Martin 5K Ukulele, ca. 1928
Appraised Value: $10,000 - $12,000 (2007)
IMAGE: 1 of 1
Appraisal Video: (2:51)
Director, Fine Musical Instruments
GUEST: My father was a member of a steel guitar Hawaiian band in the 1930s, and he played the ukulele. I think he's been to the islands, and I know that he also worked on a cruise line, and they toured and went down to Haiti and provided entertainment for passengers on the cruise line.
APPRAISER: Oh. And how long was he in this Hawaiian band?
GUEST: The band probably started in the late '20s. It went through transitions. And I think they ended up _ around 1936.
APPRAISER: Well, it was at a time when there was really quite a craze of Hawaiian music happening in America. And another thing that was going on at the time, in this decade particularly, was really the high period of craftsmanship in string instruments in America. And it's only natural that the Martin Company, which was already established as a very fine maker of flat-top guitars, would get into the market of building Hawaiian instruments-- ukuleles. And the interesting thing about this was that although the Martin Company was in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and is still in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, the wood for this ukulele actually comes from the Big Island of Hawaii. There's only one source for this wood, and it's called by its native name, which is koa. And koa was reserved for the very highest grade of ukuleles that Martin made. And as we look at the wood, we'll see the special qualities of it. The model number for this ukulele was 5K-- the "K" designating koa wood. And because it was so select, they were able to match the back and sides with the same type of flame. And you'll see the beautiful golden color of the wood, especially as it is reflected in the light. They lavished the same care on these ukuleles as they did with their finest guitars, with mother-of-pearl inlay all around the edges and around the sound hole, as well as mother-of-pearl inlay in the fingerboard. Very, very fine work. And I would date this instrument from about 1928 to 1930 or so. It's very difficult to tell because they didn't exactly have serial numbers. Right now, there is a very large market for koa instruments, especially old Martin ukuleles. And I would say that at auction, it would bring probably in the neighborhood of $10,000 to $12,000.
APPRAISER: And if you're ever thinking of insuring it, I'd probably insure it for a little bit more. But it is the ne plus ultra of all ukuleles for collectors, and this one happens to be in wonderful condition.
GUEST: Thank you.
APPRAISER: Thank you very much for bringing it in today.
GUEST: Thank you, thank you very much.
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