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rare circa 1930's Harmony made 'Marwin No. 1' archtop guitar
This is an auction for a rare early example of a mid 1930's Harmony made Marwin 'No. 1'. This was a top of the line guitar at the time that Harmony produced for sale through the Tonk Brothers music distribution catalogs. The Chicago based Tonk Bros music was the 'Musician's Friend of its day' who aggregated many different manufacturers products under their own umbrella catalog and was the largest seller of musical instruments in the US at the time. They also bought and sold a few small but well known guitar brands and companies in their time. While they did not have their own factory making instruments per se, they did employe a large variety of manufacturers to make their own in house brands and musical supplies. They were a place you could not only buy a guitar from, but a case, a pitch pipe, a strap, lesson books, a capo, etc. Some of these guitar brands like the Marwin name were made for them by companies like Harmony, Kay, Regal, Gibson, Lyon & Healy, Washburn, the Larson Brothers, and many others. You can click here to get a look at what one of their catalogs looked like back in the day to get an idea of what they sold (from a banjo uke collector website...).
Not much is known on the Marwin brand other than it came on the scene in the 30's and was out by the 50's it seems. It looks like it was the Tonk Brothers intermediate to advanced archtop line, and it appears that most of the line was made by Harmony but some examples of other manufacturers as well. This is only the second Marwin 'No. 1' model I have ever seen. And I owned that other one as well! You can click here to see the photos of that other Marwin No. 1 here and on this great Harmony website. Background look familiar? Yes, that used to be mine and those are my photos from a couple of years ago!
The Marwin 'No. 1' is basically a reappointed higher end variation of the 'Monterey' H1327 model archtop guitar but, it is different in a couple of crucial ways. It has a spruce top (some Monterey's had birch), it has the unusual larger 'tulip shaped' headstock with its lovely floral stencil border that you can see (very Art Deco!), but also has a double wide herringbone trim on top and cream binding on the back. Wow! Plus what I would call one of the most gorgeous finishes I have seen on any Harmony period. What a great package. This is an odd very early example without a date stamp or serial number printed inside, but it has the angular metal buttoned Kluson tuners that certainly date it to the mid-30's era and are certainly pre-War. What a rare bird! This is one of the earliest Harmony Monterey (or Marwin variant) archtop guitars I ever had the pleasure to own (and I sold another early Monterey at the beginning of the year) and it is from a time when these Monterey style seem to vary quite a bit in terms of construction, cosmetics, and features (look ...here is the closest Harmony branded one I could find on the web...). It is of an odd era the possibly pre-dates the Harmony name on it entirely. Supertone and Harmony guitars sort of overlap in this period, and changed things up a lot. Pretty unusual to say the least.
I really cannot say enough good things about its performance and tone. Wow! It is a real head turner. And after all the work that has been put into it, it practically plays itself. And is one of the best sounding Harmony's I have had in recent memory. The sound clips below do not lie, give them a listen and you will see what I mean. I have had this one for the last year or so around the house and I am very sad to see it go, but I simply cannot hold onto everything I get these days. I would need an airplane hanger or something, I guess. And I am sure I would fill it if I could. But I will miss this one. I really hope this goes to a good home. It is a great instrument sure to provide several decades of solid use without worry.
This one came to me from the collection of a luthier who specializes in high end string instrument repair. He does work for musicians who play world class classical instruments (classical guitars, cellos, and mostly violins) that might cost as much as house, so it was a shock to to see this in his shop hanging around. He has shown to have a great eye for early pre-War Harmony guitars, and I have had more than a few from him in the last year or so. The last early Monterey came from him, too! But, you can tell by the 'grade A' work that he put into it that this level of attention was because he was making it into a perfectly playing guitar for himself. He did about the equivalent of $500 worth of work from your ordinary luthier shop, but I would hate to hear what he'd charge if I asked to actually do it again. He did everything it needed including a complete neck reset, partial fingerboard planing (to make the fingerboard perfectly straight), straightening out the fingerboard extension, a pro crack repair to the top and then finally he put an amazing low action setup that might be as good as any guitar can get. Honestly, the intonation, fretting, and setup on the instrument are about as good as you can ever hope for on any archtop, no matter who made it! The guitar is now totally issue free, and ready to hit the ground running.
As I mentioned, the setup on it is killer. It does not have a dead spot to speak of, but is easy to fret all the way up the neck. The action is lower than most, and feels great to play. It could go lower, too! There is plenty of height on the original Brazilian Rosewood bridge left to go down. It is effortless to play now though. To say the least. I took a photo of the string height on the low E at the 12th fret to demonstrate this for your own eyes to see. Check the photos. Also in there is a shot of the nut width, which is large like most 30's guitars are. The neck on this is totally phenomenally huge with a firm rounded V shape that is quite a handful. Is the Fender Duo Sonic your favorite electric? Well, this guitar might not be for you. Seriously, it is close to my favorite style out there. It is a great neck that I wish was on every guitar I own! It gets real beefy up where it joins the neck, too. It has a maple or birch neck with some faux flame to it. The original Brazilian Rosewood fingerboard is lovely and one of the most dark grained ones I have seen lately! It has the old style pattern of abalone pearl dots in the 1/2/1/2 configuration up the neck. The tuners are original as I mentioned, some of the most rare Kluson ones out there! I own one other guitar loaded with them, and it is a super rare metal body Supertone lap steel. Talk about rare! They work great and stay in tune very well. Take a good look at them, it might be a while before you see them again. Wow! Check the photos for their condition. The buttons have a little tarnishing, but not very much. They are in good shape overall. It also has all the original frets are in good shape. They have a little bit of corrosion to them up high. The herringbone and and binding on the guitar look great. The original pickguard on this one is long gone before it was rehabbed, but it looks great without it as well. It has its original Kluson made tailpiece and celluloid end pin, as well as its original bone nut. It is in great shape overall The finish sure shines!
