributing to the great tone of the instrument. The scale length of the guitar, if it's not on the longer side, allows the luthier to be use more delicate bracing, adding to tone. (Longer scale length guitars produce more tension on the top due to the higher string tension inherent in a longer scale, so luthiers typically have to brace more strongly with longer scale lengths.) • And there is unique, 2-rosewood cleat application under the bridge – one cleat added by Caro at time of construction, on either end of the bridge, on the underside of top, for stability of the top wood beneath the bridge ends. It's worked well. • Good saddle height– and the neck is very straight, and there will never be any neck bowing issues or issue with too high action. Condition: 100% crack-free All original, thin lacquer finish Frets, and fretboard show very little wear A few nicks and dings, and a small amount of fingernail marks in the “pick guard” area. Overall, the condition is what you’d expect from an instrument that’s been played, carefully, for maybe a year, not 20+ years. But the tone is aged, open, clear – benefiting from more than two decades of aging and drying of the woods. Scale length: 648mm Nut Width: 52mm (2 2/32 inches) String spacing at nut: 45mm (1 ¾ inches) Width at lower bout: 14 ¼ inches Body depth, at bottom: 4 inches Body depth, at neck/body joint: 3 ¾ inches Weight (fully strung): 1430 grams (3.15 pounds) The original receipt from 1996, from David Caro, accompanies the instrument, along with other hand written notes and documentation from the original purchase (including hand written notes about the woods used in the guitar.) In a modern, hard shell case. Price: enquire
  • Circa 1860, style 3 guitar built by renowned luthier, James Ashborn of Wolcottville, CT, for William Hall & Son music store. Brazilian rosewood back and sides; Adirondack top; double maple binding (on both back, and front); original coffin case. This guitar is is 100% original, including all original finish, and down to original ebony nut, and original bridge (and saddle) that has never been off the guitar. And it comes in its original wood coffin case, as it left the factory around 1860. This James Ashborn style 3 is rare, and unique because it has brazilian veneer on the neck (not the fretboard which is ebony, but the back of neck), original to the guitar. And, that is very rare for any style/number Ashborn. Also unique to Ashborn’s style 3: his trademark hand-made tuners, have ebony buttons (not rosewood buttons as on his style 1, and 2) And this is a superb sounding Ashborn, unrivaled in tone by any 1850’s/1860’s American guitar we’ve seen and played, including any Martin from that era. Ashborn varied a few details on his guitars (styles 1,2,3, 5), but he did not vary the size of the guitars. He made them all the same body and neck size (unlike Martin for example). They are all the same size. And almost all had spruce/Brazilian veneer on back and sides. As this does. • Nut width is 1 7/8 inches • Width at lower bout: 11 3/8 inches • Scale Length: 24 inches • the action is 4/32 inch on both sides, at 12th string – normal action for this kind of guitar • There are repaired cracks on top, and back of guitar. All professionally repaired. James Ashborn was born in England circa 1816 and came to New England in the late 1830s. Ashborn had his shop in Torrington, but soon after start-up, he began selling guitars to the New York distributor William Hall & Son, whose name appears inside the instruments. From Vintage Guitar magazine: “Ashborn’s design for the guitar was quite innovative for the early 19th century. Instead of making guitars fashioned after the typical parlor-style guitars, he made them in the Spanish style, by taking interior bracing cues from the Spanish while retaining the body of the English guitars. This included a fan brace pattern rather than the more common ladder pattern Ashborn guitars have a very complex dovetail V joint for attaching the head to the neck. The headstock was cut in roughly five steps, using some kind of tracing router, as suggested by the chatter marks on the inside ears of the pegbox. In addition to the complex head design, Ashborn made his own tuning machines in-house. They’re made of brass, very much like contemporary machines, with worm gears, cog gears, and rollers. … Ashborn’s shop was extremely advanced for its time, having a great deal of know-how and technology. Ashborn understood the need to have the technology as well as the skill, but more importantly he discovered a new way of making high-quality instruments that were affordable. He was able to create a factory environment where workers did what they were good at and, with practice, became very fast and consistent. With a new level of consistency in mass production, he created the path followed by other companies such as Martin, Gibson, and Taylor. Using designs ahead of his time, he was able to bring the sound and change to people who otherwise never would have been able to acquire an instrument of this quality.” Price: $2950. In its original wood coffin case, with all original hardware
  • A rare and amazingly original English, Tunbridge ware fretless 7 string banjo. Circa 1850-60. This instrument is 100% original, and even the tailpiece is the original brass tailpiece. This banjo is also rare in that it has original geared tuning machines, not pegs like other examples from the period. The Tunbridge ware banjo is almost impossible to find in this condition and stage of originality. And Tunbridge’s are rare, period. The history? After Joel Sweeney – born to a farming family in Appomattox, Virginia and claimed to have learned to play the banjo from local African population, and the earliest known person to have played the banjo on stage – embarked on a European tour that included stops in London and Edinburgh. He played there for several months, and raised awareness of the instrument in England. As in the U.S., banjos began to be made by local craftsmen – they were still hand made and came in all shapes and sizes, with 5, 6, 7 and even 12 strings, and with one or more drone strings, sometimes on both sides of the neck. Only a few, best ones, such as this instrument, had an amazing amount of work put into them, none more so than those made by a very few firms centered around Tunbridge Wells in Kent, where the local craftsmen specialized in producing a particular form of Treen ware, made from up to 180 different colored woods. Holly, cherry, plum, yew, sycamore, and even imported lignum vitae were all used. The technique was to bind short lengths together and glue them into bundles so when viewed end on, a pattern or picture could be seen. Instrument length: 34 inches. With a 12 inch pot. Eight tensioners and shoes, all original. Original, rare circa 1850 German brass machine tuners (one bent shaft– but still operates perfectly). Original brass tailpiece. Fingerboard, and pot, consisting of inlaid woods as geometric patterns. All the inlays are intact. $2450. In a modern case.
