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VINTAGE GUITARS

PLEASE NOTE: THIS SITE IS MOVING, BECAUSE THE HOST WILL NO LONGER SUPPORT INTERNET SITES BEGINNING IN LATE JULY. THERE WILL BE TWO NEW SITES. ONE WILL BE THE CONN GUITARS UNOFFICIAL SITE. THE OTHER WILL BE THE GUITAR MEDIC of INDIANA

 

VINTAGE GUITARS:  FOR THE MOST PART I AM ABANDONING SOME OF THE INFORMATION AT THIS SITE. I WILL, HOWEVER, STILL MAINTAIN THE CONN GUITARS UNOFFICIAL WEB SITE. THAT SITE IS ALSO MOVING BUT IS STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION.  I AM STILL SEEKING A WAY TO AUTOMATICALLY REDIRCT INQUIRIES TO THAT NEW SITE.  THE SITE IS NOT YET COMPLETED BUT CAN BE ACCESSED AT https://vintageguitars6.wixsite.com/conn-unofficial 

 

THIS CURRENT SITE WILL NOT BE DECOMMISSIONED UNTIL ALL CONTENT HAS MOVED TO THE NEW SITE. I WILL NO LONGER SUPPORT GENERAL RESEARCH OF VINTAGE GUITARS, BUT WILL FOCUS SOLELY ON CONN GUITARS.

I spent a lot of years researching certain brands of vintage guitars. This was a personal venture, and I was not seeking to become an expert, but just to be knowledgeable about certain brands that intrigued me or otherwise that I was interested in.  After amassing an extensive amount of information in spreadsheets and in MS Word documents, I finally decided to incorporate those into my web site. THIS ENTIRE SECTION IS THE OUTGROWTH OF THAT "HOBBY".  I am not the only person who has done this. There are several excellent resource on the internet by people just like me who sought to learn everything they could about a certain brand or brands.
 
Content from any area on this site is free to download except if otherwise specified, and as long as acknowledging this site as the source. HOWEVER, no information can be redistributed or sold, or placed on a site that charges a fee for accessing it.

I DO NOT PROVIDE ESTIMATES OF VALUE FOR GUITARS. PLEASE READ WHY:

Please do not contact me for the purpose of asking the value of any instruments. I will not reply to such emails out of fairness to both you and to myself. Thanks for understanding. Still there is a need for such a thing. I am happy to look your instrument over if you bring it to my shop in central Indiana, and can give you a fairly accurate estimate of its value once I've thoroughly examined it.


This page is devoted to specific vintage guitars.

The page contains:

  • Information on specific brands and links to those brands
  • Good links to other vintage guitar history/pictorial/serial number sites.
  • GUITARS WANTED: (BRAND) Guitar
  • STREET PRICE LISTINGS (see link at left border--this is forthcoming)

See the menu at left to see information that is specific to any particular brand. The brands I have researched are limited and may be listed in the menu--with links below. However, there are others for which I've done research, but have not compiled it into presentable information for posting on this site. That is forthcoming, so check back. If you want to know something about a specific brand, I welcome you to contact me via the link at left "Contact Me". I may be able to provide some information on your brand or model (but also may not).


