My birthyear guitar, two years in

LGOberean

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Today marks the second anniversary of my acquisition of my birthyear guitar.

The honeymoon isn’t over. I just came back a week ago from a camping trip, and the one guitar I took on the road with me was birthyear guitar. And at home I often play it on the back deck afternoons/evenings.

And in my office/study/music room/man cave, this guitar is usually where it is now, on a guitar stand positioned behind me as I sit at my desk.

I’ll share details about both the guitar and its acquisition, but let me just start by sharing a bunch of pics. And about these pics, they were taken the same day I bought the guitar, on a camping trip in Georgia. So the guitar in its case is sitting on the couch in our RV trailer (a 22-footer bought in 2019), on a rainy evening. (Sorry for the background clutter, but there’s not a lot of unspoken for storage space in our trailer.)

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LGOberean

Doctor of Teleocity
Joined
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Background and details, Part One…

The backstory to my search for my birthyear guitar goes back to…well, my birth year, in one sense, but I won’t take you back that far, beyond stating the year itself, 1953. However, the story can scarcely be properly understood without going back to 1967, for at least one detail: the summer of ’67 is when I learned to play. And the guitar I learned to play on was my Dad’s guitar, a mid-1960s vintage Harmony Archtone H1213.

I don’t know whatever became of that guitar. Dad died young, in 1989, so he can’t solve the mystery. Mom’s 90 now, and is having some memory issues, so she can’t tell me what happened to that guitar. My younger brother, who also played that guitar, died last September, but we had talked about that guitar on more than one occasion before he died, and he didn’t know, either.

At any rate, for many years I have been been sentimental about that old Harmony archtop, and thought many times about trying to find one just like it. But for years, the trifecta of factors—guitar condition, guitar price and timing of availability—never lined up right for me.

The pics below were taken in 1973, the last time—or one of the last times—I ever played it.

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LGOberean

Doctor of Teleocity
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Background and details, Part Deux…

Then early in 2020 I read here on TDPRI someone’s reference to a birthyear guitar, and I realized I could possibly kill two birds with one stone. So I changed my search parameters: it still had to be an old MiC (Made in Chicago) Harmony brand, and one of their archtop models (they made a bunch of ‘em) and in playable condition.

So I went from looking specifically at a ‘60s vintage Harmony Archtone H1213 to searching through a variety of online ads for Harmony archtop models advertised as made in the ‘50s.

And I found a guy selling a Harmony archtop model, the Broadway H954. The Broadway model was several rungs up the ladder from the entry level Archtone model I learned on in the summer of ’67. The model upgrade was cool with me, but even so, the more important aspect to me was when the guitar was made.

The seller had it listed on both eBay and on Reverb, and he was advertising it as probably from the ‘50s. Just by looking at the pics could tell it was probably a ‘50s vintage (the headstock gave it away, more on that later). I went through eBay communicating with him, asking a bunch of questions about condition and playability.

But I also asked about the date stamp. He said it was faint, but it looked like it read “F-53.” (The meaning of that “F” portion of the date stamp is debated, but the “53” part definitely referred to 1953. The seller didn’t know it at the time, but since I was hoping to score a birthyear guitar, that was exactly what I was hoping to hear.

I noticed the seller was from Athens, Georgia. My wife and I were already planning to take a camping trip, and our route took us through Georgia, so there wasn’t much of a detour for us to go pick it up personally, which he agreed to. And the day I picked it up was May 18, 2020, two years ago today.

Now as for the guitar’s specs, here’s what I can tell you. The headstock has a logo that reads “Harmony Broadway,” and it’s the older logo. In the very early ‘60s, the logo was changed. There is no mention of “Steel reinforced neck,” so it has no truss rod or reinforcement. The tuning machines are open gear and pretty stiff, but they’re original, so as long as they continue to work, I’m not going to change them.

And the neck is as thick as a baseball bat, typical of the days when guitars didn’t have truss rods. Speaking of the neck, I’m not 100% sure of the neck wood, but the ’57 Harmony catalog refers to the fretboard as “ebonized maple,” and it looks like the neck is a 1-piece.

The body is Harmony’s “Auditorium” size (15-3/4” x 40-3/4”), and like a lot of old Harmony archtop guitars, is solid birch, with a two-tone sunburst (black with a faux spruce grain). The arched top is bound “Inlaid with black-and-white block design,” and has two f-holes, a wooden adjustable bridge and a trapeze tailpiece.

