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Custom Ludwig banjo uke

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Posted 3 years ago

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bahamaboy
(225 items)

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

Mystery Solved

Comments

  1. John Croft, 3 years ago
    Hi Kerry;

    You have a top of the line 1927 Ludwig Banjo Uke, made in Chicago USA by the Ludwig Drum Company. These are fabulous instruments (I am lucky enough to own three myself) and are highly sought after by banjo uke enthusiasts. That instrument. They made several models, and yours is the gold-plated display model, which sold for $50 (US) in 1927, and the velvet-lined hard shaoed case was $12.50 extra. This was a HUGE amount of money in those days.

    If you want any further information about this instrument please don't hesitate to get in touch.

    Kindest regards;

    John Croft.
  2. bahamaboy bahamaboy, 3 years ago
    Thank you John for your info on this Ludwig. Would love to chat with you or some of your banjo uke friends. Please feel free to contact me at my email address which is wkfine@yahoo.com I would love to "pick your brain" further on this particular instrument. I'm new here to the site but it looks to be right down my alley. Thanks again and kindest regards, Kerry
  3. James E Cole, 3 years ago
    I have a four string banjo uke, name is Dixe and is all meta(heavy) has carry case. I have hat this item for 47 years, I found in inside a stairwell in my house I was remodeling. The house was built in 1902. Oh yes the strings are nylon, can anyone share info value? Thanks Jim
  4. bahamaboy bahamaboy, 3 years ago
    Hi James, Google ukuleleman.com You should be able to get with someone who can tell you what you have. I just have one and only know about the one I have. I'm sorry I couldn't be any more helpful.
  5. Doug Dickson, 3 years ago
    I have the identical instrument that I inherited from my Great Aunt. I just had the head replaced by Gryphon Music and it has an incredible sound. Did you get any idea of its market value?
  6. bahamaboy bahamaboy, 3 years ago
    In the condition of my instrument, along with the pristine case, the figure is 4-8 thousand. That's of course if the piece is in excellent condition. The market is much stronger in the U.K. because of the vintage ukulele man George Formby. Check out the web site ukuleleman.com and email a man by the name of John Croft. If you can send some good photos of the entire instrument he may be able to give you an idea of what you have and what it's worth. Good luck in your search. I spent many hours doing research and had George Gruhn of Gruhn Guitars out of Nashville Tn. do an appraisal on mine. You could do the same. The fee is $50. Hope this has helped.
  7. John Bianchi, 3 years ago
    Regarding the Dixie - these were made beginning in the late 40's (48-49?) through the early 60's, when Dixie went out of business. In the early 60's, the dies and molds appear to have been sold to Werco, the Chicago-based drum company, which cast a neck identical to the aluminum Dixie neck, but with their own logo and their own wooden drum and tension hooks covered with a blue sparkle paper (the original Dixie pot is all cast aluminum, open in the back, but you both can see that for yourself!). Werco probably stopped making these in the the late 60's.

    These were never intended to be top quality instruments; the fretboard is cast metal and only passably accurate. However, in terms of uniqueness, there's really no other model banjo uke that looks like a Dixie or a Werco, and certainly none that are as covered in chrome (the English-made Jolie-Joe was cast metal, but invariably painted blue and of a very differenct, art deco design). So, because of the look, and because they're usually in very good or better condition, Dixies and their sister Wercos tend to go for more than better wooden vintage banjo ukes.

    On ebay, for the last two years, Dixies have gone for between $52 and $240 at auction, with most purchases falling in the $150-$175 range. Comparable condition Dixies are listed much higher by retail establishments, between $250 and $600 (!) for the same instruments. Retailers using "Buy it Now" option on ebay have listed them between $299 and $499, but these appear not to move over time and get retired and relisted regularly.

    Wercos have a slightly smaller range of prices, ranging between $107 and $160. They appear to be more uncommon, but are also less sought after, so there's no price boost for being rare.

    By comparison, the Slingerland Maybell model 20, which in good condition can be a much better instrument than a Dixie, tends to go for between $130 and $150, and retailers tend to price them in the $200-300 range, a little less than Dixie, not that different, but you can see the strength of the Dixie on the market.
  8. Glen Midgley, 3 years ago
    Hi John Croft:

    My name is Glen and I'm President of the Toronto Banjo Band.(www.torontobanjoband.com) I recently received an inquiry from a former band member's wife on a banjo and two banjo uke's that he had and played before recently passing away. I noticed your comment on the 1927 Ludwig banjo uke. This member's banjo is exactly the same as pictures I've found on the internet. The ad that I have shows it was originally worth $ 50.00 for gold plated and $ 37.50 for nickel plated. She's consider selling them and asked if I might be able to find an 'asking' price for it. Any chance you can help me here? My e-mail is banjoman@sympatico.ca. Thanks in advance...Glen...

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