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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Purchasing 1931 Dobro (model 55?)


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.resohangout.com/archive/55375

Cota - Posted - 06/19/2021:  05:49:24


Hi all, I’m new to Reso Hangout, and I’m happy to find such a cool community.

I’ve got a handful of inquiries regarding the potential purchase of a 1931 squareneck Dobro. I believe it’s a Model 55 but the seller didn’t say/doesn’t know. They’re asking $2,300 for the guitar and its original case. They did say that the price was negotiable.
Side note: the seller is a pawn shop. I have no experience dealing with pawn shops - haven’t set foot in one until yesterday - but I’m making the cautious and inexperienced choice not to trust what they say at face value.

The instrument looks worn, but not ragged. There are no cracks or anything of that nature that I could see. I got to play it and, in my opinion, it sounded better in my hands than any other slide guitar that I’ve had the pleasure of playing. That said, I’m seriously considering the purchase.

So my inquiries are something of the following:
1. How can I verify the year/model of the instrument, to be certain that I know what I’m getting?
2. What should I look for in order to verify that this guitar is in good working condition (for being roughly 90 years old), and won’t irreparably fall apart on me?
3. What kind of maintenance and/or repairs should I be prepared for with the acquisition of a vintage Dobro of this caliber?
4. For the price, would it be more ideal to get something newer and more refined? (I know this is heavily opinion-based, but I want to hear the pros/cons from more experienced artists than myself)

Feel free to skip the next part, but I’ll include a little bit about my current standing as a musician/hobbyist so you can have an idea of where I’m coming from:

I know next to nothing about resonator guitars, but I’ve got a good amount of experience with open tunings and playing slide. I have 10+ years of experience with other stringed instruments and styles, (fingerpicking acoustic guitar, bass guitar, classical guitar, banjo, ukulele, autoharp, etc.) and I’m no stranger to the effort involved in the maintenance of vintage gear.
I’m looking for a dedicated slide guitar that I can use to grow further as a musician.

I know that older isn’t necessarily better, and I’ll admit to being at least a little star struck at the sight of a 1931 Dobro. I just want to ensure that I won’t be buying a potential money pit.

Thank you all in advance. I look forward to hearing your advice. It’s greatly appreciated.

badger - Posted - 06/19/2021:  06:39:55


If you're particularly looking for the sound of an old Dobro, it might be just the thing. That said, there have been a lot of advances in instrument design and building techniques, and $2300 would buy a lot of newer instruments. My personal preference has led me to a more modern sound and a newer build by a very low-volume luthier.

What other squarenecks have you played? What stands out about this one? This isn't something to be star-struck about - not like it's a '31 D-28 or something. These were relatively inexpensive production-line instruments that didn't necessarily improve with age.

Assuming structural integrity, maintenance should be about the same as with any other reso. I'd recommend a full, professional setup so you'll know it's right and sounds as good as it can - it'll save you hours of tinkering!

A quick Google shows a couple of 55s on Reverb - one at $3k, one at $1900. Under any circumstances, heavy-duty negotiation is definitely in order.

Enjoy the search, and I hope you end up with the right instrument for you!

docslyd - Posted - 06/19/2021:  07:17:26


Pawn shops have not been, traditionally, the place to get a fairly good deal....

rexhunt - Posted - 06/19/2021:  08:46:52


I recently bought a 31 style 55 from Reverb for almost half that. It was in excellent condition. A 1931 instrument should be from California and have a serial number on the top of the peghead. Can you get any pictures?



Rex

Cota - Posted - 06/19/2021:  12:25:42


quote:

Originally posted by badger

If you're particularly looking for the sound of an old Dobro, it might be just the thing. That said, there have been a lot of advances in instrument design and building techniques, and $2300 would buy a lot of newer instruments. My personal preference has led me to a more modern sound and a newer build by a very low-volume luthier.



What other squarenecks have you played? What stands out about this one? This isn't something to be star-struck about - not like it's a '31 D-28 or something. These were relatively inexpensive production-line instruments that didn't necessarily improve with age.



Assuming structural integrity, maintenance should be about the same as with any other reso. I'd recommend a full, professional setup so you'll know it's right and sounds as good as it can - it'll save you hours of tinkering!



A quick Google shows a couple of 55s on Reverb - one at $3k, one at $1900. Under any circumstances, heavy-duty negotiation is definitely in order.



Enjoy the search, and I hope you end up with the right instrument for you!






I do particularly enjoy that old Dobro sound, but it's not my leading motivator. Would it be in bad taste to inquire which low-volume luthiers you might recommend?