  • This full-size violin, is a wonderful example of New England whaler culture of the 19th century. The violin itself is probably German made, early 1800’s, with maple back and sides. But the whale inlays (bone) on the fingerboard were no doubt done locally in New England. And the custom, hand made wood case, original to the instrument, also features a brass whale on the top. (Note, the brass handle on the case, is the exact kind used by CF Martin on their coffin cases for guitars in the mid-19th century.) The bridge, and tailpiece are modern. Bone inlays on the tuning pegs also. The instrument is fully set up and ready to play. Price: $2150. In its original wood case, with a brass whale inlay on top.
  • It’s beyond rare to find a guitar from the early Martin – Coupa - Schmidt – Maul – Schatz era in this state of preservation. And one this large. This rare model Schmidt & Maul guitar – by the original C.F. Martin's most famous colleagues and contemporaries– is signed and dated, October 18th, 1852, and is in its original coffin case. And best of all– it plays wonderfully, with low action. A unique piece of American guitar history– not for hanging on the wall but to play. The instrument is signed on the underside of the top: Louis Schmidt Tompkinsville  Staten Island New York   388 Broadway October 18th  1852 U.S. This higher end, Spanish neck/heel (not ice-cream cone) Schmidt & Maul is bigger than all the Schmidt & Maul, Schmidt, or George Maul guitars that have come up for sale in the past decades (and not many of any kind have come up for sale). It’s a bit larger than a size 2 Martin, with a width at lower bout of 12 3/16 inches.(Every other Schmidt & Maul that has come to market has been a smaller guitar.) The guitar is braced inside (all original) with an early X-bracing variation similar to the 1953 Schmidt & Maul featured on p. 213 of the book “Inventing the American Guitar– The Pre-Civil War Innovations of C.F. Martin and His Contemporaries” edited by Robert Shaw and Peter Szego. (Hal Leonard Books, 2013). Like the 1853 guitar illustrated in that book, this guitar has bracing on top and back that is very close to the guitar that CF Martin and Schatz made for Madame de Goni. With all original finish, original ebony bridge, and original Jerome tuners– it’s in remarkable condition. To get the best of both worlds– historically authenticity and playability– the guitar has just had a recent neck set, original bridge reglue, and other minor work including new saddle, by one of the country’s top luthiers and authorities for early Martin and early American guitars– Steve Kovacik. All work was done by Steve to historically correct preservation standards after extensive examination and consultation. (Note, in the photo: the picture of the signature inside the guitar: the two cleats are not later repairs– rather they are two center seam-stabilizing cleats put in by the original luthiers in 1852.) Amazingly, this guitar plays in tune up and down the fretboard. Thank the original luthiers at 388 Broadway for that– they had the foresight to add slight compensation (not angled saddle compensation but cheating the saddle back a bit) to the bridge/saddle. Not even CF Martin did that in those years). And thanks to Steve Kovacik for setting this instrument up with low action not ballpark “19th century” action. The Adirondack top is crack-free. Crack-free sides. There are two almost imperceptible cracks on the back– you have to look hard to see them, both addressed by Steve Kovacik.