It also has a celluloid pickguard, which came originally with a printed design on it. That design was faded when I got the guitar, but you can see it in the previously posted pics. Sadly, with my acidic body chemistry, I wore it completely off in just a couple of months.

Okay, there’s the backstory and specs. I’ve alluded to a case, that came with it, a very nice hard shell case for an archtop. Oh, and the total price for guitar and case was $380. I consider that a great price, a real bargain for a guitar that I will keep as my birthyear guitar.

As I mentioned, I picked this up on a camping trip, and have taken it on several camping trips since. So I’ll conclude this post with pics from camping trips.

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telleutelleme

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Thanks for sharing. Great story and beautiful guitar.

I have my eyes open for a 1947 Gibson L7-S. That would be my birth guitar. They are a bit pricey but hoping one will show up in my price range.
 

LGOberean

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Thanks for sharing. Great story and beautiful guitar.

I have my eyes open for a 1947 Gibson L7-S. That would be my birth guitar. They are a bit pricey but hoping one will show up in my price range.

Yeah, that sounds like i would be a very cool acquisition, but one that would cost you some serious coin.
 

Gsweng

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Fort Wayne, IN
Background and details, Part Deux…

Then early in 2020 I read here on TDPRI someone’s reference to a birthyear guitar, and I realized I could possibly kill two birds with one stone. So I changed my search parameters: it still had to be an old MiC (Made in Chicago) Harmony brand, and one of their archtop models (they made a bunch of ‘em) and in playable condition.

So I went from looking specifically at a ‘60s vintage Harmony Archtone H1213 to searching through a variety of online ads for Harmony archtop models advertised as made in the ‘50s.

And I found a guy selling a Harmony archtop model, the Broadway H954. The Broadway model was several rungs up the ladder from the entry level Archtone model I learned on in the summer of ’67. The model upgrade was cool with me, but even so, the more important aspect to me was when the guitar was made.

The seller had it listed on both eBay and on Reverb, and he was advertising it as probably from the ‘50s. Just by looking at the pics could tell it was probably a ‘50s vintage (the headstock gave it away, more on that later). I went through eBay communicating with him, asking a bunch of questions about condition and playability.

But I also asked about the date stamp. He said it was faint, but it looked like it read “F-53.” (The meaning of that “F” portion of the date stamp is debated, but the “53” part definitely referred to 1953. The seller didn’t know it at the time, but since I was hoping to score a birthyear guitar, that was exactly what I was hoping to hear.

I noticed the seller was from Athens, Georgia. My wife and I were already planning to take a camping trip, and our route took us through Georgia, so there wasn’t much of a detour for us to go pick it up personally, which he agreed to. And the day I picked it up was May 18, 2020, two years ago today.

Now as for the guitar’s specs, here’s what I can tell you. The headstock has a logo that reads “Harmony Broadway,” and it’s the older logo. In the very early ‘60s, the logo was changed. There is no mention of “Steel reinforced neck,” so it has no truss rod or reinforcement. The tuning machines are open gear and pretty stiff, but they’re original, so as long as they continue to work, I’m not going to change them.

And the neck is as thick as a baseball bat, typical of the days when guitars didn’t have truss rods. Speaking of the neck, I’m not 100% sure of the neck wood, but the ’57 Harmony catalog refers to the fretboard as “ebonized maple,” and it looks like the neck is a 1-piece.

The body is Harmony’s “Auditorium” size (15-3/4” x 40-3/4”), and like a lot of old Harmony archtop guitars, is solid birch, with a two-tone sunburst (black with a faux spruce grain). The arched top is bound “Inlaid with black-and-white block design,” and has two f-holes, a wooden adjustable bridge and a trapeze tailpiece.

It also has a celluloid pickguard, which came originally with a printed design on it. That design was faded when I got the guitar, but you can see it in the previously posted pics. Sadly, with my acidic body chemistry, I wore it completely off in just a couple of months.

Okay, there’s the backstory and specs. I’ve alluded to a case, that came with it, a very nice hard shell case for an archtop. Oh, and the total price for guitar and case was $380. I consider that a great price, a real bargain for a guitar that I will keep as my birthyear guitar.

As I mentioned, I picked this up on a camping trip, and have taken it on several camping trips since. So I’ll conclude this post with pics from camping trips.

