Posted 4 years ago
This banjo uke was acquired by my step father in the 70's when he took the piece in pawn. When he sold the two pawn shops in the early 80's he and his business partner divided what was left in the way of jewelry, tools and other items. He showed me this instrument, which he ended up with, a couple years ago and knew from my extensive antique collection, that this was something I would like to own. Recently he gave it to me.
The piece is in almost mint condition and has the original case which the only flaw is the handle is broken (rotted) on one end. I am a coin collector and know how quickly the value can be destroyed to a vintage item by doing something one would think is good. I had the head and bridge replaced professionally but after looking further, I found the original bridge that was stuck on the bottom of the sticky block of the original Ludwig head cleaner that along with the two wrenches/keys & old strings, was located in the small compartment of the case. I'm thinking on taking the instrument back to the shop and have the new bridge removed and replaced with the original one.
George Gruhn examined the piece and appraised it over the internet and he said quote, " We have never seen a Ludwig banjo uke with this degree of ornamentation". This tells me that this piece may have been made for someone special/important and I have dozens of hours of internet searching & emailing to find a Ludwig even similar to this one. The serial# according to Gruhn is 026432 and he dates the instrument at being after 1927 because of the top tension hoop design which did not come out until 1927. Gruhn goes on to say that "The instrument features a number of custom features, including the engraved flange with "crown shaped" holes, the marquetry around the resonator and the gold plated hardware. The armrest is similar to the style Ludwig used on its Wendall Hall brand banjo ukes but has been mounted in reverse so that it extends over the head rather than following the curvature of the rim.
I have studied the black & white film clips of G. Fromby (the ukulele man) and also clips from other movies looking closely at the details of all of the instruments and can't find "this one" in any of their hands. I have checked eBay from stem to stern along with almost every dealer in vintage banjo's uke's etc and found none that come close to this one. This is my 1st time to this site and am unsure of how contact with others is made. I would just like for anyone to contact me with any info you may have on "THIS PARTICULAR INSTRUMENT". Please don't take the capitalization as screaming but just an emphasis on getting to the bottom of this piece. Any and all help would be appreciated as I have been obsessed with this what I believe to be, a very important piece of music history. It is possible that the pre-stock market crash economy caused a momentary indulgence by a somewhat well to do banjo uke musician "wannabe". Then again I'd like to think not.
The certified appraisal came just from photos I submitted to G. Gruhn along with what I had done to the instrument. He has not held it in his hands and how he got the serial number is beyond me as there was nothing engraved or written under the instrument once the old head was removed that I could share. There was a faint Ludwig blue stamp saying Ludwig banjo uke head with no numbers on the backside of the old "calfskin" head along with what appeared to be written in ink the following: "XVA275 on hoop" (without the quotation marks) with the 275 having a line under the "75" like it was saying $2.75 (but with no decimal point or dollar sign) Having limited knowledge of older documents, the ink appeared to resemble quill ink.
I am now at what appears to be a dead end in my research and could use all the additional help anyone could furnish. I collect United States gold & silver coinage among other things but am not a collector of musical instruments but I'm just thinking that the mid single digit 4 figure value assigned in the appraisal is low for the looks and age and quality of this piece. Thank you in advance for any help you may lend.
Kindest regards, Kerry