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Finding Treasure

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Farin, Jan 22, 2006.

  1. Farin


    Oct 19, 2004
    Akron, Ohio
    So this kinda stems off of the "Ray Brown's Bass" thread. Here's a great little story:
    My current teacher's, teacher Tony Leonardi (Founder of the Youngstown State Jazz Program), was said to have gotten a call one day from an older lady who's husband had just passed. She was offering to sell her hunsbands old bass (in pieces under a bed) to Tony for somewhere around $200. Tony notices the bass is older, and decides to take a gamble.
    He takes the bass to a bass luthier in the area, and has it apprased. It turns out the bass is an original Prescott, and offers him $40,000 for the bass (in peices). Tony declines, and has the bass restored. $5,000 and 6 years later, the bass is done. I believe Phil Palombi uses the same bass to this day.
    At least thats what I heard. Anyone know anything about that bass? Anyways, to my question....

    Has anyone else found an awsome bass like this, and if so where. What seems the best way to find these treasures. I would love (like most DB players) to find an old bass, and have it restored. I love my bass now, but man would I love to have a bass with a story behind it...
  2. philly


    Nov 20, 2004
    I'll have to say if this story is true I have a bit of a problem with it. An old lady calls and doesn't know what she has. The Luthier offers 40k for the bass. Now a standup guy would tell the old lady where she went wrong and let her know how much value is in the bass. I know getting a 40k bass for $5200 is hard to pass up, but still the right thing to do is the right thing to do. Now if your talking a dealer here, or someone who should know better, or if the bass was was worthless without your intervention, maybe,
    but the old widow of a dead musician? Come fellas we gotta do better than that to eachother, no?

  3. Farin


    Oct 19, 2004
    Akron, Ohio
    Ethical questions aside, that's a rough story that I got from my teacher. It may or may not be totally true, and who knows maybe Tony gave the old lady a few more bucks; he was known to be a nice guy.
  4. I'm going to have to say screw the ethics. If the bass really was in pieces, it shouldn't have been worth $40,000. $200 for a bass that for all you know wouldn't be worth that much even when restored.

    Anyway, I have a boring version of that. When I was shopping for a new bass several years ago, my mother came across a classified ad in the Oregonian for a bass. The ad read "TOENNIGES Orchestral String Bass. Ca. 1936. $15,000."

    I went and played on it. I liked it and had a feeling it was worth more than $15,000. I asked to borrow it for a week, and took it up to a luthier in my area to have it looked at. He told me all about Toenniges and said a similar bass had just sold at auction for $35,000. I didn't want to pass up a profit of $20,000, so we went ahead and bought it. Last year we put in another $2500 worth of repairs and an extension, and now I've got a bass worth owning.
  5. Farin


    Oct 19, 2004
    Akron, Ohio
    Good story Paul. I wish I could come across something like that.
  6. philly


    Nov 20, 2004
    I am playing devil's advocate farin, I'm sayin if the story's true like you told it.

    And Paul: Screw the ethics? Great attitude for a young man to have. Come on man, it's got nothing to do with whether it should be worth 40k, but that before he put a cent into it he found out it was, and the nice old lady didn't know. Some people kill me.

    Your story is different altogether. Somebdy was trying to make a business deal, they didn't do their homework and you got the better of it, that's fair enough, but screwing old lady's out of 40gs, no good my man. DO UNTO OTHERS, PAULIE.
  7. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    I think the story was that the guy decided to take the gamble. I am interpreting that as he bought it for $200 before taking it to a luthier. Now let's say that the bass turned out to be worthless, should the woman have returned the $200? I don't think so. What if it was only worth $10k after restoration? Shouldn't the buyer have the benefit of the risk associated with buying it and then outlaying the cash to have it restored?

    The buyer took the risk of purchasing a pile of kindling for $200 (and if this was a few years back, $200 was a good sum).

    If the buyer had approached the woman after knowing what it was worth then there would be an argument for the other way. But the fact pattern is that the woman approached him to sell a bass that was in pieces. I don't know if the story is true or not.

    I have heard that Rufus Reid got the busetto bass (in pieces and for very little $) and had it put back together. It's the one that he plays on the DVD
  8. philly


    Nov 20, 2004
    You can't take a basic ethical question and get technical with it.
    Real men with a little class don't look for the advantage over hapless old ladies, they look out for them plain and simple, $200 risk or no. Then for the rest of their lives they have a "one that got away" story, combined with a "yes, kids, as much as it hurt, I did the right thing" story.