    • “Schmidt & Maul New York” stamps on neck block, and center strip inside guitar
    • X-braced, all original braces inside
    • Spanish foot construction
    • Radiused Ebony fretboard
    • All historically correct bar fret replacement by Steve Kovacik (not too high, and not too thick– correct size bar frets were used, properly finished)
    • Original bridge plate, in fine condition
    • Original Jerome tuners and buttons
    • Original nut, and saddle, in case. New nut and saddle by Steve Kovacik
    • Rosette: shares a feature with early Martins– a variant of the "tooth" rosette– a three ring rosette with green "tooth" inner ring, and small "rope" outer rings
    • Marquetry Purfling around top, + Maple binding
    • Back purfling (backstrip): see Martin Guitars: A Technical Reference, p. 13: this is a “Pre-1867 style 34” Martin style purfling
    • Maple binding, back
    • Solid Adirondack top
    • Solid brazilian rosewood back and sides
    • Cedar, Spanish style neck and heel
    • Width at lower bout: 12 3/16 inches
    • Body length: 18 ¼ inches
    • Nut width: 1 15/16 inches
    • String spacing at bridge: 2 5/16
    • Scale length: 24 ½ inches (But there is a slight compensation: 12th fret to the saddle– Schmidt and Maul added a touch of compensation !
    • Original scooped-back ebony bridge
    • 100% original finish. No overspray, touch-up, etc. anywhere…wonderful finish
    This instrument sounds and plays differently than the early Martins we’ve had. It’s stronger in the trebles and mids, not the bass strings. With this instrument, it means a guitar that responds to a more delicate touch– you barely have to pick or strum, to get wonderful tone. After careful experimentation for the best tone, we’ve put German Thomastik-Infeld Classic S, Precision KF110 strings on the guitar (totally within the tension levels appropriate for a 19th century guitar of this stature). The result is a guitar that responds to a very light touch, and really delivers– a nuanced, bright and glassy, brazilian tone– in the higher frets especially. Unlike 19th century Martins, it’s a joy to play especially in frets 5-14, with very low action that lets you explore the octaves and harmonics in places you’d typically not go to in such an early guitar. And with endless brazilian sustain. The guitar is in its original hand-made wood coffin case, that still has its original fabric lining, and all hardware, all in great condition. Price: $9850.
  • Players know Larson brothers guitars for the astounding tone, and that wonderful, indescribable Larson “shimmer” (glassy but round penetrating mids and trebles) and sustain. We’ve had a variety of smaller body Larsons, but none like this Maurer, Larson brothers. Not like this big, dreadnaught scale, 16 inch lower bout instrument. And not with this much bass tone and clarity and volume on top of the classic Larson treble shimmer and overall sustain. Any 14 fret Larson brothers guitar is rare – and this one more so. The Larson brothers, August and Carl, did not of course make instruments with a “Larson” label or markings. All of their instruments were branded and marketed under the companies Stahl, Maurer, Prairie State, Euphonon, Dyer, Bruno, and a few more. Larson traits include “built under tension” design (and with the resulting more “radiused” top; the “ebony under the binding” on the neck; some have fret inlay at the 10th fret (as opposed to the 9th fret like most other makers); some have laminated top braces (spruce-rosewood-spruce); the classic Larson bridge that is tall at the saddle slot and slopes down sharply toward the back (and with the square wings). But few single Larson guitars have all of the above features. This instrument does have them all save the earlier style 5-7-10 fret inlays. This guitar, like all the later Larson large bodied guitars (mainly branded Euphonon by the late 30’s) has 5-7-9 fret inlays. The fret inlays here exactly match all the large bodied Larson Euphonons of the 1930’s. This Larson brothers guitar is branded Maurer, but it’s one of the very rare instruments that, while a Maurer/Larson brothers, has all the traits of the 16 inch Euphonon. This guitar was made as a Maurer when the Larsons were just starting to switch the production of the large size guitars to the Euphonon branding exclusively. So it’s a late Maurer/early Euphonon style large bodied Larson brothers guitar. Very rare. (Update:) Bob Hartman (Robert Carl Hartman, author of "The Larsons' Creations") has told us, about this instrument. Bob is the acknowledged, preeminent authority and historian on Larson guitars. According to Bob, “There was a store in Milwaukee, WI. that sold Larsons until about 1940. I spoke with the owner back in the 1980s and he said he had never heard of the Euphonon brand. All his large body guitars were branded Maurer. I have since dubbed these guitars, 'Milwaukee Euphonons'.” Milwaukee Euphonon it is. This instrument has: • Maurer Stamp on inside back strip • The unique Larson brothers spruce/rosewood/spruce laminated top braces inside • X bracing • Unique Larson brothers “ebony beneath the binding” on the neck • Red spruce top • Mahogany back and sides • 1 ¾ inch nut width • 25 ½ inch scale length • 16 inch lower bout width • Original ebony bridge • Original bridge plate • Original tuners • Original frets • Original finish, with a good deal of wear to the finish on top • Repaired end pin area cracks It is in a modern hard shell case. Price: 14950.