USE CAUTION WHEN BUYING AN INSTRUMENT OVER THE INTERNET--USING JUST PHOTOS

When I first began buying and selling guitars some years back, I can remember wanting to find someone who I could simply ask how much a specific guitar model or other instrument was worth. It seemed there were not many sources of information out there providing that kind of information, and I could not understand why. I have since bought and sold about 275 guitars in the last 10 years--many of them via the internet with only a description of "Amazing" or "Great" condition. I have also worked on 200-300 guitars in that time, and have learned much about things that "go wrong" with guitars and subsequently cause serious conditions that someone without experience would never know existed. During that time, I've come to learn that AMAZING or GREAT CONDITION vintage guitars are seldom that. Common problems I see are a) warpage caused from storing guitars with taut strings for long periods of time, b) bridges that have begun to lift, c) necks that have caved in at the heel--requiring neck resets (expensive) or heavy work in the heel-block area, d) bellying--where wood has a hump just behind the bridge and a depression in front of the bridge, causing high action, e) bracing that has come loose and allowed wood to warp or move and become deformed, f) grooving of frets or fretboard that goes undetected by the untrained eye, g) multiple problems that result in high action. The list goes on, but you get the idea. I understand the reluctance of "experts" to give estimates of value via the internet. Some that I've corresponded with have told stories about how they provided a ball-park value to an individual, and later the individual came back rudely claiming they bought an instrument based on a ball park estimate of value only to find that the instrument was unplayable and worth nothing. Word to the wise: Be careful when buying on the internet. Amazing or Great or Mint may simply be in the eyes of the current owner, and based on some degree of inexperience with musical instruments, or any real knowledge or awareness of neck straightness, warping, etc.

Guitars Wanted is a new section located below. Just because a guitar is old does not make it valuable. However, it may still have sentimental value to a collector. For years, I sought to replace the cheap Harmony Bobkat H14 that I'd had as a teen. The guitar sold new in 1966 for $65, and today only brings $100-$200. Thus...old doesn't translate to $$$. However, in some cases it may. Review the brand street prices by clicking on the link "Street Prices" to the left, and look for the specific brand. These are actual prices that the guitars are currently selling for on the street. This is provided as a service to guitar owners and collectors. Use caution when dealing with anyone you do not know. The web site owner takes no responsibility for transactions entered into between individuals as the result of listings or information posted on this site.


AVERAGE STREET PRICE LISTS, INFORMATION, AND STATS ON SOME VINTAGE GUITARS:

 

 The intent of this section is to share some information I've discovered or researched.  Some of the brands listed here contain links to downloadable spreadsheets with average street prices. Generally, prices are relatively stable. During downturns in the economy, the prices dip a bit. But typically, the more significant effect in a weak economy is simply less buying.  Prices are actually fairly stable. Several models of acoustic guitar are included here. If the brand is not listed, I've either not researched it, or I simply have a limited amount of information. If there is no live ink below, I have no street price stats.  This is a work-intensive effort, and is done in my spare time (which isn't a lot given my full time aerospace career and my part time guitar repair business). However, I have been researching this information for about 5 years, and this is what I have so far. As I accumulate more information, I will keep the sheets up to date with the latest information.

Thank you for your patience, and feel free to provide feedback on whether this information has been useful, or if you have models to add to the data shown.
 
Note that there are detailed pages on Conn, Carlos, and others. For these, I've done a "deeper dive" in my research and have accumulated more information for those models--with a dedicated page for those models.
 
