Can anyone here recommend any resources or reading materials for accurately determining the age and approximate value of older, pre war Washburn acoustic guitars? The guitar in question, in this case, is a parlor sized Washburn model A 5991. The serial number, stamped on the neck block, is 3991. A woman brought this guitar to me to be fixed up, and she wanted me to find out as much about it as I could. It's been in her family for years, and, from the looks of it, in a fairly hot and dry attic for most of that time. From what I read in the blue book, Washburn used this particular 4 digit serial number format from the early 30's and mid 40's, but they didn't offer any particular information on specific models from that time period. Hopefully, some of you guys are familiar with these guitars. Will post pics if you'd like to see them.
I apologize for any typos or weird phrasing; I'm typing this on my phone.

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Excellent, thanks much for your help Paul!!

I've got to get my hands on a copy of that Washburn book. I really don't know much about vintage Washburn guitars. I had a beautiful one come in the shop this week and I'm hoping someone (Paul Breen) can help me put a date on it, and maybe a rough value. I've never seen a Washburn decorated so elaborately. I can't make out the Style number. The serial number is 81243. It appears to be all original except for one repair on the soundboard seem, done fairly well. Unfortunately I didn't take a picture of the whole body, for some reason, sorry.

That's the early round label, used until 1905.  It could be a Style 299 from from the first years of the 20th century.  Has pretty good value, since they're pretty rare.  Tom 

thank you

The Pleijsier Hubert book is a must have if your into old Washburns. There is some great information in there and many images from old catalogs that include guitars, mandolins and banjos.

There is a catalog page in the book with this instrument. The guitar images you posted are of a top of the line model, a style 299, which is a concert size instrument. Sister top of the line instruments would have been the 199, standard size and the 399, which is their grand concert size. The 299 sold new for $135, a lot of money back then. The 399 sold for $10 more and the 199, $10 less.

The guitar is easy to date from the burned in stamp next to the Washburn belt logo. If it was all there it would read, style 1896. They only used the stamp in 1896, changed to style 1897 the following year and used that up until 1905. The serial number 81,243, by itself, can only date the instrument between 1889 and 1897 but the style 1896 stamp nails the date.

The new model stamp began around 1886 and was used up until 1905. The round White label was used from 1896 - 1905 and the belt logo was used from 1883/4 until 1922.

Can't help you with value but would recommend getting an appraisal from George Gruhn.  There can't be many of these top end models out there and this example appears to be in very fine condition. I suspect an appraisal would make a little zinging sound like you hear on Antiques Road show when they give a good number.

Thank you Paul, this is very helpful. I was confused by the belt logo, I thought maybe it was saying the style was 1896 rather than 299.

I think we will definitely be contacting the Gruhn shop.

Thanks again, I really appreciate it

Your welcome John. I really enjoyed seeing the images you posted, looks like a wonderful example. It may be fun to contact Pleijsier Hubert, he may like to include images of this guitar if he is planning on printing another addition of his book.

Can anyone give me some information on this one. SN 9476. And value? Thanks.

Where was the serial number? Stamped numbers inside of the guitar began about 1887. If it was on top of the headstock, then there should also be a model or style stamp. Serial numbers without an "A" prefix (which would be on a Washburn label) where around 10,000 by 1888/89. Very hard to make out the small paper label in the image but it appears to be a retailer's label.

The bridge is modified or replaced, it has a compensated saddle. Has it been re-braced as well? Rosewood bridges and no dot markers in the fingerboard would range from 1883/4 - 1889. You don't show the entire fingerboard but I don't see any markers at 12, 10 or 9. Hard to tell for sure but the neck heel appears to be the enlarged version that was changed from a smaller, lower version. This change happened in 1887. The New Model stamp was used from 1886/7 - 1905. From what can be seen in your images, I would date your guitar to 1887.

Re-finishes tend to hurt value but may appeal to a player. Not an appraiser though, so I can only guess.

Thanks Paul,

The serial number is inside on the neck block. No fretboard markers. The previous owner told me at was 1904.

I love old Washburn's and have been restoring them for a few years now (I've got about 10 in the shop in line for work) I'd guess this to be an earlier Washburn and agree with Paul's dating. The small label inside does appear to be a vendor label, I can make out a Capital W on the top line, 25 Union... in the middle and New York on the bottom line.

I'd further suggest that the "2" stamp on the brace might indicate a size 2 guitar, an earlier model identification before they went to the 100, 200 300 etc designations. I'm currently restoring an Auditorium Model (size 4) from the same era. Here's a shot of the heel from that guitar and I have to say, it looks similar in size. I do have a solid head Washburn from the 1880s that has an even smaller heel yet.

While this guitar clearly has been modified (and I also agree it has been refinished) the work looks like very good quality and it appears that the guitar is steel strung and doesn't look to be excessively stressed. The flattened pyramid bridge looks to be an excellent reproduction.  I've strung up ladder braced Washburn's with extra light gauge strings with very good results assuming everything is solid.

RE value, the asking price of Washburn's is all over the place these days. I'm not a professional appraiser, but based on several similar sized and similar era guitars I have sold over the past few years, assuming it's ladder braced, I'd guess between 1,000 and 1,500 in terms of street value (what you'd pay on Ebay or Reverb, not a music store).  I'm regularly buying guitars like this for anywhere between 250 and 500 in rough shape.  I've seen excellent original versions of guitars like this go for between 800 and 1400 if condition is very good, but that's a rarity and prices have been fluctuating a lot recently. If it's originally X braced (as some Washburn's are) the value would go up.



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