Yes! Talk about shiny. The finish on this guitar is in amazing condition and is in very reflective and vibrant shape. You can see it has been played, but taken very well care off. The original amber red to dark black sunburst nitro cellulose finish still has a great luster and is almost mirror like to its appearance. It has not been buffed out at all. That is remarkable and original. I love the sunburst color on the top, it is so gorgeous how it fades over the spruce. It has a faux flame finish on its back and sides like Harmony did at this point. There are some very subtle and slight nicks and finish checks you can see, but it is in clean shape overall. Not what you'd expect from a guitar that would collect a social security check if it was a person. The crack repair on the top is almost invisible, the sign of a truly talented repair person. It looks to have been played but lovingly cared for over the years of its life. I guess the word 'babied' comes to mind. Check the photos for its condition and you will see what I mean. All in all, it is a very clean original guitar for being 70+ years old!
I was really blown away by the tone on this guitar the first time I picked it up. Talk about volume! I have had a lot of Harmony guitars (well over 300 at this point!), but this one had a real Gibson like refined quality I have not seen in many Harmony guitars from this time. It has plenty of acoustic volume and authority, but it also sounds great for mellow and subtle playing. But it can bark, too! Oh, man can it! It has a round and robust tone that is great as a solo instrument, but also more of a cannon like punch for lead playing as you can hear. It is very snappy and bright when you pick down by the bridge, too. Perfect for a Swing or Gypsy Jazz tone. Its fingerstyle tone is surprisingly loud and vocal, too. It is a versatile instrument which is a great match to the sort of action and performance it has. That means that you are not fighting the guitar when you are playing it, your playing just flows out like it should and it is sounding great as you do! It is strung with a set of medium gauge phosphor bronze strings that really goose a lot of low end and volume out of the guitar. It is a loud one! Louder than the Gibson L-12 archtop it is sitting next to right now (which is also a 17" guitar...). I know this will make the next owner very happy to have it in their collection. It is a voice perfect for recording, performing, or just sitting around picking out a few tunes with friends.
Harmony guitars! Yes, they are hot nowdays, but I have been on the bandwagon for a long time. As the old photos of the last Marwin show. But, even with all their hype they are one of the least understood American guitar companies. I really love this stuff, which is why I focus on these guitars instead of something else. I have made it my mission to help people get informed about the underdog American makers out there. There are a lot of great resources out there to check out. Get informed. Click here for one of my all time favorite Harmony sites because it is worth at least a few minutes of your time to look over if you haven't and look at all of the wonderfully well document guitars, catalogs, and information there.
Well, here is some audio of me playing it with a medium pick from about three feet away...Sure is loud and lovely!
Here are some more sound files to click on and hear streaming audio, it was fun recording these...
...big juicy single note low end rhythm...
...old school Americana open chords...
...some Depression era jazz strumming...
...faster chords with a Rockabilly style rhythm...
...some Americana style picking on the higher strings...
...listen the big sound on these open tuned chords...
...open chords with fantastic detail...
...more old school riffin' with a blues influence...
...a bit of bare fingerstyle blues with a killer tone...
...some brash swing era chording..
...bright and chimey Americana notes in an open tuning...
...more uptempo swing style chording...
...minor key soulful fingerstyle...
...finally some solo note playing...
This vintage Marwin is quite a find and is sure to light up the eyes of any Harmony collector. It did for me! If I had any more room in my Harmony collection I would hold onto it, but I simply need to move it along to raise some cash for a few still in repair. And make some room! So, off this one goes with a tear! And more to come. It does not include a case, but I have many generic vintage chipboard 50's/60's cases I can include for an additional $20, and new gig bags for $35. Either way, I will make sure it travels safely to you door whether that is in Indiana, Iceland, or Australia. I like to ship abroad and I do it alot. Europe? Japan? 'Down Under'? No problem! Check my feedback and see that I speak the truth. Thanks for reading and good luck bidding!
This guitar is not warrantied in any way due to its condition and age. Bidders be warned. Auction is as is, no returns whatsoever. UPS Ground or Expedited US Postal Service in the USA. I prefer a certified cashiers check from bidders in the US, but take I Paypal as well. Paypal only on international bidders, please email me for your shipping rates oustide the 48 contiental states. Payments must be made or confirmed within 48 hours (unless otherwise stated by me personally) or I move to the next bidder on the list. I hope this goes to a happy home! Please do not bid unless you have the money to buy it and plan on following through with your bid. Don't blame me if you grow warts on your face when you don't pay. Its the spirirts' will, not mine. I know this is not of the majority, so thanks for bearing with me. All sounds, songs, and images are copyrighted material, so pirate them at your own peril. Seriously, I have a team of trained rabid attack dogs that do nothing but cruise the internet looking for interlopers to feed upon. You probably aren't even reading this, but if you are...beware their wrath. Anyways...feel free to ask questions! I am going to be doing some remodeling this week in my home, so there may be a day or two in there that my internet connection is down, but never fear...I will answer your questions as fast as I can. Email me if you want to see any more pictures, I have tons of them that probably did not make it into the massive picture show below because I am nuts about this guitar! Thanks!
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