Aria / Arai
    
The more well-known Aria brand is owned by by Arai & Company of Japan. The Japanese name, "ARIA", means expressive melody. It was first used in 1958 when founder Shiro Arai exported Japanese built classical guitars fitted with steel strings to South East Asia in 1963. Also the letters of his name "ARAI" were just switched around to "ARIA". Arai and Aria guitars started as hand-built guitars and early models were hand made, and high quality. Today's Aria guitars remain a decent quality instrument but are not considered high end instruments as they once were.
Link to Aria Guitars - Aria Guitars
STREET PRICES LISTING not available
Carlos - Out of Production
The Carlos guitar brand was a brand that was initially imported by C. Bruno & Sons (known for brands Ventura, Bruno, Conqueror, Trump, and probably others). The first guitars were imported by Bruno from Korea, in the late 70's. There is little information on the lineage, but Carlos may have been imported later by Coast Wholesale Music of California.  Coast Wholesale Music Corporation and C. Bruno and Sons were both acquired by Kaman Music Corporation in 1967 and 1971 (consecutively). It is thought that the last year the Carlos brand was sold was 1993. My own experience with Carlos showed them to be very thin wood, large bodies, resulting in pretty outstanding sound quality. Like many Korean-made guitars of that era, many Carlos guitars suffer from high action--necessitating prohibitive priced neck sets. Not a huge collectible guitar due to several factors, but primarily a) cheaply made, b) all laminate models, c) unknown brand.  See dedicated page in left menu.
Conn - Out of Production -- SEE DEDICATED PAGES FOR CONN ACOUSTIC STEEL STRING, CONN CLASSICAL, AND CONN ELECTRIC, and CONN CASES
Emperador - Out of Production
The Emperador brand was founded by the Westheimer Music Company of Chicago, Illinois. Westheimer is more well known for their Cort brand guitars. Emperador guitars were first made in Japan (for a short time) then in Korea. Generally they were knockoffs of famous brands. It is difficult to find a Japan-made model. I have never actually seen one for sale or displayed anywhere. All models I've actually had in my hands or seen elsewhere had horrible action. The guitars themselves, similar to other Korean-made instruments from the same era, had this issue with high action. Whether this was from the use of inadequately aged woods, or from bad neck sets is unknown. Little information exists on the internet or elsewhere about this brand. However, I was able to have a brief discussion with an individual at Westheimer, confirming the brand and lineage.  The company could not remember for sure (without doing some digging--which they were unwilling to do) the exact years of manufacture, but seems to remember that it was from about early 1980s to mid 1990's.  See dedicated page in left menu.
Lotus - Out of Production
The Lotus brand was a series developed by Midco International. They were typically copies of other

brand name/model guitars, such as Gibson Les Paul or Fender Stratocaster.

Lotus acoustic guitars were produced in Japan, Korea, and China, and possibly in Indonesia during the 1990s.

As stated, the brand was distributed by Midco International in Effingham, IL. The Lotus brand was a trademark of Musicorp (previously Midco International). In the 1990s, they offered a wide range of acoustic and electric guitars that were designed for the student and/or entry level player. In the 2000s, Musicorp stopped offering guitars under the Lotus trademark to focus on bluegrass instruments, specifically banjos and mandolins. At some point, (unknown) production ceased on any of the original brand (typified by the presence of  lotus blossom as part of the logo).

There was a page formerly dedicated to this brand (Lotus), but so little reliable information could be found that the page was removed.  Do not confuse this Lotus brand with "Lotus by Amigo". They are not related.

 
Lyle (by Aria) - Out of Production
Made in Japan.
 
 
 
Madeira (by Guild) - Out of Production
 
 
 
Mardan (by C.G.Conn)- Out of Production
Made in Korea. Generally good quality manufacture.
 
 
Sigma (by Martin) - Out of Production
Silvertone/Sears/Supertone - Out of Production
 
 
 
Takamine
Lawsuit Models and Japan Vintage
There is a series of Takamine guitars produced in the 70's, that kind of copied the Martin half-circle logo. Those guitars are commonly known as "lawsuit era" guitars. They were designated with models like F-307 (laminated top), F-307S (solid top), F-360, F-360S, etc). As of January 2012, those "lawsuit era" guitars were commanding high prices and were very much in demand, because of their known high quality and their similarity to Martin. There was never actually a lawsuit by Martin, but it was threatened. Be cautious about buying a Takamine that is advertised as a lawsuit era guitar. I have found that more current F-360's and others are sometimes being advertised as lawsuit era, when in fact, they are more modern ones--carrying the current-day Takamine logo (spelled sideways on the headstock.) See examples below. The one on the left is the "lawsuit" headstock. The one on the right is the one Takamine came up with when threatened with a lawsuit by Martin. If you see an F-series advertised as "lawsuit" with the headstock shown here on the right, then the description by the seller is simply wrong (although it may still be a nice guitar).  As a matter of interest, Takamine never went to trial, but instead agreed to quit copying other manufacturers.
Ventura - Out of Production
Resources:
Ventura Guitars The Ventura Unofficial web site. The authority on Ventura brand (C.Bruno&Son) with an emphasis on accurate reliable information.
 
