Friday, February 22, 2013

1996 Martin D-16T

Jumped on a Craigslist listing this week for a Martin D-16T guitar.  This dreadnaught-style guitar was made between 1995 and 1998 and originally listed with an MSRP of $1,650.  The discontinued model is an all solid-wood mid-level Martin guitar with a satin finish Spruce top, and Mahogany back, sides, and neck.  Both the Rosewood fingerboard and the Rosewood bridge sport abalone diamond inlays.  The tortoise-color pickguard and body binding, herringbone soundhole ring and backstripe, and the darkened honey-hued top give it a nice vintage look.  The "T" stands for new "Technology" as this is the first Martin model to incorporate a mortise-and-tenon neck joint. Blue book value in excellent condition is $750 to $875.

This particular 1996 Martin D-16T was in average shape, but the satin finish is thankfully forgiving of scratches. Upgrades included a bone nut and saddle, Fishman under-saddle pickup, new frets, and $180 relic Waverly oval nickel tuners with the vintage patina adding to the great vintage looks of this guitar.  The action was low and the tone was all Martin.  This is a very comfortable light guitar with a low-profile neck and scalloped bracing that gives it a wonderful resonance that is beautifully balanced across all registers.  If you come across one of these guitars at the right price, snap it up.  You will be very favorably impressed.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Another Closet Find (1983 Yamaha FG-375SII)

It's a unique thrill for the collector and enthusiast alike to discover an older instrument that has been squirreled away for decades waiting to be brought out of hibernation to make music again.  So it is that I picked up another eBay 30-year-old closet find that was just as advertised, super clean and showing little use.  This 1983 Yamaha FG-375SII guitar still had the original hang tag and the 1984 sales receipt in the case pocket!  It had nary a scratch and the frets and fretboard were like new. Cool.

The FG-375SII is a dreadnaught-size guitar with a solid Spruce top and laminate Rosewood back and sides.  Premium appointments include Gold tuners, inlaid MOP fretboard diamonds and Yamaha logo, and a bound neck and headstock.

The top of this guitar had darkened to a beautiful honey-gold hue.  With new strings the action is comfortable and true up and down the neck.  The tone is bright and even.  All-in-all, this is another great vintage solid-top Yamaha with a sound that matches its classic looks.  And it won't break the bank.

Monday, February 18, 2013

1985 Yamaha FG-470S (Flying Bird Model)

The Yamaha FG-470S solid-top acoustic guitar was made between 1985 and 1989. Yamaha added an "S" suffix to its FG model numbers to designate a solid top starting in 1977 when it introduced the first solid-top FG guitars ("S" previously designated a Sunburst finish, which was then changed to "SB").  This is a great mid-range Yamaha guitar, just below the standard production top-of-the-line L models.  The FG-470S has a solid Spruce top, with richly figured Indian Rosewood back and sides, and the neck is Nato.  Premium appointments include abalone purfling in the rosette and around both the top and back of the body, binding on the neck and headstock, inlayed Mother of Pearl (MOP) Yamaha and flying dove logos on the headstock, gold Yamaha tuners, and unique bird-in-flight MOP fretboard inlays.  The flying bird fretboard inlays only lasted a couple of years, as Yamaha switched out the flying dove headstock inlay in 1987 for the Yamaha leaf logo and the fretboard inlays reverted to more standard pearl diamond inlays.

This unusual Flying Bird guitar is another eBay find, the seller having accepted my best offer below his asking price.  When I received it, however, there were some significant undisclosed cosmetic issues so I contacted the buyer who promptly issued a partial refund.  I hope to be able to buff out most of the offending scratches.  With new strings on, the Yamaha FG-470S has good tone and sustain.  It projects a strong bass and crisp mids and trebles.  The neck is a very comfortable low profile C shape.  So here's another attractive vintage Yamaha guitar that can still be found at a reasonable price.  Happy pickings!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

1982 Yamaha SJ-180

The Yamaha SJ-180 ("Semi Jumbo") was made between 1981 and 1985. Yamaha no longer provides the specs on this model beyond listing a Spruce top and Mahogany back, sides, and neck, but I measure this model with a lower bout width of 15.5" and depth of 4.25" and a narrow waist at 9.625", which puts it between an OM (Orchestra Model) and a 0000/M Grand Auditorium size. If you like a smaller guitar than a dreadnaught this could be a good inexpensive choice. Although it is an all-laminate construction, this vintage Yamaha model has a devoted following, especially with fingerpickers.

This guitar was another inexpensive eBay find in good condition. Besides needing a good cleaning, one of the tuner covers was bent such that it would not tighten cleanly to the headstock. As it happens, I already had another SJ-180 that I bought cheaply more for its case than for the guitar, which was so beaten up the fingerboard was separating from the neck at the cracked headstock.  I cannibalized the identical tuner off the first guitar and replaced the bum one on the clean SJ-180. After putting on extra-light Martin strings, I now have a great little finger-picking travel guitar that should be good to go for another 30 years.

1981 Yamaha FG-336SB

Here's another interesting vintage Yamaha guitar I recently plucked from eBay.   The Yamaha FG-336SB was made from 1977 to 1981.   It has a beautiful sunburst finish and an iconic Gibson songbird-style pickguard.  The FG-336SB is a dreadnaught-sized guitar with a very comfortable thin neck and loud resonant tone.  With a professional set-up, it really shines as demonstrated on the YouTube video I found below.

This particular guitar was advertised as in "pristine, mint condition."  When I received it, the guitar looked great until I took a look at the back, which was all scratched up and had two small cracks in the finish.

When I contacted the seller with pictures and suggested a partial refund based on the misrepresented condition, he did not want to believe that the pictures were of the guitar he had sent me.  After I uploaded video of the guitar, including the serial number, confirming both the identity and condition of the guitar, I received no response.  This is where the eBay platform really shines because within 24 hours of opening a case with eBay, the seller refunded me the partial amount I had requested in the first place.

This is a guitar that will really shine after it receives some TLC.  The strings look so ancient they could easily date back to 1981!  Besides buffing out the scratches on the back and cleaning the fretboard, I'll adjust the saddle to lower the action.  With new strings and a proper setup I look forward to finding this lovely vintage Yamaha sunburst a good home.