  • Circa 1912 Mother of Pearl Inlaid Guitar The guitar is extensively inlayed with mother of pearl . The guitar was restored in 2001, work that included converting the instrument to X-bracing, reproduction ebony bridge, reproduction small maple bridge plate. It’s signed inside by the restorer, “B. Lehmann 2001” (Bernie Lehmann, well known luthier in New York.) The guitar has no stamps or labels, but it was probably made by George Bauer – because of many stylistic similarities. The guitar is set up and ready to play. As many guitars of this era, the tone is tilted toward very bright, glassy, brazilian rosewood trebles, not fuller bass. Solid Spruce top Solid Brazilian Rosewood back and sides MOP inlays, fretboard, rosette, and bindings X-braced Original tuners Width at lower bout: 13 1/2 inches Scale Length: 24 7/8 inches Nut Width: 1 ¾ inches V shaped neck Price: $2750. In modern case.
  • Rare set of Seidel Tuners. Seidel tuners, made in Germany in the 19th century, were CF Martin’s tuner of choice for his high-end guitars. You can see these tuners on some rare 1860 – 1880’s Martins– but they are very rare to encounter not married to a guitar. German silver backplates; floral pattern decorations, hand-engraved, The original buttons are of genuine bone. Good working order. Price: $1295.
  • A beautiful example of one of the rarest prewar Martin ukuleles. This is a prewar Martin C-1. (All Concert Model ukuleles from Martin– with the exception of few special orders– were style 1). Officially called the Concert model ukulele, it’s larger than the many soprano size ukes. It’s very rare to find a prewar C-1 on the market– and much rarer still to find a pre-1933. This instrument was made between 1925 and 1933– because of the Martin stamp on the back of the headstock and the lack of the (post-1933) Martin decal on the front of the headstock. This is currently the only Martin C-1 from the late 1920’s on the market. And the tone and playability are perfect. Louder, and more bell like tone than a Martin Style 1 soprano uke. Martin concert ukuleles are the same body size as taropatch (1918-1932) but with four strings only. While the taropatch had been offered with four strings since its introduction, the new concert model was different in that it had a narrower neck and a standard soprano-size bridge. It was added to the standard catalog that year and by 1927 it was outselling all taropatch models combined. Concerts ukuleles are tuned the same as the sopranos but because of the larger body have a deeper and richer sound, and a slightly longer, easier to play scale length of 14 3/4". The Concert Ukulele from Martin–while rare to find a prewar example– is considered the ideal size for players– larger than the tiny soprano but not too big like the Martin Tenor uke. This one has a rich, beautiful tone, and it’s almost unplayed condition. The action is perfect. There is one small crack on top–but it’s essentially “cleated” by the orignal bridde plate and does not need addressing, and a smaller finish crack that does not go through to the inside). The braces and all else inside: pristine. And it even comes in its original canvas case. Like most Martin ukes, the mahogany bridge had some wear on the string slots. So we created a new, replacement, 100% historically correct replacement bridge. Original patent tuners Original ebony nut Brazilian rosewood fretboard Style 1: all mahogany, with brazilian binding on top Total length: 23 ¼ inches Body length: 11 inches Body width upper bout: 5 ¾ inches Body width lower bout: 7 5/8 inches Scale length: 14 ¾ inches   Price: with original case. $2150.
  • Very rare, early Jerome guitar tuners, made in France. Rare kidney buttons, as seen on higher end Martin guitars from the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860's. Plates, shafts and buttons only. No posts or worm gears (there is one post and one worm gear). Price: $595.
  • Many players consider the best Martin D-28’s from the 70’s great guitars– and the best value around if you want a vintage D-28 on a budget. The best ones deliver great tone– a darker, richer voice than 50's or 60’s D-28’s. The non-adjustable truss rod, and great Indian rosewood Martin used in those years, and the nice bear claw sitka on top on this example, all make for a lovely instrument. A few nicks and dings, but in remarkable original condition. This instrument delivers. It’s all original, and it’s 100% crack-free (not even the common “pickguard crack”). The original pickguard is not lifting as you often see on these Martins. Original bridge that's never been off the guitar, pins, everything. It has the typical slight finish crazing on top, visible from an angle– it’s common on this vintage. The neck has never been set. Frets in fine shape. Original Grovers. With a low-ish saddle, it plays fine. And in tune everywhere. At some point in the future the new owner may want to do a neck set, but we prefer to keep it all original (and the action is fine as is). In it’s original Martin case from the factory in great condition. Price: $2350.
  • This is a great original set, of the famed Handel tuners from the early 20th century. Silver wire and pearl inset. In good condition. One button has a slight chip. Good working order. Price: $495.