Yamaha FG-series and other Vintage Models
Resources (click the underlined link):
Yamaha Guitarchive - Yamaha site to look up model numbers. Known to contain some errors.
Yamaha Vintage Guitars Web Site (privately owned) from Netherlands enthusiast
Yamaha Serial Number Wizard - As with other Yamaha sites, may not return accurate information.
 

Some History on Vintage Brands (Generally-Speaking)

There are hundreds of brands of VINTAGE guitars from the 60s thru 90's--during what I'll refer to as the guitar "boom" era. Many manufacturers deserve credit for what they've contributed to the progress of guitars in modern day. Harmony, for example, became one of the most prolific manufacturers--making guitars not only on contract for famous makers Gibson, Fender, and others, as well as for department store chains Sears and Mongomery Ward, but also their own brands Harmony and Stella. They were located in Chicago, Illinois and owned and operated their own factories there. They were a "world power" of guitar makers--making more guitars than any other manufacturer in their day. Other manufacturers who made good quality instruments and who were responsible for the proliferation of guitars in the 1960's and 1970's were Washburn, Oscar Schmidt, Fender, Yamaha, Gibson, and others too numerous to mention. Other factories who made high quality instruments included Matsumoku (Japan), Aria (Japan).

Around the time of the mid 60's to early 70's several importers began devising their own brands, and contracting the building of these brands of guitars overseas--first in Japan, then in Korea and Taiwan. One of the more notable importers/distributors was C. Bruno & Son--originally of Macon, GA (1834) and now wholly absorbed by Kaman Music. The Bruno family had a long history in the music business even before the 1960's-1970's guitar boom (C.Bruno & Son timeline). Bruno & Son Distributors were responsible for imports of Ventura brand, and others.


Vintage Instruments We Used to Have
Sometimes people don't know what they have. I am guilty. I had a Harmony Hollywood guitar from the 1950's. It belonged to my Dad who passed away in 1986. I'd had it around so long and the action was high, it was in a cheap chipboard case, and the action was horrible. I didn't know at the time what a collector's item I had, nor did I realize it could be made playable. I donated it to a charity (after deciding first not to just throw it in the trash). Oh how I wish I knew then what I know now...
Some other instruments have found themselves donated to charities, and were acquired by lucky bidders. Some of the ones I've run across while putting this site together are:
1) A 1900's Hillyard - Made by the Chicago Music Company who was formerly located at Adams and Wabash Streets in downtown Chicago. This guitar went for $306 on shopgoodwill.com. The bidder got a steal. The guitar was likely worth much more. See the listing by clicking here (it will be up on the shopgoodwill site for about 2-3 months, then Goodwill Industries will remove the photos and the listing).
2) Another recent sale of a 1956 Martin brought $2235...it may have worth as much as 10 times that.
These vintage instruments were probably found in closets or attics, or like me--kept for years and finally just donated out of ignorance of their actual rarity and value.

 


BRANDS I'VE CHOSEN TO HIGHLIGHT HERE:
CONN ACOUSTIC & ELECTRIC, LOTUS ACOUSTIC, CARLOS ACOUSTIC, AND EMPERADOR ACOUSTICS. OTHERS WILL BE ADDED LATER...

This page is devoted to vintage acoustic guitars, brands noted above. Initially at least, I had chosen to highlight four brands in particular: Conn, Lotus, Carlos, and Emperador. You'll immediately notice that data for one or two of the above brands is much more detailed and comprehensive than the others. This is because researching old guitars can be a full time job and intensely laborious. EVENTUALLY I WILL EXPAND AND COVER SEVERAL BRANDS. However, I know that is of little interest to you if you've simply come here to find out something about your instrument that you don't see listed yet on my site. Go ahead, in such case, andcontact me. I may know something that I simply have not yet posted. Also...peruse the links far below for additional information.

THIS PAGE
Click on the various underlined links to be taken to the manufacturer's site or, in the case where there is no manufacturer's site, to another location on THIS web site. Although I have sought to verify and authenticate all information herein, no guarantee is offered as to the accuracy of information provided on this web site. All information herein is provided as a public service and without charge.

