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200 Year Old German Bass

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Farin, Jan 29, 2006.

  1. Farin


    Oct 19, 2004
    Akron, Ohio
    So I am currently in possession of a 200 year old German Trillian? (sp?) Bass. It was my teachers, and she is looking to get rid of it. It's an awsome bass, old and actually doesn't sound bad considering part of the back needs to be re-glued, and it has old crappy gut strings on it. (apperently it was used on a recording with Apollo's Fire, a Baroque String Orchestra in the Cleveland area).
    My teacher paid 7,000 Canadian for it, and she would like most of the money back which she paid for it. I had it appraised and he said that would be about right. But it needs alot of work, it seems to be a colage of both good and bad work. Chris at The Bass Cellar says he could get it operational and sounding decent for around $1000, but a full restoration would cost anywhere between $4000 and $10,000 US. I am starting to fall in love with the bass, and have always wanted an older bass, but would $7000 US be worth it to get it working?
    The other thing, is now it has low tension gut strings on it, and it looks to have some cracks repaired on the top. If I put higher tension strings on it, what are the chances that it would tear the bass apart?
    I guess I'm just wondering what you guys would do. Should I go right away and try and find a loan to pay for this possibly amazing bass, or should I let it go, and look for something in need of a little less TLC?
    What do you think of the bass?
    I have posted a picture, more pictures of the bass can be found here:

  2. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    Looks like a beautiful old bass, but there are some issues to be concerned about. Your two areas on the top that deal with tension are the bass bar, aligned with the E bridge foot, and the sound post just below the G foot, and there are big repaired cracks going right in line with those two spots. Not a good sign. Then you have multiple cracks on the softest part of the instrument, up and down the ribs. Not good either. At one time, I'm sure it was a great bass, and could probably be made to sound great again, but there are just too many negatives to take a chance with cash that you don't have. There are a bunch of nice old ones out there if you are determined to find something that will work for you. I'd say keep looking and let the sound tell you that it's the right one, but keep in mind what may be lurking down the road.

  3. ispider6


    Jan 30, 2005


    You make some very valid points but if I may add a few cents here... I have a 200 year-old German bass that is just crackalicious. I'm talking cracks everywhere yet it sounds wonderful. I will admit that it's still a temperamental instrument when it comes to weather but it just depends on whether you're willing to make the trade off for a good-sounding instrument. Farin, Ike is right that you should keep looking but don't necessarily rule out what you've got in your hands. Once you've seen what else is out there in your price range, then reconsider. It's all part of the process. Good luck!
  4. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    In my opinion, a Bass is worth it's market price in fully restored and playable condition. Until it is the best possible repaired condition and the maximum sound realized the value cannot be fully realized. You can put any price you like on an old Bass but it has to sound good. Value also means what somone will pay for it on the open market. If a Bass is sold at a pre-restored condition then the price the owner payed means very little. Buy a car for 30k, have a few crashes with it and then tell the buyer you want your 30k out of it!?

    With Basses unlike cars, the value holds over time and goes up with inflation but condition must be its best at time of sale or the price reduced. I have bought many Basses over the years pre-restoration and most of them cost me close to the market price when they were completed and restored. If I payed the asking price in ever case, I would have over payed.

    To restore a Bass 1/2 way makes no sense to me. Either do a 100% job and be done with it or just pass on the Bass. The other option is to buy it at a price that has room for a full restoration later in time as long as you can play the Bass in the mean time without making things worse. In that case you just do what's necessary to make the Bass playable spending only what is necessary. In the restoration down the road, some or most of this will be redone and those areas end up costing double to do it 2x. Keeping the pre-restored fixes to a minimal would make good economic sense.

    I bought two Basses in the last two years that needed various restoration but 'were' playable as-is with some work to make it playable. These are the Loveri and Gilkes Basses of mine. The Gilkes looks fine from the outside but needs work on the inner linings touching the Back/rib joints from the inside. This has been well chewed up over the years from people sliding knives in there gluing up looses seams. There are also some Rib repairs that can be better and one lower rIB needs a small graft to close up a gap. The Bass is loosing compression and needs to be fixed to be 100%. Also, the Top edges and Corners all need to be cosmetically restored for visual and structrual reasons. I knew all this the day I tried out the Bass and the price was slightly lowered in consideration. On the Loveri Bass, I bought it as a 'fixerupper' that could be played as-is without hurting its condition. I keep my glue bottle handy incase one of the Back cracks get loose. It needs the back taken off, all the cross bars removed, all the cracks opened and re-glued, all new cross bars and then the Back re-fitted back onto the flush cut Ribs with no lip over hang for alignment or slippage. The top should also come off and have all it's little cracks re-done as well so we don't have to do this again in my lifetime. The neck and FB seem fine as the Bridge is about 7" tall with low string height and I can play from the Nut to the Tail piece with little or no strain at all past the end of the FB.

    Your Bass is a nicer but simple made old German Bass. Some TLC would be good. If the Bass sounds between good and great now as far as tone and volume goes then you have a good project on your hands. Just remember that the asking price plus the fully restored 10k price combined should come 'under' the appraised price of the restored bass. You are the one taking the risk here and not the seller, restorer or appraiser. Mke a deal that you can be comfortable with. The 10k price is only an estimate. Ask the restorer if that $ includes blocks and linings if any or all of them would need re-gluing or replacing. Also, what ever is re-glued or replaced on any Bass should not be done by economics. The Bass should get what's best for the Bass for the long haul. Good luck, and keep us posted...
  5. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    Tyrolean, maybe?
    If you buy it, you could make a small percentage of your money back by sellng the "old crappy" gut strings to a fellow TalkBass member...they're all the rage.
  6. Farin


    Oct 19, 2004
    Akron, Ohio
    Yes. Tyrolean. I wasn't sure of the spelling.