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Larry, are you sure that’s a birthday guitar? You look much older than that guitar. Ha!
 

Recce

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Great story f your birth year guitar.
I just recently saw a 56 Martin D-28 my birth year. I will most likely pass because it is too pricey.
 

String Tree

Doctor of Teleocity
Joined
Dec 8, 2010
Posts
18,120
Location
Up North
Background and details, Part Deux…

Then early in 2020 I read here on TDPRI someone’s reference to a birthyear guitar, and I realized I could possibly kill two birds with one stone. So I changed my search parameters: it still had to be an old MiC (Made in Chicago) Harmony brand, and one of their archtop models (they made a bunch of ‘em) and in playable condition.

So I went from looking specifically at a ‘60s vintage Harmony Archtone H1213 to searching through a variety of online ads for Harmony archtop models advertised as made in the ‘50s.

And I found a guy selling a Harmony archtop model, the Broadway H954. The Broadway model was several rungs up the ladder from the entry level Archtone model I learned on in the summer of ’67. The model upgrade was cool with me, but even so, the more important aspect to me was when the guitar was made.

The seller had it listed on both eBay and on Reverb, and he was advertising it as probably from the ‘50s. Just by looking at the pics could tell it was probably a ‘50s vintage (the headstock gave it away, more on that later). I went through eBay communicating with him, asking a bunch of questions about condition and playability.

But I also asked about the date stamp. He said it was faint, but it looked like it read “F-53.” (The meaning of that “F” portion of the date stamp is debated, but the “53” part definitely referred to 1953. The seller didn’t know it at the time, but since I was hoping to score a birthyear guitar, that was exactly what I was hoping to hear.

I noticed the seller was from Athens, Georgia. My wife and I were already planning to take a camping trip, and our route took us through Georgia, so there wasn’t much of a detour for us to go pick it up personally, which he agreed to. And the day I picked it up was May 18, 2020, two years ago today.

Now as for the guitar’s specs, here’s what I can tell you. The headstock has a logo that reads “Harmony Broadway,” and it’s the older logo. In the very early ‘60s, the logo was changed. There is no mention of “Steel reinforced neck,” so it has no truss rod or reinforcement. The tuning machines are open gear and pretty stiff, but they’re original, so as long as they continue to work, I’m not going to change them.

And the neck is as thick as a baseball bat, typical of the days when guitars didn’t have truss rods. Speaking of the neck, I’m not 100% sure of the neck wood, but the ’57 Harmony catalog refers to the fretboard as “ebonized maple,” and it looks like the neck is a 1-piece.

The body is Harmony’s “Auditorium” size (15-3/4” x 40-3/4”), and like a lot of old Harmony archtop guitars, is solid birch, with a two-tone sunburst (black with a faux spruce grain). The arched top is bound “Inlaid with black-and-white block design,” and has two f-holes, a wooden adjustable bridge and a trapeze tailpiece.

It also has a celluloid pickguard, which came originally with a printed design on it. That design was faded when I got the guitar, but you can see it in the previously posted pics. Sadly, with my acidic body chemistry, I wore it completely off in just a couple of months.

Okay, there’s the backstory and specs. I’ve alluded to a case, that came with it, a very nice hard shell case for an archtop. Oh, and the total price for guitar and case was $380. I consider that a great price, a real bargain for a guitar that I will keep as my birthyear guitar.

As I mentioned, I picked this up on a camping trip, and have taken it on several camping trips since. So I’ll conclude this post with pics from camping trips.

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That is one Right Nice Guitar you have there.
Congrats and, Enjoy!
 

Geoff738

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Thanks Larry. Great story. It’s my birthday in about an hour. Not looking for a birth year guitar. That’d be a 64. And I have a 65 and a 61 so close enough. But a birthday guitar? Will try to avoid the GAS.

Cheers,
Geoff
 

LGOberean

Doctor of Teleocity
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Location
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Larry, are you sure that’s a birthday guitar? You look much older than that guitar. Ha!

No question, Greg. There is no question that it's my birthyear guitar...and there's no question that it's aged more gracefully than me.

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Thanks Larry. Great story. It’s my birthday in about an hour. Not looking for a birth year guitar. That’d be a 64. And I have a 65 and a 61 so close enough. But a birthday guitar? Will try to avoid the GAS.

Cheers,
Geoff

And good luck with that, Geoff.
 




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