CONN (CLICK)
NOTES:
Feel free to join the Conn Guitars Group on FACEBOOK. Post your own photos, discuss your instruments, converse with other owners, etc. To find us there, go to your own FACEBOOK account, and search for Conn Guitar Enthusiasts.
To join the Yahoo forum, go tohttp://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/connguitars/ . This will probably be phased out in favor of the Facebook Groups page. Honestly, I never visit that page any more, and do not maintain it.
Conn Acoustic Guitarswere manufactured from 1971 to 1978, just after Conn was acquired by MacMillan. Corporate offices for Conn were relocated from Elkhart, Indiana to Oakbrook, Illinois in early 1970. There are no records that exist about Conn's history before 1981, because all records of that era were destroyed. Any and all information about the former company is in the hands of private individuals or in various books that are for sale in the open market. SEE THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF CONN GUITARS BY CLICKING ON THE ABOVE LINK "CONN ACOUSTIC GUITARS".
Conn is in business today as Conn-Selmer. Conn-Selmer, Inc. is the widely known as the leading manufacturer and distributor of band and orchestral instruments for professional, amateur and student use. The Company manufactures and distributes its products under a variety of well-known brand names, including Vincent Bach brass, Selmer USA woodwinds, C.G. Conn brass, King brass, Armstrong woodwinds, Ludwig and Musser percussion and Glaesel string instruments. Other brands include Scherl & Roth and William Lewis & Son string instruments, Emerson flutes, and Benge brass. Under its Leblanc, Inc. division, purchased in 2004, the company also manufactures and distributes Leblanc, Holton, Noblet, Vito band instruments. Conn-Selmer is also the exclusive North American distributor for Selmer (Paris) professional brass and woodwinds and U.S. distributor for Yanagisawa saxophones.
While attempting to find information about my own Conn acoustic guitar, I found that there was almost no information available about the Conn guitar business. So I saw a need to provide historic information, free of charge, about Conn guitars, their construction, their heritage, sample pictures, and some information about how to understand the date codes on labels for manufacture, and to do so as a public service to owners and interested individuals. You can consider this site the "Conn Guitar (unofficial) Site. Information herein is drawn from many sources, but under no circumstances will there be any information posted from copyright or otherwise restricted sources unless prior permission to use such information has been obtained in writing. Acknowledgement will be provided to sources who have provided input, wherever appropriate.

CARLOS(CLICK)
Carlos guitarsare one of the vintage brands I've decided to include in this web site.
While attempting to find information about my own Carlos 438 guitar, I found that there is very little information available on the internet without paying steep fees for it. So I saw a need to provide historic information about Carlos guitars, their construction, their heritage, sample pictures, and some information about how to understand out their dates of manufacture, and do this at no charge as a public service to those individuals wanting to find information about their own Carlos guitars. Information herein is drawn from many sources, but under no circumstances will there be any information posted from copyright or otherwise restricted sources. Acknowledgement will be provided to sources who have provided input, wherever appropriate.
LOTUS BRIEF HISTORY
Lotus was a manufacturer of guitars from the late 1970s to the late 1990s. Most were copies of other popular brand name guitars, such as Martin, Gibson and Fender. The quality of the instruments was quite good and the price low (usually around US$125–$250).

Though these guitars are no longer in production their gain in value has only been minimal (ranging usually from $100-$500). This low price range is due to the guitars' Japanese/Indian make and the simple fact that these guitars are only copies of popular American brands and all carry the "Lotus" brand on their headstock with a picture of a flower. However a Lotus brand guitar can be considered a collectible, but might be overlooked by any serious collector because of the instrument's inexpensive nature.
Lotus also had a spinoff brand "Amigo by Lotus". Although Amigo is a current brand, it is not the same Amigo-by-Lotus that was spunoff by Lotus. Lotus-by-Amigo guitars were primarily manufactured in Romania.
While attempting to find information about my own Lotus L-20 guitar, I found that there is very little information available on the internet without paying steep fees for it. So I saw a need to provide historic information about Lotus guitars, their construction, their heritage, sample pictures, and some information about how to understand out their dates of manufacture, and do this at no charge as a public service to those individuals wanting to find information about their own Lotus guitars. Information herein is drawn from many sources, but under no circumstances will there be any information posted from copyright or otherwise restricted sources. Acknowledgement will be provided to sources who have provided input, wherever appropriate.