    Ok, fellas, sorry for the rant. Henceforth: less moralizing and more bass-alizing.
  9. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    The widow of a bass player not only knew about basses, but was probably sick of hearing about them. If she didn't know what she was selling, it's her own fault. The likelihood is that she was just trying to get the bass to someone that would do right by it and the money didn't mean much.
  10. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    I have a drummer friend who's also an antique dealer and had received a old violin(the old Strad label thing) from a family member to see if it was worth anything and sell it for them. He took it to a guy who told him the fiddle was essentially worthless but the bow was rather rare and gave him $1000 for the set. They were more than happy with that. I asked him what kind of bow it was, he said "Sartory". The last price I've seen for a Sartory violin bow was 15k. So the question is, is the happy seller screwed or should the buyer have compensated them better in light of the actual worth of the bow?

  11. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    The moral to that story is never sell it to the appraiser. :)
  12. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    This is a different scenerio than the first. Here the person asked for the appraisal before the sale. The antique dealer here was clearly wrong (unless that is what it was worth at the time).
  13. Dad Bass

    Dad Bass

    Jun 22, 2005
    New Jersey, USA
    He sold the family cow for these magic beans and they grew a big ean stalk and he climbed the bean stalk and stole the beutiful bass from the giant that lived there.
  14. philly


    Nov 20, 2004
    then he, the bass and the old lady lived happily ever after....

    good night, dad.
  15. basstef

    basstef Supporting Member

    Dec 18, 2004
    Bologna, Italy
    I recently purchased a bass from the widow of a bass player based in Rome. The bass is a good quality German gamba, circa 1850. Previous owner used to work in film scores, and dance shows, in Cinecittà-Rome. The bass is also visible for a couple of minutes in two movies with Sophia Loren ( !!! ) . I paid 5.000 euros for the bass, in need of restoration (another 2k). The widow knew what she had, and I guess I paid nothing but the right price for the bass. It's hard to make a real deal with a woman who has shared his husband with a double bass for a lifetime :)
  16. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    I suppose she wanted to get rid of the "other woman". :)
  17. yesdot


    Mar 8, 2004
    Sydney Australia
    While travelling through Istanbul recently, a fiddle playing aquaintance discovered an old bass tucked in the rafters of a little shop in the antique bazaar district. The shop owner told him it was sold to his old man by a black American musician travelling through the area in the 50s. He wanted $US 800 for it... of course it could be anything , but the romantic in me dreams of booking that ticket... :smug:
  18. Bassphil

    Bassphil Supporting Member

    Aug 10, 2005
    As a matter of fact, yes- I'm Phil ;)

    Tony bought the bass (I think in the 1970s) from an old friend in Syracuse, NY named Sam Mancuso. Being a very large bass, and Sam getting up there in age, he dropped it one day and never got it repaired.

    For some reason, basses always had a way of finding Tony, and one day Sam offered to give the bass to Tony for free since it needed a lot of work. Tony actually had to argue with the cat to give him $100 for it.

    Tony then took the bass to Horst Huble in Parma, Ohio (sometime in the 1980s) to restore. It was in pretty bad condition, but 4 years later (and $4000) he had the bass appraised at $15,000. Actually, I remember Horst telling me that he thought it was a huge waste of money to restore the bass when he first saw it, but was amazed by its sound when he was done.

    Tony sold it to me in 1994, and it's been my main bass ever since. (I'm embarrassed to say what the last appraisal was for. Let's just say that I don't fly too much with it anymore).

    Before he sold it to me, he was getting calls from players in a few major orchestras for the bass, but being the great teacher that he was, he sold it to me for literally half the price. I'll always be eternally grateful for that- what a teacher. Someday I hope that I can follow that example.

    It's not a Prescott, however, but a J.B.Allen bass made in Springfield M.A. in 1842. Allen was an apprentice of Prescott, and the bass is very similar in appearance to a Prescott. Luthiers have told me that Allen improved upon the Prescott design.

    If your interested, here's some photos:

    And here's some audio and video"

    When Tony died, he left me a bass which is, ironically, in many many pieces. I hope that when I someday have it restored, it sounds as good as the Allen that he found.