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Kay M-1 value?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by 1953kay, Oct 29, 2010.


  1. 1953kay

    1953kay

    Jul 21, 2009
    Hi,

    Could anyone give me a rough idea what I could get for a 1953 Kay M-1? Its in pretty rough shape but I've been told it was somewhat collectible. Its a darker stained Kay and one of the scrolls had been replaced and the endpin replace with a better one.

    I can provide pics if needed.

    thanks
     
  2. Kay basses are a bit hit and miss in terms of sound. In the many dozens (over 100 probably) I've set up over the years, perhaps 5 had what I'd call an interesting sound and responsiveness. Most could be compared comfortably to other old plywood basses. When condition enters the mix there's another layer of difficulty in assessing the bass 'over the phone' as it were. A couple of the best-sounding Kays I've heard have been total beaters, really mashed up in all sorts of bad ways. The value to the player isn't always translatable into sale value... though this depends on the area you're living in to some extent. Out here in Vancouver for instance, no one really expects to have to pay more than about $3,000 for a decent Kay. I've heard they can fetch $4,000 or more in some areas of the Eastern US. Personally, I'd not pay more than about $2,000 for a Kay, as the early ones are mostly nearing end-of-life in terms of edge lamination integrity and disintegration in other areas. I've been seeing more and more Kay bassbars peeling out due to lamination glue failure under the inner layer of veneer, more arching collapse, more and deeper edge delamination owing to laying on concrete (damp) floors for extended periods. Sure, some will survive for decades to come... but many are dying.

    I would say yes, post good quality images, for sure. That can help somewhat in others assessing your bass in particular. But the sound and the physical state in terms of serious damage/repairs, those are the important things. A broken and badly repaired neck for instance can really drop the value. A soundpost puncture is even worse, as Kay necks can be replaced, bellies not so much.
     
  3. Bass Barrister

    Bass Barrister

    Nov 4, 2004
    Chicago
    Gerard's comprehensive response touches on the major issues involved in evaluating an old Kay bass and should be taken to heart. Nevertheless, I am less pessimistic about the lengevity and value of Kays on the whole. Kay can be thought of as the Timex of DBs - "It takes a licking and keeps on ticking". As a seller, recognize that Kays are vlaued for some combination of nostalgia, history, location, availability, and sound qualities. The three basic models over the years were the "C", the "M", and the "S" series, with the M models right in the middle. I own a 1939 S-8 and would hate to lose it. My estimate of value, sight unseen of course:

    Beater = $400 - $700

    Average = $1500 - $2000

    Restored with major changes = $2000 - $3000

    Mint original condition (rare) = $3000 and up

    Of course, the best way to assess value is to take it a bass luthier and get an appraisal.
     
  4. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Hey Gerard - necks, tops and backs are all available through Engelhardt-Link at very reasonable prices.
     
  5. Tops and backs? Really? I knew the necks were available, and kind of cheaply even, but a new belly or back... I suppose that's something I'll have to look into and pass along to Kay owners when they come to me with really messed up instruments. Frankly I've already wasted too much of my life trying to salvage shattered collages of veneer and glue. The last, belonging to a prominent rock-a-billy player, was so spongy when it came in I was very close to refusing the job. The result was tolerable more or less, but beyond a certain point it's sort of like building a bass out of matchsticks. Perhaps worthwhile in the case of some master luthier's work, but not so much in the case of what was always a bargain bass for the touring musician. The Chinese have rather neatly filled that niche these days, with several brands being quite impressive acoustically.
     
    Ian McLaughlin likes this.
  6. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Really! Email Tom Link directly for the top and back plates - he's a good guy to deal with. The best part is that you get to carve a decent bassbar for the new top! :D
     
  7. 1953kay

    1953kay

    Jul 21, 2009
    Ok, thanks for the replies, here are some pics. Inside label reads "Genuine Kay Bass Viol M-1 Model" and then serial number. Some rough spots are around the edges, the scroll in the picture is not the original, the endpin replaced with a better one. The belly on the bass bar side is slightly sunken compared the the soundpost side.
    thanks for any opinions

    5133320860_bb1d84d585_z.

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    5133327826_9b071b5da7_z.

    5133324226_b6e1ce4b7c_z.
     
  8. The lower back edges look rather rough, but better than some. Overall the finish isn't in bad shape. Too bad about those back scratches, but they're not what faces an audience... It doesn't look so bad as Kays go. Probably $2,500-ish if the sound has a nice thump and some decent sustain, which are of course largely functions of setup. Spending $100 at a reputable luthier's shop for a soundpost adjustment and a bit of bridge tweaking can go a long way in selling a bass for what it's actually worth, acoustically. I'd not bother getting someone to do a lot of retouching though. Leave that to the next owner, if they happen to want all the blemishes mended. Cosmetic work can really add up. Provided the bassbar is still glued solidly and the bridge and fingerboard are actually decent (they look okay, but it's impossible to say anything definitive without actually examining the bass), this looks like a solid gigging bass.
     
  9. 1953kay

    1953kay

    Jul 21, 2009
    Thanks for the reply, I gave $1100 for a about 12-13 years ago. I almost have decided to let it go but its a hard decision.
     
  10. MR PC

    MR PC Banned

    Dec 1, 2007
    If you put it up now for $2500, you probably will have some time to think about it before someone actually brings you the cash. I'm not saying that it isn't worth the $$$, but at that price point, these road worn old Kay Basses aren't exactly moving like hot cakes.
     
  11. 1953kay

    1953kay

    Jul 21, 2009
    Yeah good idea, do you recognize anything of significance that would make this bass desirable? I personally do not but I've always been curious since this guy I know that works on basses referred to it as a "classic".
     
  12. MR PC

    MR PC Banned

    Dec 1, 2007
    Bottom line is sound and playability, IMO.
     

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