Mark Terry

Friday, October 10, 2008

Kay Archtop, 1950s?

October 10, 2008
This is my guitar. It's a Kay archtop, probably from the 1950's, possibly 1960's.

It was given to my wife when she was about 10 or so by her uncle, who bought it in Korea when he was in the service, which was either in the early 1960s or late 1950s.

It rattled around our house for years without strings (a bad thing for guitars) until I decided I wanted to take lessons, so I spent about $50 getting it set up.

The action is a bit uneven, but it has a decent sound, at least in the middle registers. Once, upon seeing the Antiques Roadshow (the only time I've seen it), somebody had an old guitar laying around the house and it turned out to be a rare collectible valued at $10,000. I doubt that's the case with this guitar.

Nonetheless, I have a new teacher and I let him play it, commenting that it was worth about $50, and he disagreed, saying it was in excellent condition, the archtop design was a little rare. (Probably not RARE rare, but archtops aren't as popular as flattops and are apparently a little harder to make). My previous teacher had also said it was a beautiful guitar and when I mentioned I was saving for a new guitar (a Taylor acoustic...someday), he seemed slightly alarmed at the idea I might get rid of this Kay. That won't happen (unless, of course, it turns out to be worth $10,000, then we'll see), but I wouldn't mind knowing a bit more about this guitar.

The only marking I can find on it that might tell me something about it is a P-2 stamped on the inside. I don't even know what kind of wood it's made out of, although I suspect spruce.

So, if you're a guitar afficionado, or know someone who's into vintage guitars, have them take a peek at the photo. Maybe they have some thoughts on it.

Cheers,
Mark Terry

16 Comments:

Blogger inherwritemind1 said...

Hi Mark,

My son knows a lot about guitars. I'll send him this post. You never know.

Tena

7:27 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Hey Mark,

When I was 13 or 14 I taught myself to play on a guitar very similar to yours. It was a Kay archtop my grandfather bought in a pawnshop for my uncle, but it didn't have the shiny finish yours has. I think Kay was pretty much a budget brand, so I doubt if it's worth very much. Still a really cool item to have, though. If you're curious about the value, you can probably find comps on Ebay. That would be the easiest place to begin to research, I think.

7:52 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Here's one.

Hell, I might just buy it. :)

8:02 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Jude,
That's about what I've seen, too, although on eBay and other places you can see Kay's being offered for about $10.

Apparently Kay was a cheapie brand, although for a couple years they produced a high-end guitar that no one took seriously--until the company went out of business.

I haven't seen anyone saying a vintage Kay was worth anything, although I would argue that my vintage Kay is at least equivalent to a $200 Yamaha you can pick up at your lock Meijer or Wal-Mart-type store. Prettier, too.

This guitar works fine for me as I stand as a guitarist, but the more I spend poking around in the wonderful world of guitars, the more interested I became in my guitar's background, just because.

And Jude, you might check out www.elderly.com, which is the website for a fantastic guitar store in Lansing, Michigan, new and used guitars. Awesome store. We were there last Friday and bought my youngest son a PRS SE Custom semi-hollow body that is an amazing electric guitar for a decent price, given the quality of the guitar.

9:10 AM  
Blogger inherwritemind1 said...

Hi,

I asked my son, who is into vintage guitars.

He said he didn't know much about Kay guitars, but they weren't very high end...more like lower end. His gut feeling is that it might be worth a few hundred dollars (unless it's some super rare model).

As Jude suggested, he said you should search ebay for "Kay Archtop" and see that there are several available in the $100-350 range.

Tena

3:36 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Cool site, Mark.

Gee, now I can't decide between the Kay I linked to earlier and this Gibson for only around $29,000 more.

Can you imagine?

5:27 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Inherit,
Mostly I was just curious. Kay was sort of a "department store" brand. What makes it more of a puzzle is how little info on the guitars you actually find out there. And ultimately, it plays, and that's all I need it for.

Jude,
Oh, live a little. Go with the Gibson. I'm sure you'll sound like a rock god.

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6:08 PM  
Anonymous Bob Wyman said...

What does the binding look like? White? or black and white? The wood is probably mahogany laminate. Don't buy a Taylor! The tops are thin and crack easily, not worth the high price.

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