Hi everyone. I am sorry if I have the wrong place for my type of questions, but I am looking for information on what I believe is an old guitar and am not having a lot of luck on the internet. This is one of the only sites I saw mention of it.
My husband recently obtained some older guitars from his grandfather. Unfortunately, there is no one left to give us any information about them, other then they were his grandfather's and have been stored in the basement for the last 25 years after he passed away.
The first guitar is a Hensel Minerva guitar (Hensel Minerva is carved into the head stock) and has a sticker inside that says
The R.S. Williams
& Sons Co. Ltd.
About the only information I can find is that the R.S. Williams company made guitars in Toronto up until the late 1920's.
My apologies, but I don't know much about guitars. I called a local place in town and they will do an appraisal for me for about $25. If the guitar is worthless, then I don't want to bother taking it in. (My husband will keep it for sentimental reasons of course.) I am not looking for a dollar figure, just for an idea of how old and what kind of shape it is in. Is it worth taking it in for a $25 appraisal? There are no cracks in it and seems to be in good shape.
I would love it if some one could give me some information and a idea of what kind of shape it is in. I can post more photos if anyone wants.
The second guitar is about the same vintage but not in as good shape with no markings to tell who made it other then a number printed inside. I can post a few pictures if anyone is interested.
Jo-Ann (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
Jo-Ann, it's hard to answer your questions without the guitar in hand. It's got 1950s-early 60s written all over it (screwed on pickguard, sunburst finish), but I could be way wrong. Hand made can be a pretty meaningless term, but who knows? I've been a guitar geek my whole life, and I've never heard of that name (I'm 52). My opinion is keep the $25. I'd only trust a few places for a paid appraisal (Gruhn's in Nashville or Gryphon Stringed instruments in Palo Alto, Ca.)
I'm not sure, Jo-Ann, but I think this is a harmony made guitar that was branded as a Minerva and sold through the R.S Williams & Son company. The guitar looks like a harmony from the '50-'60 and this was something that harmony did a lot of. There is a site that specifically tracks these "Harmony" guitars but it's down for a total overhaul at the moment so I can't check up on it.
I agree with Christian, I would save the $25 too. In my opinion, it's not a high value guitar which is neither here nor there when you consider the personal value it holds for your husband.
I recall a long thread about these some years ago. They were really basic Harmony-made guitars (Chicago) where the headstock lettering was carved in relief by someone in Toronto. I don't think R. S. Williams really ever made anything, they just marketed things made by others. My guess is that Tonk Brothers in Chicago sourced them for WIlliams, as they look to be somewhat of a hybrid item.
Paul et al, I am not sure were the Harmony/Chicago connection came from, but from what I have read, and know about Canadian Luthierie, this is a Canadian made guitar. Hensel made several models, all with the odd bas relief headstocks. Here is a blurb off of Mark Stutman's FOLKWAYS guitar site:
"Far and away the best kept secret in vintage guitars are the instruments built for Toronto-based R.S. Williams & Co. by the enigmatic Canadian builder Arthur Hensel during the 1920's though 1940's. We really know very little about Hensel, but come across his instruments semi-regularly around here. As a Canadian builder, Hensel's guitars have really not garnered much attention in the vintage guitar world; but that's a good thing in our books - and Hensel branded instruments continue to fall on the affordable side of the price spectrum. This one, like most Hensels, is an X-braced 12 fretter, built of solid Canadian Spruce and Maple. It has a big mahogany neck, Brazilian rosewood fingerboard and bridge, bound body and neck, screwed-on pickguard, cool sunburst finish, and Hensel's idiosyncratic bas-relief carved headstock face. A good sounding guitar thanks to it's X bracing, the tone of this guitar is warm, rich, and unrefined. "
Off of another site " Arthur Hensel was Toronto-based small-scale manufacturer of upper-mid grade department store instruments in the 1920's through 1940's. Also made Reliance resonators."
I have had several of these guitars come through me shops over the years, and all the stories are about Hensel building these in or around Toronto.
Paul, if you could pull that article up that you mentioned, I would love to read it.
Jo Anne, next time I am in Calgary, I'd love to stop by and see it. You should bring it the The Acoustic Guitar Store their and let the owner of the shop tell you about it. As far as I know, it is a fairly rare piece of Canadiana, and come up for sale so rarely, that it is hard to put a $ value on them.
It is possible that our own "John" here on this site will pop in . He has worked on/seen quite a few in Winnipeg, if I remember correctly...
I have had a few in my shop and also had one that I did all over .Hensel was indeed a builder from Tronto Ont, and sold his Insturments through two Catalog Companys .The best of them sell for around 1000 dolars. Around hear they are in fair demand. The guys at Folkway music store think they are the next best thing to sliced bread.Hensel built A mandolins ,Parlor Guitars, Dobros and mediem size Guitars. Bill.............
Thank you for the name of a reputable place here to take it too. I will try and get it in there.
This is the only article I could find about these guitars
And photos seem to be even harder to find. The few that I have seen seem to have Artist carved in the top as opposed to Hensel like ours. However, like the article you posted above, it does have the pickguard screwed in.
You are more then welcome to pop in and see it.... I am embarrassed to say that when we first brought it home, I had no idea it was old, let alone rare....
I've got 2 of these in my shop right now, they're great instruments. One sat on a basement floor for far too long and almost every brace on the inside was loose. The back had to come off the neck had to be reset the bridgeplate needed to be replaced and the bridge reglued. I've seen these guitars go for $1000 to $2000 and as little as $100.
The biggest problem with these guitars is misinformation and the best place for appraisal is Folkway in Guelph. Having said that we still don't know much about Arthur Hensel and sons. I have a bunch of pictures of the inside of the one I'm working on there are some interesting details. I'll post them if anyones interested .......oh yea and everything Kerry said
John, the chances of me running into one of these in Southern California is pretty small but I would be interested in your pictures.
I'll find them for you Ned and post them tomorrow.
John, I AM interested in pics of the insides!
I too would be interested to see these photos!