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Post new topic For Sale - 1939 Dobro, a classic that needs a new home.
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Author Topic:  For Sale - 1939 Dobro, a classic that needs a new home.
Michael Douchette


From:
Gallatin, TN
Post  Posted 28 Jul 2020 6:05 pm    
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I'm selling my 1939 Dobro. I shall include here the text of an appraisal letter from George Gruhn dated 7 Jan 2005:

"I have personally inspected the instrument described below.

We certify that the resonator guitar described below is, in our opinion, a student model Dobro brand made by Regal of Chicago under license from Dobro during the late 1930's." (It is stamped inside Nov 1939.)

"Description: No serial number. Typical Dobro resonator with patent number on the cover. This guitar has a Spanish style round neck, but has been set up for Hawaiian style playing. It features a 12 fret slot head neck,Dobro's smaller body size,laminated birch body with wood binding, sunburst top finish with painted on imitation curly maple (?), and dark uniform color finish on the neck, back and sides. It is in excellent condition, but shows evidence of playing wear on the fingerboard indicating that it has been previously played Spanish style. Current market value is $900 (nine hundred dollars).

George Gruhn"

This value was 15 years ago. I'm sure it has gone up since that appraisal. I do not know how much it is actually worth at this point. So, I will ask for $2000, and will trust that someone here will either find that acceptable, or will inform me either way if it should be more or less.

I don't know how to post pictures here, so I can email or text them.

Thank you for your consideration.
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Michael Douchette


From:
Gallatin, TN
Post  Posted 30 Jul 2020 4:19 am    
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No input, suggestions, advice, knowledge from anybody?
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Mikey D... H.S.P.
Music hath the charm to soothe a savage beast, but I'd try a 10mm first.

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Brad Bechtel


From:
San Francisco, CA
Post  Posted 30 Jul 2020 4:41 am    
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Without seeing photos of the instrument in question, I think you may be asking for too much money. Vintage Dobro guitars are not considered collectible in the same way that other vintage guitars are. Building techniques and technology have improved greatly since 1939.

Please contact me if you need help posting your photos. If you send them to me, I’ll be happy to post them here.
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Mark Eaton


From:
Sonoma County in The Great State Of Northern California
Post  Posted 30 Jul 2020 11:39 am    
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Being the Steel Guitar Forum Mikey, since you asked for it, there will be no shortage of advice once we see the photos. Wink

I saw your post late last night and figured when I got up this morning I would offer to take your photos from an email or text and get them posted here, but Brad beat me to it.

Gruhn characterized it as a "student model" in the appraisal, but with all the additional historical information compiled on prewar Dobros over the past 15 years I think in seeing photos we will be able to nail down the actual model. And adding to what Brad wrote, if Gruhn appraised it at $900 in 2005, it's not going to be worth anything close to $2K 15 years later. Things just haven't gone that way with the old Dobros, particularly if it is one of the "student models" from the 1930s.
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Michael Douchette


From:
Gallatin, TN
Post  Posted 31 Jul 2020 7:47 am    
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Thanks, guys. I've been too busy to get back on here. I'll send a pm, Brad, so I can get your email address to send you pics. I appreciate any help with this you can give me.
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Mikey D... H.S.P.
Music hath the charm to soothe a savage beast, but I'd try a 10mm first.

http://www.steelharp.com
http://www.thesessionplayers.com/douchette.html

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Jim Robertson

 

From:
Virginia, USA
Post  Posted 31 Jul 2020 7:55 am    
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Additionally, Chicago Regals from that period, although made with Dobro parts, don’t have the vintage value of branded Dobros. Plus, the Chinese “Regals” have muddied the value waters. I’d check Reverb and eBay “sold” listings to get an idea of current value. I agree that $2K, which would be nice, would also insure that the guitar will remain yours.
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Mark Eaton


From:
Sonoma County in The Great State Of Northern California
Post  Posted 31 Jul 2020 10:39 am    
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Jim,if I'm interpreting the Gruhn appraisal correctly, it has the Dobro decal on the headstock.

Steve Toth wrote in his excellent book Dobro Roots that Regal of Chicago took over all manufacturing of Dobros in 1937 until production ceased at the beginning of WWII, regardless of which logo appeared on the headstock.

