Lion Head German! “1886”

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Lucas LaFave, May 13, 2019.

  1. LowG


    Dec 8, 2006
    Milwaukee, WI
    It's nice to see that you have bonded with the tone of this instrument, in my 30 years of experience playing basses that has not often happened at any price. Remember that all of us on the board have only seen pictures and have not heard the instrument; I often get the impression from these types of threads that tone should have no bearing whatsoever on the value of an instrument or the decision to restore. Consider that when reading the many scoffs ;)

    I have been in shops where an expert heartily scoffs at the poor condition of an instrument in need of work, refusing to even consider the job. Then as I play the inventory of instruments at said shop, no instrument at any cost speaks with as lovely a tone as my even-in-poor-condition bass. But tone and response is a subjective experience, so I suppose it's true that the luthier simply didn't hear sound in the same way that I do.

    The work of fixing, maintaining, and restoring basses is distinct from the work of making music with them. From a luthier's standpoint the value of a bass and the wisdom of restoration lie in the woodworking details. This thread represents that perspective well. From a musician's standpoint the value of a bass and the wisdom of restoration lie in the subjective experience of tone and response. This thread obviously can't have much to say about that. Only you know how many thousands of dollars that tone and response is worth to you and if such tone and response is easily found in other more structurally intact and inexpensive instruments.

    There is some balance to be had between money spent on an instrument and the value of the instrument in the market. But this relative balance is unique for every person - to what extent is the instrument a financial investment and to what extent is it a creative tool? To some the resale value is very important, to others it is totally unimportant.
    marcox, Selim, s0707 and 7 others like this.
  2. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    I would add, do you really want to play a 44" SL? You could look into a new neck, scroll graft and bringing the SL down to 42", if possible. I'm sure that alone would cost $2-4K.
  3. unbrokenchain

    unbrokenchain Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2011
    Black Mountain, NC
    Mojo. Play it til the scroll breaks off and then do a full resto :)
    Sam Sherry likes this.
  4. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    It looks like it had a top off repair not so long ago. Any chance of finding out who did it? Yes, a full restoration will cost probably a lot more than 5k, but if the thing is solid and only needs a bridge, then I think 2.5 to 3k is reasonable. What else can you buy with that money that would come even close? 44" is a lot, but there are ways to reduce it.
  5. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    If you can play it, then you can play it. I had a 43-1/4 bass for many years which was actually quite easy to play. Just not for auditions!
  6. DrayMiles


    Feb 24, 2007
    East Coast
    Like I said...

    If it speaks to you, then get it... and from the pictures, you seem to have a connection.

    Just remember...

    Divorce can be expensive...
    That was a joke!
    Lucas LaFave likes this.
  7. Lucas LaFave

    Lucas LaFave

    May 13, 2019
    For reference! I have a beautiful German factory right now that has grown to sound great. The tone is beautiful and it sings all the way up the neck. Where it falls short is in power. It cuts through a band because of its mid range punch punch there’s no guts in the bottom end. This bass makes the whole room shake. I really haven’t found much issue with the string length though it is long.

    I will day again the bass is playing fine and is structurally sound. I’ll try to get a video of the instrument and post a link in the next day or two!

    Great thoughts everyone this is a good discussion! All views welcome, tell me it’s a crap shoot or tell me to buy it. I enjoy reading all the responses!
  8. DrayMiles


    Feb 24, 2007
    East Coast
    I would buy it... But don't do it an injustice by not spending the money it needs for a COMPLETE restoration. Don't do anything half-*****. An instrument is a personal thing and if it isn't a vanity purchase, then you should make the investment. The bass will get the money out of you... One way or another.
    Winoman, Lucas LaFave and dhergert like this.
  9. “Would you care to elaborate?“

    Of course. Judging by your photos whoever did a lot of those crack repairs was not particularly concerned with doing a good job. It looks like little or no effort was made to close the crack, but glue was shoved in and left to set. Now all those gaping cracks are contaminated with dirt and finger oils and will never truly close without being washed out.

    It’s laborious, expensive work. Buying an old bass is like marrying someone hiding secrets.
    robobass, Lucas LaFave and DrayMiles like this.
  10. rickwolff

    rickwolff Supporting Member

    I don't have an opinion regarding the purchase of this bass (or any bass that needs a fairly substantial restoration for an unknown amount of money with a result that can't be guaranteed).

    I did buy a carved bass that had fallen over and had the scroll 'dislodged'. I bought it sight unseen, BUT the cost in it's 'broken' condition was only $900 (they list at around 5K) and I had it sent to a highly respected luthier to examine. When I asked him if I should buy it his answer was 'If you don't want to buy it I will". That was good enough for me. It has turned out to be an excellent little (3/4) jazz jobbing bass.

