Possibly a mistake? Certainly it wasn't as much fun as I had hoped, and whilst it was a learning experience I have invited things back to Ukulele Corner that maybe I shouldn't have?
The first lesson I learned is to go before if you can and make sure you know what you are bidding on the next lesson is to get a catalogue (they don't necessarily hold up what is being sold at the time so you need to be confident you are bidding on the lot you want)
I was keen to go to the Auction as one of the lots was described as a"Fender Star Caster and a Hohner electric Guitar" but there was no pictures in the online catalogue. Now I know the Star Caster it was a kind of semi-hollow vaguely stratocaster shaped Guitar Fender had out for a while in the 60's and reissued in 2013 and I could guess from the Star Caster that the Hohner might be one of their semi-acoustic too. I would very much like a 60's Star Caster, I would still be happy with the re-issue; and a nice German semi-acoustic would be a treat too. What I didn't know is that in between the 60's original and the 2013 reissue Fender reused the name Star Caster in the branding "Star Caster by Fender" for a line of budget, Squire type instruments, (they even included a drum kit in the range), that were sold through some specific department store chains primarily in the U.S.
I hadn't seen the Guitars before the auction and when I got there I couldn't find them in the saleroom. As the auction was under way I couldn't ask either. Still I know what, (I thought), a Star Caster was and at the guide price this was going to be a real bargain. What I did find though was a Balalaika and an acoustic Guitar in a really nice hardcase. I got a good look at the Balalaika, and with a guide price of £10-£15, (I had seen it mentioned on line), though I'm no great fan of Balalaikas I thought I'd go a tenner or so. And the cased acoustic, well it was tucked away under a table next to where I was sitting so I could see a bit, but I couldn't get it out and have a good look while the auction was going. Still it was a nice case if nothing else and I did think "if the case is that good, the Guitar should be OK too?" so I'd have a bid on that if it was cheap.
Well first up was the Balalaika, and though I did get a bid in it went for a lot more than the guide price and a lot more than I was willing to pay. A few lots later was the Star Caster and someone else in the room was interested too, but thankfully they dropped out fairly quickly and I won it for just over the low estimate, (which was a good thing as I still hadn't seen it and was prepared to go a lot higher). Next the cased Guitar, and I was the only bidder in the room, someone had put a commision bid in, but I went higher and paid what I though the case alone was worth. So I'd brought three Guitars and I hadn't really seen any of them! At this point the reality of it hit home; I hadn't really spent that much but there are other consideration than money. It's Ukulele Corner after all because Ukuleles are much smaller than Guitars so easier to find room for; and I can play the Ukulele and I can't really play the Guitar. So I left the hall at this point and went to paid for what I had won then found a porter to collect it so I could go home. First he got the Fender and the Hofner; and of course it was a black(!) Star Caster by Fender Stratocaster thing, not the semi-acoustic I was hoping for. Then since this wasn't a semi' neither was the Hohner, it was another strat copy (but at least this one was blond) from their Arbor series. Both Guitars had seen a LOT of experience, both need new strings, and some work done, and both are real pawn shop specials. There's nothing drastically wrong with them but I didn't really want another strat copy, I'm quite happy with the Power Play, and I especially didn't need another black strat copy, (still I suppose however tenuous this one is an actual Fender Stratocaster). Eventually we got the cased Guitar out, and this one, (and I later found out it was listed in the catalogue), was an E-Ros 606 Dakota Jumbo. Made in Italy by the Fuselli Brothers, (who also made Ekos), and the same model as the one Jimmy Page used to record the rhythm track for the song "Thank You" at Morgan Sound Studios in 1969. So a good Guitar? Well at least a reasonable Guitar? Well it may have been but there is a very bad crack in the neck at the headstock and along with all of the other faults, (needs a new tuner, new strings, a new nut, a fret dressing and possibly a full neck reset?), I'll be surprised if I ever get it playable again; still the case it good... (but as has been said to me since, "what do you need a Guitar case for?") and there was a good capo in the case, (but I don't really need a capo either). At the end of the day if I had seen any of them first I wouldn't have bothered with any of them. Well I hope I have learned the lessons now and I guess I am looking for new homes for at least two strat copies
