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is there any REAL reason to buy a VINTAGE Kay?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by alteredpilot, Sep 8, 2008.

  1. i mean, other than simply for the sake of owning vintage?
    i'm a vintage type of guy. i like old things, but i wont always buy vintage just for the sake of buying vintage.

    see, i've been doing my research and on and on and as it turns out, every bass that i like listening to winds up being a 40's or 50's Kay. thing is, they're a little out of my price range ready to play and the ones that are in my price range are beat to hell and would be out of range to fix.

    i've been looking into buying a new EG9 from fretwell, but i came across a potential deal on what appears to be an early 40's Kay M1 Hawes. in looking at fretwell's site, the avg price for a similar is about 3500 RTP. this guy wants SIGNIFICANTLY less

    so here's where some experience feedback would be helpful...

    i deal in classic and vintage cars. i know a good deal when i see it and i know that sometimes you come across a screamer of a deal no matter what its going to cost to get it up to snuff. even if you could just go out and find one done. i'm sure that to a certain degree, that would apply to basses as well.

    so if i found a 32 ford roadster, 10k would be an irresistable deal in any condition...but 30k would be condition critical....

    we've just been talking via phone and email at this point, and it really does not seem that the guy has any idea what he has. from the outset it looks like a decent unit. not beat up, original tuners, etc. might need the finger board reset, still waiting on some more detail pictures and a little further conversation. the guy is 5 hours away and i cant get there til the weekend. i would have to overnight him a deposit and got get it saturday.

    at what price point do you just buy, knowing that at the least you can flip it for a return on investment or at least not go upside down on making a decent instrument out of it?

    long winded way to ask a simple question eh?

    seriously though, thanks for any feedback.
  2. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    Simple answer is find somebody who knows more than you and take them with you or make the sale contingent on you taking it to them.

    You can get burned pretty good with old Kays. I've seen lots that need tons of work (some not so obvious at first). They still sell for prices that should be reserved for those needing nothing. Mostly that comes from people not doing their homework.

    It's like any antique car or furniture or what have you. If you don't have the information in your head you can't expect to get the steal it deal without the risk of overspending. You can't know unless you know what you're looking at. No crash course on the internet is gonna give you what you need.

    I sure couldn't go out in the woods around here and get a screaming deal on a '32 Ford. Wouldn't know enough not to get burnt.

    Or you could spend $4K on a New Standard Cleveland plywood and know it would kick the trousers off just about any Kay you'll encounter. No risk there.
  3. Are you buying it to play, as an investment, or to flip?

    If a gigging instrument is your goal--what about the SOUND? I have heard a few Kays that sounded good when compared to other plywood basses. I have heard many more Kays that just gave a dull thud sound. Of course, some folks like the thud, others want a musical tone. If I were in your shoes and buying the bass to play, I would want to hear it before making a deal. With Shens, Christophers, and numerous quality imports available for the same or even less money, there are many options available.

    I am no economist but if you are looking at it for an investment, I imagine you would be much better off putting the money in a good growth stock Roth IRA. Certainly, Kays have increased in value over the last 15 years--perhaps doubling in price but I doubt if that would match the performance of a good mutual fund. I would also think that an instrument would be a poor investment because of its fragility--drop it and you could be out half its value in repairs, or some meth addict breaks into your home and your investment is now sitting in a pawnshop in a nearby city.

    Flipping the instrument might not be such a bad deal IF it is in good shape and doesn't require any major work. Unless it was in obviously good shape, I might want a bass luthier to look it over like you might get a mechanic to check out a used car.
  4. if i were to buy it would be as a player.

    when i say flip, what i mean is that even if i bought it and wasn't completely thrilled i'd at least be able to recover my expenditure...which would be what i consider to be more than safe in a risk bearing environment.
  5. conte2music

    conte2music Supporting Member

    Jul 11, 2005
    Dobbs Ferry, NY
    Some REAL reasons to purchase an instrument for a working player or hobbyist could be...

    - You enjoy the sound
    - The condition is healthy and you'll recieve years of service from the ax
    - The playability is to your liking
    - You/your luthier know what repairs are needed and you're confident that the desired outcome is realistic

    When I was less educated I thought I knew what was needed. I now know enough to know I don't know ;)

    I had an ugly old kay that I traded away....I missed it and traded to get it back. I then sold it because the time that I spent with my new (awesome sounding old german basses that sucked up lots of money in repairs) basses educated me to where I realized the shortcoming of the kay. I now have a small german bass from around the 30's that has never cracked, and a two year old shen willow 7/8. There is so much to be said for having an ax that needs little investment. For the plywoods and lower priced carved basses that I've played, I would purchase something brand new from a reputable dealer. You'll know how much you'll be spending, and they'll help keep you up and running!