    I just don't think I'd have the courage to risk maybe 5X that much. That's just out of my comfort zone, but I can respect those who are willing to do so (hopefully with some wise counsel from 3rd parties who can inspect the instrument IN PERSON. Without having a trusted expert inspect it IN PERSON it's a little like calling on the phone and asking a luthier what your bass is worth. The best answer I ever heard was "hold it a little closer to the phone, I can't see it".

    PS At my level of 'semi-professional' pizzicato jazz playing I'm extremely happy to have found a brand new bass for about $5500 7 years ago that spoke to me then and speaks to me even more so now that I have discovered how much the bass and I both like Obligato strings. In seven years it has never needed a penny spent on repairs or anything else (other than experimenting with various strings). If I played at a higher level - especially in an orchestral setting I know I would have to be prepared for a far greater investment (of both money AND time).
    Last edited: May 15, 2019
  11. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    I like what LowG had to say. This past weekend I took a bass on approval, a 100-year-old German flatback ... it's suffered about as many insults and injuries as the bass which is the subject of this thread, but I don't think it needs any work (okay, maybe a new bridge). Replaced the ancient Spiro mittels with a spare set of guts and took it to a rehearsal today. It's ugly as sin but it sounds pretty darned good and plays well. That's what's important to me.
  12. statsc

    statsc Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2010
    Burlington, VT
    +1 on @LowG’s comment. It seems to me there are two ways of looking at this. One is what the bass needs in order to put it into reasonably saleable condition and then what you can get for it. It seems that the opinion of the forum is that it financially does not make sense looked at from this perspective. However, another way to look at it is what it’s worth to you in terms of sound and playability. If it has the sound that you love and can be put into playable shape with just a new bridge and professional setup, it may be worth it to you. Just know that down the road you may need to put more money into it, but if you love the sound, it will be worth it to you. I speak from experience in this regard, having played the same mid-1800’s Tyrolean for 38 years and having put money into it at various times to keep it playable because I love the sound and playability and could never find any other bass which comes close for less than $40,000.
    Winoman and Lucas LaFave like this.
  13. statsc

    statsc Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2010
    Burlington, VT
    Perhaps you can use the questionable condition and what it would cost to overhaul it and what it might be worth as a way to negotiate a lower price for it. Also, if you buy it, don’t scrimp on a case!
  14. you may like the 44" string length now, but it really is a "proceed with caution" situation.

    more than the condition, that string length will lower the interest in this thing severely. I was told by a respected bass luthier that he has a hard time selling 42" string lengths, and anything bigger "simply doesn't sell anymore."
    Lucas LaFave likes this.
  15. unbrokenchain

    unbrokenchain Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2011
    Black Mountain, NC
    I think I'd be equally smitten were I in the same boat.

    The room-shaking quality of the bass might be partly because of the string length! Unbrokenchain votes get it if cheap enough, but don't get rid of your other bass.
    Lucas LaFave likes this.
  16. statsc

    statsc Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2010
    Burlington, VT
    Also, be aware that when (and if!) you decide to move on from this relationship, you may not break even financially. For me, anyway, affairs of the heart (bass-playing, sailing, love) are not always about “breaking even.”
  17. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    I'd say if it's stable and playable and if you think that you can at least afford to keep it that way financially, it sounds like you already have a strong enough attachment to this bass to get it... If you have your top price in mind, and if you can stay committed to that top price, you'll be safest during price negotiations; if you have to pass it by because of cost, there will be other good, maybe better buys that come up.

    It's interesting to watch the DB market. Watching the classifieds here and watching other double bass sales environments, there are lots of very nice DBs that come up for sale, but even with the best of them, relatively few sell and they very rarely sell fast; DBs are relatively expensive, they tend to be high maintenance items, people like to verify condition and to try before they buy, and since shipping is difficult at best, regional delivery is optimal...

    Like most other musical instruments, except for the most wealthy buyers, the most shrewd traders, and the most collectable and expensive instruments, this is not a good time to consider DBs investment tools because they sell so slowly. There are wonderful DB's that have been for sale for years; typically sale prices have to be reduced a number of times before potential buyers even sound interested. In other words, in today's financial environment expecting to get your money out of any musical instrument, including DBs, is not sound financial planning.

    So if you want to buy a musical instrument, buy because it speaks to you, not because you expect to get your money out of it; over the years your instruments will pay for themselves in the enjoyment that you get from them. For most of us who love music, this is largely an affair of the heart, not the wallet.
  18. DrayMiles


    Feb 24, 2007
    East Coast
    Very few musicians get into this for money I think... But, for the love of it. I purchased a bass that was in pieces, but the neck, detached from the body, felt so darn good I decided to take a chance. I was lucky getting my Juzek... I'm hoping lightning strikes twice with this one...

    So, you're not alone in the lunacy... But, it's like falling in love... Logic doesn't always apply...

    But, ;) in the divorce, she might get the house and alimony... :)

    Just kidding again...
  19. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides Supporting Member

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    Did you make them an offer they couldn't refuse?
    unbrokenchain likes this.
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