What is coming this time is a Lanikai SOT-6 spruce top Tenor Lili'u, and it's coming from the same seller in Germany who is selling the LU2-8 as well. Basically what happened was the seller put up 3 Lanikai multi-string Tenors, this one the LU2-8 and a Lanikai SOT-8e, (the Taropatch in this range) all with a starting price of 1€ Now the SOT-8 was up first which was nice, probable the best of the three, (certainly the most expensive), and if I was only going to get one that would have been the best, but there was no guarantee I would get any and no reason why I couldn't bid on all three. Of course with this tactic I could have ended up with all three. this wouldn't have been that disastrous but I didn't really want two Lanikai Taropatch Tenors, nor did I really want the Taropatch and the Lili'u from the same range so the best outcome was to get the LU2-8 and the SOT-6; and this is exactly what has happened. Not quite the plain sailing though as I came second in the auction for this one; I was outsniped by 1€ and that is always a bitter pill to swallow but "c'est la vie". I was outsniped by the person who also won the auction for the SOT-8e and I don't know what happened, maybe they didn't cancel the second snipe having one the first, maybe they just changed their mind, (they didn't bid on the LU2-8?) Whatever the reason when I logged on today I found that I was getting a second chance offer for this, (and this was a bit lucky on my part because with the disappointment of yesterday i didn't bother logging on until late and when I found I had got the second change it was going to expire in 45 minutes!) Well whatever reason the original winner had, I was still up for two, especially as it was the two I wanted the most, so I said yes straight away and sent off the invite to Ukulele Corner
and it too is very beautiful, if anything even more beautiful than the LU2-8 Taropatch. But then it is part of a higher spec more expensive range so it should be. What it is is a nice spruce top with abalone rosette and binding (very pretty), and an okume back and sides. Now I don't know okume as a wood and I don't have any other Ukuleles made with it but from this example it's a very pretty wood a bit like maple but slightly golder in hue and with grain patterns to compete with the finest flame maple; as I say very pretty. its got a good tone too the spruce top does make it very different from the Asbury Lili'u; and the LU2-8 Taropatch obviously as a spruce top it's more trebly but the low A string does mellow out the sometimes strident tone from a spruce top. Once again as its new I need to let the strings stretch and settle quite a bit but its still fun to play with and I'm very glad I invited it.
And it is every bit as lovely as I had imagined (though well out of tune and I forgot how much "fun" tuning a Taropatch is; especially with new strings that are still stretching so the high G has gone at least a full tone out before you finish tuning the A strings!) I have managed to get in in tune for a bit though and got one and a half songs out of it before it was so badly out I had to start again; and it sounded great too. A little more bass perhaps than the Kala Taropatch but I will need to get the string to settle and then have a marathon tuning session to really compare the two. Enough writing - back to tuning...
So I've taken a photo of it for this page, (but I am also leaving the old one on the right to show what I was complaining about in the paragraph above) It is pretty much as described. There is some separation on the back seam, and possibly a small crack in the back. I would also say the bridge has come off at some point but it has been firmly reattached now so I shan't worry any more about that. On the who though for a 95+ year old Ukulele it is in remarkably good condition! If the tuners aren't original they weren't put on very long after it was made and I am inclined to think they are original; they also work very well too (though the strings it came with are pretty crappy)what particularly impresses me about the condition though is the sound hole label. It has very little of the raggedness you usually see on labels of this age and does lend itself to you thinking the Ukulele is not as old as it is. there is no doubt t's genuine though. why would anyone fake a Sammo? If they were going to go to all that effort they would fake a Martin or a Gibson; or at least the better quality Samuel Osborne SammoS range? And it would cost a lot more than I paid for it to make a fake this good. And it is good; and I can get the back fixed firmly and it will be good for another 100 years.