    All that being said...it may be a great deal on a great bass.

    Best of Luck!!
  6. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    I'm not in agreement with that.

    The Kay can be completely insured at replacement value with a reasonable deductible. Repairs under "totaled" value would be covered by the insurance as well assuming you've properly insured it. If your IRA takes a dump in the stock market like many have done in the last 10 years you are out that money and nobody insures it.

    A garden variety Kay bass sold for around $1000 10 or so years ago. They routinely sell for over $2000 and often into the $3500 range these days. That's way better than the stock market did over that same period.

    Will that carry into the next 10 years? Who knows but I sure wouldn't bet against it.
  7. Zondra


    May 17, 2004
    I have several old Kays, and I like them. They have a great sound for being a plywood bass. I play in a variety of different climates, and like having a plywood bass that holds up in all of those different conditions AND sounds great while doing so. I already owned my first one, and knew I wanted a second bass (two of us in one household and sharing one bass wasn't working any more), and was looking at other old Kays, and learned what they were worth. When I encountered the second Kay, I bought it for it's sound, because that's what I was looking for, and at the price I found it at, I knew I could always sell it pretty easily (and I knew at that time that I wanted a plywood bass that could get beat up in all the barnyards & who knows where else I would take it). Not all old Kays are as nice as others. I wouldn't buy one for the vintage sake just because. They were originally built as student basses, but have had a resurgance in popularity. They have a good strong "BOOM" that make them very desireable for accoustic (un-mic'd, but still in a noisy atmosphere where you are the rythm section) bluegrass type music. The bluegrass world has embraced the old Kays more than any other genre. If you're a bluegrasser - yea Kays are vintage collectors items. There are deffinetly better basses out there... An old vintage German carved bass would be a much better "vintage" collector's item - that would be more like your '32 Ford. Are you a jazzer? There are fancier (and yes, much more expensive) basses out there that have the tone that you're looking for if you're into Jazz.

    The previous posts had some good points as well....
    Good luck!
  8. ctregan


    Jun 25, 2007
    Syracuse N.Y.
    ....and no taxes on the profit.
  9. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    Well that depends on who you are and how you sell it.
  10. Gearhead43


    Nov 25, 2007
    Get the Kay, and if you don't like it I will take it off your hands for only a 20% loss. Deal? :bassist:
  11. yeah...
    i dont think i can pass this one up...even if it needs money in to make it road worthy.

    turns out to be a blonde '37 M1.
    at this price, even if i hate it i'll get my money back and go buy a new eg9
  12. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    Oh my. Go get that.
  13. conte2music

    conte2music Supporting Member

    Jul 11, 2005
    Dobbs Ferry, NY
    I imagine that a 1937 Blond Alvin Hawes M-1 Kay would be one of the most rare Kay basses. The Hawes model have engraved plates and an ebony board and tailpiece. Please be sure to post some pictures when you get it home.

  14. Well, as I said I am no economist. As to doing better than the stock market--it depends on the fund or investment. No investment is "safe" but I just can't see the wisdom of looking at an Kay as an investment.

    I can see the wisdom of buying a good one for the purpose of making good music and it sounds like the OP may have found one.
  15. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    I've done far and away better with vintage instruments than in the stock market.

    My most recent purchase, the FrancoKraut has ended up being paid mostly in full by selling off stuff that I had less than 1/4 of the selling price in and between 3 and 15 years time in.

    Meanwhile I had a retirement fund that was up to $30K 10 or so years ago that has just hit $5 before I closed it this year. Total waste of dough. Evaporated, no insurance, no tax write off. Just gone. I'm done with markets for good. I'll take the antique trade any day over corporate America.
  16. MR PC

    MR PC Banned

    Dec 1, 2007
  17. yep.
    committed to the buy this evening.
    going to get it on saturday.

    i'll post pics when i get back.
  18. MR PC

    MR PC Banned

    Dec 1, 2007
    Hurry, hurry, hurry, take the "A" Train.

    It'll be interesting to hear how the bassbar has held up in this one. Some other pre WWII Kay's have had problems in that regard......still I'd jump in your shoes too!
  19. Zondra


    May 17, 2004
    A '37 M-1 should be a nice bass... I'm excited to see photos and hear about it. I have a '40 M-1 & the bass bar has just come loose (see my thread under setup/repairs for more details) - otherwise it's a great bass.

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