And even with the guitars that were branded as Regal from the 1930s, I think it's typically the raw beginner who might confuse those with the guitars imported from Asia since the late 1980s when Saga Music resurrected the Regal brand.

In addition to the above, one of the most famous prewar Dobros in existence was the Regal-built Model 37 (circa 1936) played for many years by Mike Auldridge and featured on the cover of his first solo album entitled Dobro.
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Brad Bechtel


From:
San Francisco, CA
Post  Posted 31 Jul 2020 2:17 pm    
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Here are the photos of the instrument in question:








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Michael Douchette


From:
Gallatin, TN
Post  Posted 31 Jul 2020 2:22 pm    
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Brad, thank you so much! I sincerely appreciate the help.

So, if anyone with expertise in this area can assist with a proper value, we'll take it from there.

(I suppose if I HAD to, I could go see George again for an update.)
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Mikey D... H.S.P.
Music hath the charm to soothe a savage beast, but I'd try a 10mm first.

http://www.steelharp.com
http://www.thesessionplayers.com/douchette.html

(other things you can ask about here)
http://s117.photobucket.com/albums/o54/Steelharp/
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Douglas Schuch


From:
Valencia, Philippines
Post  Posted 31 Jul 2020 4:30 pm    
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Michael, I don't want to rain on your parade, and feel free to ask a mod to delete my post, but since you are inquiring about value estimates, I thought I would post this link for a comp.:

https://reverb.com/item/33775466-1934-regal-model-19-dobro-resonator

And another:

https://reverb.com/item/34527930-vintage-1936-original-regal-dobro-resonator-guitar-w-original-case

Neither of those have the Dobro logo on the headstock - so maybe not officially "Dobros"? Regal, of course, made instruments for any number of other builders - but I think at this period the Dobro patent (and perhaps their agreement with Dobro) prevented them from selling Dobro-style resonators under other names? Hence the origin of the "Faux-Bro" - which is not a spyder resonator. Maybe others know more about this than me.

When I Google model 19, most have F-holes, and many have Poinsetta coverplates. I do not see any others with the faux tiger stripe maple finish, though.

Here is a link to all 1930's era Dobros and Regals on Reverb, where you see some higher prices. I could be wrong, but I don't think these really ever go for $2000 or more:

https://reverb.com/marketplace?category=resonator&product_type=acoustic-guitars&make[]=dobro&make[]=regal&decades=193

I hope that helps.
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Ricky Davis


From:
Buda, Texas USA
Post  Posted 31 Jul 2020 5:01 pm    
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Douglas "DOBRO" is the Brand name; not the orginal name of a resonator instrument. Regal is a brand name too.
Michael's Dobro brand Resonator guitar is the real deal Dobro; NOT a Regal Built copy that has gone on and on for years. Being built at Regal factory anywhere; does not make it a Regal brand in anyway; if building a Dobro Brand resonator. That's like back in the day when Paul Franklin Senior would build or finish a custom made Sho~Bud in his Garage did NOT make it a Franklin; it was still a Sho~bud made with current Sho~bud parts.
Hope that makes since.... cause those Regal brand resonators on "REVERB"; and they are only calling them a Dobro in that, they are referencing the style of play....they are NOT "Dobro" made or brand, they are Regal trying to make a resonator look like "Dobro" brand resonator.
Ricky
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Mark Eaton


From:
Sonoma County in The Great State Of Northern California
Post  Posted 31 Jul 2020 5:15 pm    
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With the upgraded wood binding and the information that it is from 1939, I would say it's a Model 25. The 19 was gone by that time.

Mike, does it have a soundwell? The way to tell for sure if it is a 25 is if it has a soundwell under the cone. The cheaper Model 19 was a true “student model” because there was no soundwell, the cone just rested on a ledge. But all of the f-hole Dobros from the 1930s were considered lower models in the lineup compared to those with round holes and screen rings.

Regardless, a very nice example of a late ‘30s Dobro.

For myself were I in the market it’s sort of a “dilemma” guitar. We know that many of these guitars with round necks were set up for lap style. But over time they could develop a bend in the neck from string tension so if one wanted to play Spanish style it might require a neck reset which can be costly. If the neck is still straight - great! And if I were on the hunt for another prewar for lap style, unless I could get an extraordinary deal, I would want a squareneck.