I've never played a squareneck resonator, just electric lap steels (from the cheap Recording Kings to vintage Rickenbackers, and a couple in between) and some Acoustic squarenecks (Gold Tone and a couple of vintage no-names). Aside from that, I've played slide on a couple of acquaintances' roundneck resonators (Gretsch Honey Dipper and another I don't recall) as well as standard dreadnaught acoustics with drastically raised nuts/bridges specifically for slide playing. Definitely not ideal, but it's all I've had access to. The Dobro stood out to me because it wasn't as muddy or mid-heavy as the majority of slide guitars I've played. Each string sang with a balanced volume and clarity that I rarely hear in most string instruments.



I suspected that this may not have been a major diamond-in-the-rough find. Thanks for the confirmation. I turned to this forum because it's the first time I've seen a legitimate Dobro brand slide guitar in person, so it caught me off guard. I saw the $3K and the $1900 guitars on Reverb. It looked like the $1900 was a mis-categoriziation that was actually made in 1983, so my only somewhat-reliable exposure to this guitar's market value was the $3K guitar that looks much worse-for-wear than the one I found in the pawn shop. Thanks for the suggestion for the professional setup. That often slips my mind as an option. I'll see if I can find somebody in my area that could do that.



If I did go back, I had no intention of paying the full $2,300 for it, but I wanted to get more info from all of you seasoned resonator players before I jumped into anything.



Again, thanks for all of the feedback. It's greatly appreciated!

Cota - Posted - 06/19/2021:  12:28:13


quote:

Originally posted by docslyd

Pawn shops have not been, traditionally, the place to get a fairly good deal....






Yeah I have no intention of paying their asking price.



I just wanted to get more information on the guitar so I could know how to negotiate it down, or if it was even worth the time and effort.

badger - Posted - 06/19/2021:  13:00:00


Sure. I'm partial to Frank Harlow's instruments (he's also a great setup/repair guy), also have been very impressed with Kent Schoonover's instruments. I've owned several nice Beards as well. There are a lot of newer builders making great instruments, but I'm not familiar with them, so my list is far from comprehensive.

Establishing a value based on what somebody is asking on Reverb isn't a great practice. People often have inflated ideas about what their guitars will fetch. A buddy of mine who shall remain nameless has a lot of stuff on Reverb and eBay at ridiculous prices. He doesn't seem to ever sell anything, but can truthfully tell his wife that he's actively trying to thin the herd!

I'm not a particular fan of the older Dobro sound, so I'm biased, but wouldn't be interested in this until it got below half its asking price. It's a good practice to recognize that, at some point, you're likely to resell, and you'd like to be able to move on to the next bright, shiny thing without taking too much of a hit. The pawn shop probably has a couple of hundred $$ tied up in it.

Cota - Posted - 06/19/2021:  16:18:32


I’ll be sure to check out those luthiers. Thanks!

I realize my “somewhat-reliable” comment regarding Reverb prices was an overly generous statement of faith. I wasn’t going to depend on that only source, which is one of the many reasons I reached out for all of this awesome information that y’all have provided for me. I’m thankful.

I may circle back and offer them $1K for the guitar and see where the negotiations go but, until then, I’ll be looking at some of the many other options available. Thanks again for all of your help and advice!

Cota - Posted - 06/19/2021:  16:21:04


quote:

Originally posted by rexhunt

I recently bought a 31 style 55 from Reverb for almost half that. It was in excellent condition. A 1931 instrument should be from California and have a serial number on the top of the peghead. Can you get any pictures?



Rex






That's really good to know. I knew that their price was overly ambitious, but I wasn't quite sure just how overpriced it was.



If/when I go back to take another look, I'll see if I can get any pictures.



Thanks for the help!

MarkinSonoma - Posted - 06/20/2021:  08:36:23


The serial number and photos are a  big help here. 



It makes little difference sound wise, but the Model 55 was a no frills instrument back in the day. It was the inspiration in terms of looks for the modern Beard Jerry Douglas Signature BlackBeard, which has been his go to guitar for several years. 



 


Edited by - MarkinSonoma on 06/20/2021 08:42:09

rexhunt - Posted - 06/20/2021:  11:25:02


The style 55 may have been no-frills but was known as the standard model. There was a style 45 that was a step below the 55 in the original series of Dobros coming out of California. Here are some pics of mine.



Rex


Edited by - rexhunt on 06/20/2021 11:27:57


Cota - Posted - 06/20/2021:  13:03:19


Awesome! Thanks for sharing the pictures. That’s a beauty.
The one that I’m considering has a deep green finish on it. I’ll be heading back there in the next week or so to assess how much cash I might be willing to put down for it.

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