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Future Kay values

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by drurb, Jul 25, 2004.

  1. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    I have a Kay C-1 manufactured in 1966. Although it is no longer the DB I play regularly, I just haven't been able to part with it yet as old "Rufus" and I have been together for going on 40 years! I'm curious what you afficianados think about the future of what seems to be the Kay "niche-market." They seem to bring more $$$ than comparable laminate basses. Do you think their value will increase markedly over time? On the one hand, with each passing year it's that much longer Kay has been out of business. On the other hand, we're not talking about an instrument made of fine tone woods. I'm thinking of selling the Kay but don't want to do something foolish if it's likely to appreciate substantially in value. Any insights would be appreciated.

  2. Something like that will probably just keep appreciating in value over time, particularly if you've taken good care of it. It's a funny thing about "vintage" instruments, they derive much of their market value because of the age. It also helps that they haven't made Kays since '68 or so (even though in every important way, Engelhardts ARE Kays...).

    I have a 1966 Fender Telecaster, well loved, somewhat modded, definitely a players guitar and not a collector piece, and it's STILL worth over $1500 right now. And yet, I could go buy a nice Mexican-made Fender 60's Tele for $500 and have functionally the same guitar...

    Anyway, something like that is worth keeping until you either need the money or need the space!

    Cheers, Tim
  3. azflyman


    Apr 24, 2004
    Astoria, OR
    I have not figured why Kay's are worth what they are going for now. There are so many laminated basses that sound so much more open and have better tone. Kay's always sound quiet, muffled, closed to me (which is why they amplify well). I had a chance to buy a 1942 well used Kay for $1,500 and passed because it just did not have the sound I wanted or had in my head. I know they are popular and my view is not, but I think Kay basses are not "all that and a bag of chips". It seems to me that most of the players that used them on the road used other basses to record with. They wanted a bass that would take the abuse, climate changes, et. al. for road use. They are built like tanks, unfortunately, they sound like them to me. I always really wanted to like them but can't get past the closed sound.

  4. Twenty years ago, you could get a Kay for a lot less than $1,000. Up until about 1970, the standard price for a kay bass in this area was $125.00. That just show how absurb the prices have become. However, I would never buy one for an investment. There are a lot of very safe places to get a guaranteed return on your investment.
  5. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Well, az, the question was about valuation, not sound. I'd take your UB Laminated over a Kay any day in terms of the sound!
  6. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Ah, so it's not quite self-evident which was the point of my question to you all!
  7. azflyman


    Apr 24, 2004
    Astoria, OR
    As with any collectible the market is in a constant flux. All of the vintage market is this way. In the 80's you could not touch a '57 Gibson Les Paul for under 75K in collector shape; after the market dip they were 50K. I think Kay's are definately on a high right now and I think as long as the current URB wave is going they will stay there. I do not believe they will stay high if the bass market cools off, as it will. There are just too many of them, not a rare bird. The tricky part is when?

  8. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA

    Although, you have to consider that the the # is in a constant state of decline. Most Kays out there are still being played, and that alone means most are subject to the perils of the bass world.

    Every year the number of usable Kays goes down as there are some that meet their untimely (or perhaps most timely) demise.

    I agree that value is driven by the current populary in the market, but just like a real Fender or a real Packard, the number of them out there is on the decline. It as at least possible that they may go up in value for that reason. Especially the above-mentioned Kay, as it is less desireable than many others because it is among the youngest of the Kay basses out there.

    Just like 70s Fender basses are considered now to be vintage whereas when I was teenager, they were considered to be $hi#*.
  9. ctxbass

    ctxbass Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2003
    Central Texas
    Here in central Texas, the market for Kay's has declined.
    A couple of years ago, a C1 in good condition would sell rather quickly for $1800. Asking prices are dropping, and Kays are not moving so fast.
    There are some new basses on the market specifically made for Rockabilly players and the like. These are quite sturdy, come with colorful finishes, and sell for around the same price as an old Kay. Maybe this made a big dent in the market.