Again, it is a very nice Dobro - but if it were to fetch $1300-$1400 that would be a very successful sale.
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Mark Eaton


From:
Sonoma County in The Great State Of Northern California
Post  Posted 31 Jul 2020 5:26 pm    
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I just saw Ricky’s post because I was in the midst of typing mine.

It is a Dobro, but it was in fact built by Regal of Chicago As licensed by the National Dobro Company. As I wrote in a few posts above, Regal took over Dobro production from 1937 until it all stopped at the beginning of WWII. The Dopyera brothers handed off all Dobro at that point to the Regal folks.
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Michael Douchette


From:
Gallatin, TN
Post  Posted 31 Jul 2020 6:20 pm    
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Mark, my knowledge of Dobro construction is even less than my playing knowledge, lol. What is a soundwell? What do I look for?

Guys, I sincerely appreciate all your input. Together we'll figure this out, and get a proper value!
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Mikey D... H.S.P.
Music hath the charm to soothe a savage beast, but I'd try a 10mm first.

http://www.steelharp.com
http://www.thesessionplayers.com/douchette.html

(other things you can ask about here)
http://s117.photobucket.com/albums/o54/Steelharp/
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Ricky Davis


From:
Buda, Texas USA
Post  Posted 31 Jul 2020 9:29 pm    
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Wow Mark; that is some tremendous History input, thank you so much for that. But I'm going to stay old school and if it says "Dobro"(sticker) on the head stock; then it is Dobro brand built, no matter who built it, like my reference to the scenario of Paul Franklin Senior I used above...ah..ha.

Ricky
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Douglas Schuch


From:
Valencia, Philippines
Post  Posted 31 Jul 2020 10:25 pm    
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Ricky, I am very aware of the history you are talking about. Regal built guitars for Dobro. Dobro, however, was protected by patent (US1896484A) which expired in 1950 I believe. So, until 1950, no one could make or sell a spider-style resonator guitar without authorization from Dobro. So could Regal build a spider-style resonator under their own name? I don't know the details of their agreement with Dobro, so can't say, or they could during some years, but not others. Probably Mark Eaton knows more. But the ads I linked were for guitars labeled Regal Dobro - both capitalized in the body of the description. So that implies they were official Dobro brand instruments (but I can not say for sure they were). One comes up in a search for resonators with filters for brand (Dobro) and age (1930's).

Regal did make "Faux Bros" - they look like a resonator, but there is no cone - the bridge rests on the "coverplate". Here is an ad for one - you can see there is no resonator cone under it, and the coverplate looks different from the ones with a cone:

https://reverb.com/item/34975161-vintage-regal-fauxbro-resonator-1930-s

Mark's information is certainly very useful!

Michael - a soundwell is a circular plywood lamination that goes between the back and the top of the guitar and supports the resonator cone. it has holes in it - round ones, or sometimes parallelogram. It provides the strength to resist the downward pressure of the strings onto the rim of the cone.You should be able to see it through the holes in the coverplate.


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Mark Eaton


From:
Sonoma County in The Great State Of Northern California
Post  Posted 31 Jul 2020 10:40 pm    
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Well Ricky, for a number of years now, you can’t even buy a new American-built Dobro. After Gibson bought the company in 1993 and eventually moved it to Nashville in the late ‘90s, they did build some nice guitars - and they also built some dogs. They managed to pretty much run the brand into the ground. All they have now are just above entry level guitars bearing the Dobro logo that are made in China.

Mike, it’s not rocket science to dissemble a spider bridge Dobro, but since you’re putting it up for sale there’s really no need for you to go through the process. There are certain things you need to know if you decided if for whatever reason you want to take a shot at it and we can certainly walk you through it.

I’m about 80% sure that your guitar is a Model 25 and it has a soundwell. In the photos below the circular wooden piece with the round holes cut out is the soundwell. If you look at the photo of the resonator cone with the 8-legged spider bridge and bridge insert in the center, that fits on top of the soundwell.

It’s not as easy to see inside with your f-hole guitar as opposed to the typical Dobro that has two removable screens on top. But you might be able to shine a flashlight into the f-hole to see if there is indeed a soundwell inside. As I wrote earlier, the cheaper models back in the day did not have a soundwell , the edge of the cone just rested on a wooden ledge with nothing underneath it.









