One vivid childhood memory is the musty, sweet stench of the dilapidated, orange felt case that held my great-grandfather's acoustic guitar. When I was 12 and showing promise as a young guitarist, my mom passed it along to me. Although not a daily player anymore, it is one of very few possessions that I truly enjoy. It gives me great joy knowing I have something handed down from the generations that can be enjoyed, preserved, and kept in the family as part of our heritage. This instrument is also the oldest functioning heirloom I have and probably the most manly. Let's have a look at the importance, history, and preservation of this fine instrument.
Fine is Subjective
OK. This is not the most sought after pre-WWII acoustic. In fact, you would not see it on any top 100 lists. You may see it at swap meets such as the big one in Kalamazoo once a year. There is something to be said when it's part of family history and tradition. The emotional value of the instrument is therefore priceless. If you find an acoustic passed down through the generations of your own family, I highly encourage seeking out a professional in restoration. Even if it looks to be in pretty bad shape, it could be well within reach of redemption.
I am not entirely sure what the value of this particular Harmony acoustic. To me, it is priceless and will never be sold our auctioned off if I have anything to do with it. In fact, I will go through great measures to make sure it winds up in the right hands.
The dollar value is an important part of determining an instrument's worth but there are a few more factors to consider. In my humble opinion, there are emotional and spiritual elements to consider as well as the physical enjoyment when playing an instrument.
When considering all those elements, this sets the price of my Harmony Archtop as astronomical - even with the difficult, high action and poorly designed sound holes. :-)
When History is Harmony
Harmony's database is vast and deep. I haven't yet identified the exact model of this Monterey but have photographic evidence is was manufactured between 1938-40. It could be a derivative of a H1320 model. The defining characteristics of this acoustic is the archtop, wine-red sunburst, and spruce top. I have the original pick guard but it's been removed since an initial, non-intrusive, preservation attempt about 20 years ago (precision humidity and chip protection.)
I bet you there is someone out there that could appropriately age and identify the model. I do believe it is important to do so eventually. Mostly, I just love knowing it's age and approximate heritage as a pre-WWII Monterey model.
Hopefully, the pics [below] give you an idea on the defining characteristics, especially the archtop. This particular model was well loved and well played.
Norwegian Wood Preservation
Poor attempt at a Beatles reference. I have no idea where the wood for this guitar originated.
I go back and forth on what to full preserve and what to stop the aging process. It's a very hard thing to balance. The integrity of the instrument is at stake. Currently, I am thinking that the best course of action is to keep it from deteriorating as opposed to completely refurbishing.
We accomplish this through proper temperature and humidification settings, routinely checking the nut and bridge for signs of stress, and keeping it properly strung with reduced tension. Of course, it must be in a case for additional protection from dust, dings and dogs. :-)
Emotional, Spiritual, Physical
There are three realms surrounding us at all times. This might sound a little weird but humans connect emotionally, spiritually and physically with just about everything we do. Good or bad. Music is especially emotional and spiritual. When we combine the physical nature of an instrument, whether we play or listen to it, we get the 3D effect of the full, natural realm. In a small way, this embodies the entire human experience.
In the case of my Harmony acoustic, it has been there to play songs of joy, comfort in times of sorrow, and inspiration in times of deep thought and practice. It's given three generations the ability to be expressive in musical form, and many more to come.
This guitar is more than a musical instrument. It's a generational tool that binds us together. It's priceless, historical, and delicate. It is the highest, non-human form of worth.
There's No Place Like Home
As the digital age progresses and the value of our possessions have shorter life spans, it is all the more important for us to find, preserve and enjoy the beautiful things of the past. We can connect, remember and be inspired by items such as old instruments. Things like these are temporary and we can't take them with us when our bodies expire. However, they do provide a personal lineage of where we have come from and where we can go. In the end, it is the simple things we remember most and make the largest imprint on our souls. Find yours and hold on to it with appreciation and not too tight of a grip.
All the best, jerry