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Junior WrightJan 26, 2010 4:43 PM GMT
I have an old-standby harmonica I bought at a junk shop. It has a 6 pointed star on the top cover. I've been told it should have a 6 pointed star on the bottom cover in the circle between the two hands, if it is really pre-war vintage. Is that correct?
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That is absolutely correct and the engraving is often very deep. Those pre-WWII models play far better than the Chinese Sp20 knockoff they've been making since 1990.
crap, I thought I had the real thing.
Don't some have just a 5 pointed star?
this one is stamped "made in Germany". does that make it older?
at this point so what. I don't mean to be sarcastic, just it's still a cool harp.
How does this harp plays and feels? I've heard prewar harps had the great quality. It's almost impossible to try one here in Russia.
Pre-WWII harps, by comparison, are like night and day. The original Old Standby was like the Marine Band, made in Germany,with a different cover plate, but it's design gave it a distinctively different sound, and on higher pitched harps, mellowed the tone out some and it was the real favorite of the 2nd Sonny Boy Williamson and Junior Parker. The last production year was 1989-90 and from then on, it was a cheap, cheesy Sp20 knockoff made in China. The Old Standby was also Charlie McCoy's favorite for years until he switched to Sp20's.
Junior, what do you mean you thought you had the real thing, man? You have a real old standby? Wood comb, right? The Old Old Standby is one of my favorites. There is not necessarily a lot of difference between prewar and postwar on those. Some of the best Hohner harmonicas I ever owned were old Standbys like yours from the 1970s, maybe early 1980s. You can't buy those anymore. They don't make them anymore. You've got a nice harmonica.
I have never been a Marine Band fan. However I have gotten ahold of a few of the harps with star of david on the back cover, and the metal seams like a hole other animal, pun intended. More springy, They were not in pristine condition, but after a little working over, I am getting to love these harps, I think you will to, It's like playing with a time machine.
The brass that was used in pre-WWII Hohners, known as bell metal brass, has been out of production since just prior to WWII. It was a softer, but stronger brass made by a few small brass factories, all of which have shut down since that time. There are as many as 500 different grades of brass, and better than half of them have been out of production since prior to WWII and no harmonica factory uses the kind of amounts needed for the companies that are left to make it worth their while to continue making it, and it's too bad that every harp manufacturer didn't have the foresight to own their own brass factories, much like what the Zildjian cymbol company does so that they could have very tight quality control of what they have, but since they have to buy them in sheets and each sheet is cut into millions of reeds, they don't have that kind of power to control things because they can't buy enough at any single time that would allow them to dictate things. The average door knob manufacturer is buying easily ten times more brass than a harmonica company as large as Hohner is buying.
Here's my prewar Old Standby in G. This one is really clean and shows no sign of use. I'm too scared to play it. There's no moisture marks on the comb. I have not cleaned it in any way except for wiping the cover plates after I put fingerprints on them.