EMPERADOR
Emperador guitars were made from 1966 to 1992 as near as can be determined. The date code is in the serial number string. The 1960's models were made in Japan, with later models made in Korea.

OSCAR SCHMIDT
This company still makes and sells guitars today, but it is not the same Oscar Schmidt that made guitars prior to the '70's. Fretted Industries purchased the Washburn name in the '70s, and in 19'78, they moved to Northbrook, Illinois. That same company, Fretted Industries, also purchased Oscar Schmidt in 1979. So current day guitars carrying the Oscar Schmidt brand are now associated with Washburn. Most if not all current day Oscar Schmidt guitars are made in China. Early ones were made in Chicago, then later in Japan. There may be others that were made in other countries, but I have not yet been able to find this out. Stay tuned for more info...THERE IS A LOT OF HISTORY ABOUT OSCAR LACKING FROM HERE.
Oscar Schmidt is most well-known for establishing the standard for what is known as the Autoharp. Autoharp is actually their own patented name (patented 1926) for an instrument known generically as a chorded zither. People use the term Autoharp to describe any number of available chorded-zithers--much the same way that other brands have been used to describe a product (examples: Band-Aid, Kleenex, Kotex, Zip-Loc bags, etc). There are many brands of chorded zithers, but manufacturers are careful to never use the "Autoharp" term in describing their instruments. The instrument was devised from a zither but has pre-determined chords playable by depressing a chord bar. The unchorded zither, on the other hand, must be played manually by knowing which strings to pluck and in what sequence--much like a harp. Oscar Schmidt is still considered the standard for the chorded zither or Autoharp. The Autoharp made by OS is not the subject of this site, so that's all I'll say about it.
While attempting to find information about my own Oscar Schmidt guitars, I found that there is very little information available on the internet without paying steep fees for it. So I saw a need to provide historic information about Oscar Schmidt guitars, their construction, their heritage, sample pictures, and some information about how to understand out their dates of manufacture, and do this at no charge as a public service to those individuals wanting to find information about their own Oscar Schmidt guitars. Information herein is drawn from many sources, but under no circumstances will there be any information posted from copyright or otherwise restricted sources. Acknowledgement will be provided to sources who have provided input, wherever appropriate.
Oscar Schmidt manufactured guitars between 1871 (formally incorporated in 1911) and 1979--first in Europe, both in their own factories and later in the USA and in factories in Japan, and under their own name, before being purchased by Fretted Industries who had also purchased long time reputable company, Washburn a few years earlier. Washburn and Oscar Schmidt are now subsidiaries of U.S. Music Corporation--which is today based in Mundelein, Illinois. Guitars are still manufactured under the Oscar Schmidt brand--most in China--by the current company, whose parent company is now U.S. Music Corporation.SEE INDIVIDUAL PAGES FOR THE ABOVE INSTRUMENTS TO FIND MORE...

VINTAGE LINKS:
Useful:
LEVIN, who founded Goya, who was bought out by Martin in the late 70's.
Vintage Goya Guitars web site
 
MANY BRANDS -- original catalogs (Fee Required) GOOD!!!
This site shows pics, gives history, and links.
 
VARIOUS VINTAGE BRAND LINKS:
Junk GuitarWeb Site
Vintage Brands:
The Conn Unofficial web site. You'll find more info on this site about Conn guitars than anywhere else. Accurate and reliable and filled with useful information.
The Ventura Unofficial web site. The authority on Ventura brand (C.Bruno&Son) with an emphasis on accurate reliable information.