And it's very much "Hecho En Mexico" (it says so on the sound hole stamp) The plastic fretboard does make it look a bit like a Harmony from a distance but it is clearly a very different Ukulele close up; it was constructed with a "Spanish Heel" neck joint for a start. Very different bridge, very different headstock well very different neck altogether; and it looks like there is a bit of a bow in it? Whether this is due to age or whether it was made like that I will probably never know as I doubt I'll see another one. Another question I can't answer at the moment is what the stickers that were on the back were, (the one on the headstock is in the same sort of place as "Made in Japan" stickers are on Japanese ukes of a similar vintage, but why would it have a made in Mexico sticker here as it already has the stamp in the sound hole?) or whether they were original or aftermarket add ons? (My guess would be aftermarket). You can see it was fairly cheaply made as along with being all laminate the body joints, though still firm, are rather visible That it's cheaply made is not to say it's not well made though, it is all still very solid for a 45 year old Ukulele and holds it tuning well too. As you can see getting in Ukulele Corner has been a bit of an education for me - Thank you Corpus Christi School Board
Another thing that I don't know if its aftermarket or not is the green vinyl carry bag? It's certainly contemporary with it and something I will keep in a safe place too. It's not a very good bag but it adds to the overall story.
and it's very BIG!!! (and it's very dirty too). The trip up to collect it wasn't bad and the place was a veritable "aladdin's cave" with the place in full swing for a photographic equipment auction there were lots of interesting things so I didn't hang around otherwise I may have ended up spending more money. What I do need to do now is clean it, possibly re string it and practice with the 6 strings until I get a bit better because playing a steel strung 12 string is hard on my soft fingers but it does sound good when I strum it ;
And this is turning out to be a very busy day for arrivals at Ukulele Corner. The guitar is in perfect condition and came with a Dean padded soft case and a good Guitar strap, both of which I can find a use for too, especially since being an odd shape it doesn't sit nicely for playing on your lap. It does sit nicely for posing though and that is what I was going to do with it most, (I might try and resurrect my Guitar playing career too after all having invited more guitars to Ukulele corner I should try and pay them occasionally)
And very deep it is too. It doesn't have to contrast of the publicity shot, (which really makes me think the publicity shot is majorly photoshoped) but it does have some pretty dramatic graining so it does look the business. and its well made and sounds good too; I'm very glad I got the Last One. I hope I can do it justice with the photographs and with the sound clips because it really is a very nice Ukulele
Well it has been for a couple of days now after all I brought it as soon as I saw it; well maybe 15 minutes after but quick enough that I was never going to have time to do this post before getting it. I was waiting on saying "It's Here" until I had time to take a nice photo of it and as I'm still learning to use the new camera with its myriad function setting this can be a job in itself! As it is the photo is ok but I think I could do better? One thing to say about it though is it is heavy, both to photograph and to play, I'm glad it came with a strap as well as a good case, (I photographed that too! And the case is heavy too!!)
Vamboo for another example, and as a material it has very "green" sustainable credentials) Colour is a bit of a departure for Martin but they had already broken the laminate taboo for the 0XK so why not. So Martin are doing a Budget(? only for Martin would you call it budget), colourful Soprano! Now I'm a sucker for colourful Sopranos, (like many other things), so I wondered how much? After all it's very different from the normal Martins, it's a limited edition so production will stop soon and the old backpacker which was very different at the time and now unavailable has become something of a cult Ukulele and I predict this one is likely to in a few years too. Like I say, how much? I had trouble tracking one down in Europe, my usual places didn't have them but I found a top end eBay shop in Germany advertising them with a Buy it now / make an offer for the blue or green. Like I hinted earlier though, it wasn't cheap but I thought I would put a very cheeky offer in on the blue one; at least I tried. And, (and I'll remember how much under the asking price I went because they are a high end supplier so I may try again now as), my offer was accepted! I wonder if this one will smell like the Vamboo did when it was new?
And no, it doesn't smell. It does sound good though; and it's very blue. Certainly not your traditional Martin but it is quality and I think it will become a classic one day
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