Wierd Ken Smiths on ebay?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jnuts1, Feb 15, 2019.


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  1. jnuts1

    jnuts1

    Nov 13, 2007
  2. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    That is a very early from maybe 1981 or 1982, maybe earlier.
     
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  3. Brent Nussey

    Brent Nussey

    Jun 27, 2001
    Tokyo, Japan
    I found this ad, and especially the sentence “Could you contact us before buying items? We will check if we have it in stock.” a little weird. Looking at the ebay store, the pictures all seem to be taken in different shops, some of which I think maybe I recognize. So I went on Digimart, a website where instrument shops in Japan advertise, and found the actual shop selling this instrument:

    KenSmith/4String モデル/ビンテージ/¥669600/状態:B+

    Other instruments there are being sold from other shops, such as this:

    Burny RLG Series | eBay

    which is actually from here:

    Burny/RLG Series/中古/¥27864/状態:B+

    a shop in a completely different part of Japan.

    So it seems this shop is advertising as if it has these instruments, when in fact you place your order, they go buy the item, then mark it up. In the case of the Ken Smith, by about 1500 bucks. The other guitar I linked to, the price more than doubled. I guess only you can decide if paying this much for this kind of buying service is worth it. But they sure don’t have any of these items themselves. Just FYI.
     
  4. Ghastly

    Ghastly

    Oct 18, 2015
    Mill Valley
    Seems somehow a little creepy to me.
     
  5. Gigglingbuns

    Gigglingbuns

    Aug 26, 2017
    It does, he's the middleman and so that "contact before you buy" is basically a "let me know if you want to buy it, so I can buy it from the seller and sell it to you", he doesn't hide that he's the middleman in that fashion so it does seem tricky.
     
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  6. mikeoso

    mikeoso Acoustic Curmudgeon

    Feb 14, 2014
    eastern Iowa
    There's a lot of this going on in Japan. You'll find the same Martin listed on eBay by half a dozen sellers. Looks like it's a business model there...kind of retail arbitrage?
     
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  7. Brent Nussey

    Brent Nussey

    Jun 27, 2001
    Tokyo, Japan
    Wow. I suppose it makes some sense, since there are a lot of desirable instruments, and most shops aren't capable of dealing with non-Japanese buyers. It seems like a helluva markup though. I guess if someone will pay it....
     
  8. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    Looking at it again, I think is a super early Smith from the Seventies.
     
  9. It does look like one of the first. I don't think I've ever seen one quite like that.

    He offered me one of the giant brass plate ones used at NAMM back in '84 or '85 for $800 but it looked like the more modern basses with his bridge and pickups IIRC. The brass plate also had more stuff like LEDs. That giant brass plate was already discontinued by then.
     
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  10. mikeoso

    mikeoso Acoustic Curmudgeon

    Feb 14, 2014
    eastern Iowa
    Prices in Japan are way high already. Add in markup for an extra middleman, plus exchange rate, plus trans Pacific shipping...I often see used acoustics offered for twice as much in Japan as new ones in the US.
     
  11. jnuts1

    jnuts1

    Nov 13, 2007
    I've Seen some of the early models with the brass plate but this add just seemed too suspicious. literally zero details
     
  12. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    Why do you say it is not a Ken Smith, after a third look, the bridge pickup is a red flag since I don’t even think double J pickups like that were being made when Smith came on the scene. The plate that is supposed to have big S on the peg head looks suspect too. This could be a Chinese copy of an early Smith, like those Chinese Fodera copies.
     
  13. Brent Nussey

    Brent Nussey

    Jun 27, 2001
    Tokyo, Japan
    Well, I don't know much about these kind of basses, but on the actual dealer's ad I linked to, it says that: This bass was made nearly 40 years ago by Vinnie Fodera, who started out working for Ken Smith, Spector and Steinberger. When the shop expanded, this instrument was found. This instrument was the personal property of Vinnie Fodera, and so there is no doubt that he made it. On the body is labelled La Bella, the current Fodera strings are made by the disciple of Labella's former owner, Richie Coco. The first Fodera preamp was the HAZ, produced by former Mutron engineer and designer of the Mutron 3+, Hank. The pickup was made by sandwiching two pickups together into one.

    This dealer seems to specialize in Foderas, to some degree, so maybe that's why he got it.

    Given this information, I'd think it would be pretty easy to verify its provenance. You could just ask him. Maybe I shouldn't be doing this, though, it's occurred to me that Fodera may have wanted to get rid of this by selling it in Japan, where it would just disappear into a collector's hands forever... Honestly, I think both Fodera and Smith went on to make better basses than this.

    Just for fun, here's another one he's got, somehow connected to the bassist Percy Jones:
    Fodera/パーシージョーンズモデル/ビンテージ/¥756000/状態:B+
     
  14. Brent Nussey

    Brent Nussey

    Jun 27, 2001
    Tokyo, Japan
    So it turns out it was pretty easy to determine what this bass is. I exchanged a couple of emails with Ken Smith, who I met at the ISB convention in Rochester a few years ago. Seems like that ad copy is kind of off the mark.

    According to Ken, this bass is his original prototype, made before his connection with Fodera, he worked with Carl Thompson on it, carving the body and later the neck himself. Made during 1976/77. He used it as his personal bass for years, and then at some point sold it to Labella, who had helped him with things like trade show space and shipping and stuff when he was first starting out. The bass has been altered since then, with the logo and Labella being not original. He also said something about the switches, so maybe the preamp has been altered too? Again, I don’t know much about the history of these instruments. But he said that the first Ken Smith Bass was copied from this bass, and it predates Ken Smith Basses and HAZ.

    So for a collector interested in a piece of bass history, this would be a real cool thing to own. It’s not just a prototype, it’s *the* prototype Smith bass.

    I’m mostly an acoustic bassist, but it was fun learning about this, and the Japanese eBay reseller thing. Thanks to the OP.
     
  15. JonPHLl87

    JonPHLl87

    Dec 14, 2007
    This is the very first Ken Smith that he built with Carl Thompson. Ken carved the neck himself! 1976 or 1977
     
  16. Primary

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