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1930s King Moretone serial number confusion

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Steve Swan, Oct 9, 2019.


  1. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    I have a couple of different sources giving me two different years for a King Moretone, serial number 1119. Do we have a reference that is considered the most authentic source for this kind of information?
     
    jvgreene likes this.
  2. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    jvgreene likes this.
  3. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    The numbers in this King list always seemed a little too conveniently rounded to the nearest 100, but I will go with that. Chuck Isreal's old King Moretone 1119 would be from 1937, then. Thanks, James !!
     
    james condino and Sam Sherry like this.
  4. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    I believe they pretty much started the plywood bass culture here in the US, as they had the first patent in 1934 that detailed the manufacture of a multi ply bass using vacuum press technology and eurea formaldehyde/resorcinol based glue. It was pretty high tech back in the day and the proof is in he results. I'm pretty fond of my old American Standard and had it out last night. Those and the Kings came from the same factory.
     
  5. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    I feel that they are the "King" and "Queen" of vintage American plywood basses. All of this came about when the huge supply of inexpensive violin family instruments that came to the United States from Germany was suddenly shut off by an embargo in March of 1933, two months after a troublesome fellow named Hitler came to power. To compete with the price points of all-solid woods instruments, usually with ebony fittings, concessions to cost included: Plywood bodies, Rosewood fittings, and American made tuning machines. H.N. White was the only company that designed and made their own tuning machines in their own horn factory. Other companies relied on Kluson tuning machines.
     
    james condino likes this.
  6. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    HN White made cellos as well — I have one, and it's to more or less the same specs as my Kays. Given the similarity of the White and Kay instruments, both diversified manufacturers, presumably selling in the same markets, I wonder what factors you guys think limited White to 300 basses a year while Kay was selling close to 2,000.

    Not trying to one-up here or anything, just thinking about the market realities and different sales approaches of the time. Do you know anything about White retail prices, for example? Just after the war you could buy a Kay C-1 for $250, that's over $2,600 in 2019 dollars, not particularly cheap, imho.
     
  7. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    White also produced horns and therefore were not so dependent on the bowed strings for their corporate survival. Compare Gibson and Fender. Gibson and other long-established brands had complete product lines and therefore did not have to rely on that new-fangled electric bass. At the same time, about all Fender had were the Telecaster and P-bass, and the sales force flogged the heck out of them.
     
  8. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    To be blunt, H.N. White produced much higher quality instruments. Kay just produced a lot of them at much lower prices. That is the story in a nutshell.
     
    james condino and carl h. like this.
  9. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    What points of quality difference stand out for you?
     
  10. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    Quality of the dovetail joints for neck attachment, quality of interior work, Quality of glue joints, longevity of bass bar attachment to interior layer, etc, etc, etc ...
     
    james condino likes this.
  11. I have Mortone #371 in my collection and I’ve been inside it to fix a popped bass bar.

    The quality of construction is downright shocking. Blocks are all neatly made and perfectly fitted. They used flame maple for the interior veneer. The flame on the neck is stunning. I heard a rumor that Roth supplied the necks for the really early basses.

    Somebody was clearly proud of their product.
     
    carl h. and james condino like this.
  12. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Somebody high up in the decision making process at White was a real bass player who understood what a bass player wants and needs, then engineered a very good commercial product.

    Somebody high up in the decision making process at Kay was a wanna be guitar player who thought big basses would look cool in the catalog, so they figured out a way to produce them utilizing methods they already understood without impacting the production of 100,000 cheap guitars a year....
     
    KUNGfuSHERIFF and carl h. like this.

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