    As far as an investment, I wish I had kept my first car.
  10. Sorry to disagree with you, but I had several old Kays pass through my hands in the 80's for around $500.00. The really nice ones might have brought $800.00. Perhaps prices may have been much higher where you reside, but not where I live. It wouldn't have been worth my while to stock up on Kays when they were going for $125. At that time, I was lucky if I could resell them for $200.00 after putting in my labor and parts. Kays looked like a very poor investment at that time. I bought the fully carved Mittenwald roundback bass (in 1966) that I'm still playing now for $150.00. (I've been offered more than $10,000.00 for that one.) That was in the era when everybody was switching to Fender electric bass and you couldn't hardly give a doublebass away. About that time I had the opportunity to buy a very nice old Italian bass from a local symphony player who was about to retire. He was asking $5000.00. Unfortunately, I didn't have $5,000.00 to spend on one bass. The retired player had to hold on to that bass for several more years before he found a buyer will to pay his $5000.00 asking price. Now, in retrospect, that is what I should have stocked up on.
  11. azflyman


    Apr 24, 2004
    Astoria, OR
    And they still are. Not much more than boat anchors most of them; heavy enough to sink easily. P.T. Barnum was right.

  12. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    They are still in the asking range of $2000 to $3000 for even some C-1's. But I wonder what their "getting" range is. I've seen bids on eBay for $2500, so at least some are moving (Kays).

    My $100 C1 should be in the asking range of about $2K now? If it's in one piece.
  13. i gotta agree with Branstetter...A sensible price for a decent playing and looking Kay is around $1K around the Denver. Unless it TRULY is a collectable like someone had here the other day with real scroll volutes, purfling, ebony board and etched machine plates! It also had a three piece neck!
  14. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    Yeah. Well, I expect there is a difference between the "asking price" for these so called vinatage Kays - most of which really aren't, as you point out - and the "getting price." C-1's were never more than student instruments, and still aren't.
  15. this is where I gotta get off......'cause I don't know a C-1 from the other models.
    I did forget to mention that I'm aware those Chubby Jackson 5 stringers are getting bigger bucks because they did add lots of special stuff as mentioned above.
  16. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    I agree: saw a new Engle last june, dunno which model, was one of those new brightly colored ones. The problem I saw with those is you can't really play arco due to a low bridge/FB arch.
    Not a "student" instrument, would not sell as such here (in France).
  17. John Sprague

    John Sprague Sam Shen's US Distributor

    Mar 10, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    Sales Manager, CSC Products Inc.
    A common ebay sale for an M1 Blonde is $3k+. Good bass shops will sell them for $3500 all day.

    But... in real life the thing is not a very good instrument, as basses go.

    So to think that there is investment value when the things have already gotten to $3k sounds like a stretch. Using Martin guitars as an example, you can sell an old Martin for six figures now. They have the iconic flare, but they also sound better than anything else in the store. Kay doesn't have that, just the flare, so I can't imagine them climbing significantly higher while we are all still alive.

    No warranties implied, this writer claims no expertise, and can not be held accountable for monetary loss due to you following my armchair speculations. ;)
  18. Thanks Sam.
  19. BenderR


    Jun 1, 2004
    Tucson, AZ
    Everything appreciates as it becomes more rare. I recently had a very similar discussion on a guitar forum regarding newer tube amps.

    The point I made is that regardless of quality the collectability of an object is based on rarity. Model T Fords were cheaply built and not all that reliable yet an original Model T is worth a lot of money today. In the guitar world Supros, Silvertones and Danelectros that were scorned in the sixties are no considered collectable, probably because so many of them were thrown away.

    Nonetheless, my personal advice regarding buying something for its value as a collectable is this: only buy something you want to own. If it appreciates GREAT, if not at least it was something you wanted to own.
  20. Kays have been steady for a while. They will always be a little more valuable than comparable new basses, especially since it is getting increasingly difficult to find Kays without broken necks or other substantial problems. I have not seen any real inflation on prices over the last 3 years, so perhaps we are due. I never look at an instrument as a guaranteed investment, though. Look at what has happened to the price of German instruments as better and better Chinese and Eastern European instruments enter the market....