Vintage ukulele collecting can be a fun way of investing money. Like car enthusiast who collect Corvettes or people who deal in antique toys, furniture or sports memorabilia, there is a worldwide market and appeal for vintage ukulele. Just like any antique, ukulele have a history and tell stories. They also have a proven track record for generating money .Here is some advice for someone starting out.
What Makes a Vintage Ukulele Collectable
Condition- Whether its baseball cards or Barbie Dolls or any kind of collectable antique, condition is very important. Vintage ukulele in excellent condition is always worth more than ukulele in average shape.
Other criteria for the ukulele to be worth money are
Originality- Any modifications, replaced parts or repairs, no matter how small will decrease the value. Even replacing the original case will decrease the value. Beat up original finish what the buyer wants.
Another big thing that effects the value is
Demand- Who wants it. No matter how rare, if no one wants it then it’s not worth anything.
Most collectors value ukulele from the mid 1920’s to the 1970’s. Ukulele prior to the mid 1920’s are considered too primitive in design for most collectors. Ukulele after 1970 even though, made more than 30 years ago, have little collectable appeal. Basically the quality and materials used in the 70’s manufacturing had become sub-standard. There were some exceptions.
There are people who collect celebrity ukulele for investment proposes. For instance when Eric Clapton sold 100 of his personal ukulele, they all were all bought up quick. These were ukulele he didn’t want and when it is time for buyers to sell them they might not get the amount they hoped for. Buying celebrity could be faddish or emotional. Condition and whether the ukulele is known as a great instrument like the Martin, Guild or Epiphone vintage ukulele, might be more important.
Buyers should always look for the condition and the effect age has had on the instrument. Antique ukulele need to be kept in a humidity-controlled room. They need to avoid extremes in temperature. The room should be about 40% humidity and 50 degrees. Sometimes keeping or storing acoustic ukulele in a case for a long period of time can deaden the tone. Acoustic ukulele are organic they need to breath. As wood ages, it will sound better. A collector would never refinish any instrument this would cut the value in half.
Does the Vintage ukulele have a history
Specific ukulele with a connection to history have a better chance at holding their value. A 1956 Gibson P-90 Les Paul Goldtop dropped in value from about 80,000 dollars to around 35,000 dollars in the last couple of years because of the economy. Jefferson Airplane’s Jorma Kaukonen was known for his 1960 Gibson ES-345, a jazz ukulele with a stereo output and a varitone which is a device that hollows out the ukulele sound in the mid-range. He also plays a 60’s Black ES-345, a much rarer Gibson electric ukulele.
Because of the color and because this ukulele was used on the Airplane’s recording White Rabbit and played at Woodstock, this Gibson ukulele may be more valuable because of the history surrounding it. While good vintage ukulele like the Gibson Les Paul will normally increase in value over a period of time, only a few will exhibit long term value, prestige and history as in this case, and will make a difference on the value besides the model and age.
Has the Vintage Ukulele been professionally appraised
Leading New York and Nashville dealers will appraise ukulele for about $50.00, although a better judge of what the ukulele is worth is for the seller ask the same dealer how much cash he would offer for the guitar right now. Sometimes a dealer will over appraise the ukulele in order for you to leave it with them to sell on consignment but eventually they may drop the price to sell it. Dealers will also hold it for as long as it takes to sell it. You could be locked in for months. Selling on consignment might not be the best way to sell your ukulele.
People interested in collecting ukulele should ask around music stores. Check prices on Ebay or Auction houses dealing with musical instruments. Get information and educate yourself whether you are buying or selling. There is a ton of information on the Internet about collecting Vintage acoustic or electric ukulele. There are sites devoted to every type of ukulele. There is the Blue Book of Vintage Ukulele available with pricing and current information that is a must for collectors.
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