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Last edited by Mark Eaton on 4 Aug 2020 3:35 pm; edited 2 times in total
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b0b


From:
Cloverdale, CA
Post  Posted 31 Jul 2020 10:49 pm    
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Michael: I played a 1930s Dobro similar yours at a house party once and loved the tone. It wasn't very loud, but it was beautifully mellow. I'm sure it would record very well with good microphones.

Best of luck with your sale. Very Happy
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Mark Eaton


From:
Sonoma County in The Great State Of Northern California
Post  Posted 31 Jul 2020 11:14 pm    
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I’m always amazed when this happens - I’m writing a fairly elaborate post, hit enter, and in a topic where no one else has posted for hours, another member enters one at almost exactly the same time.

Good information Doug but no, you can’t see the soundwell by looking through the coverplate. The “hubcap” is off in one of my photos above, and there is no way of knowing by looking at the cone if there is a soundwell below. That’s why Mike’s best bet is to shine a flashlight through the f-hole.

Side note regarding the Regal brand in the 1930s. I hope Steve Toth doesn’t mind the I’m sharing photos from his excellent book, Dobro Roots. Anyone with a serious interest in these guitars would enjoy the book. Here is a Regal logo Dobro, a higher level model than the bargain basement “faux bro” in Doug’s post.

That very same day at the Chicago factory they might have finished a batch of this same exact model, but instead of a Regal decal on the headstock, they might have been destined for different customers and affixed a Dobro decal to the headstock.







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Douglas Schuch


From:
Valencia, Philippines
Post  Posted 1 Aug 2020 12:15 am    
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Yes, Mark, I stand corrected - of course, you can not see the sound well through the coverplate as the cone is in the way. Through the sound holes is how I've seen them before without opening them up.

Mark - correct me on this if I am wrong, but it seems that, in the early days, Dobro was not exactly a premium-made instrument - not in the same vein as, say, a pre-War Martin? I've read that all were plywood (not that there is anything wrong with that - so is a Mike Auldridge signature Beard), and few have much decorative detailing. Of course, the "golden era" for Dobro is during the depression - so money was tight. And it seems that Rudy Dopyera was very concerned about keeping them affordable. And in the future years, it seems like there was a succession of bad manufacturers, such as Mosrite and, as you noted, Gibson most recently, which make the pre-war era seem great by comparison.

As a side note, a fact I read today (presumably true) is that the Dopyera bros. still made the resonator cones through the thirties, even after they turned the rest of the production over to Regal.

Steve Toth's book has been on my wishlist for a while. For others interested in this topic, there's a pretty good video interview of Steve on Youtube:

https://youtu.be/hlrdNkRH0Tw
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Ricky Davis


From:
Buda, Texas USA
Post  Posted 1 Aug 2020 5:21 am    
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Just incredible information and Tech stuff, Douglas and Mark; thank you so much for sharing your knowledge..
AWESOME!!
Ricky
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Michael Douchette


From:
Gallatin, TN
Post  Posted 1 Aug 2020 5:45 am    
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Mark Eaton wrote:
But you might be able to shine a flashlight into the f-hole to see if there is indeed a soundwell inside. As I wrote earlier, the cheaper models back in the day did not have a soundwell , the edge of the cone just rested on a wooden ledge with nothing underneath it.


Mark, I did get a flashlight out, and sadly it doesn't have a soundwell. Sad
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Mikey D... H.S.P.
Music hath the charm to soothe a savage beast, but I'd try a 10mm first.

http://www.steelharp.com
http://www.thesessionplayers.com/douchette.html

(other things you can ask about here)
http://s117.photobucket.com/albums/o54/Steelharp/
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Douglas Schuch


From:
Valencia, Philippines
Post  Posted 1 Aug 2020 4:23 pm    
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Michael, from my reading, what ultimately matters with pre-war Dobros is how it sounds. The advice I have heard a number of times is never buy a Dobro brand without playing it (or have the option to return). If you watch that video I link - it takes a bit to get into the various pre-war Dobro models, but it explains that the most sought-after models are the most basic one - in particular the Model 27 and 37. These are the models that Josh Graves, Mike Auldridge, and Jerry Douglas played until the newer small shop luthiers started making advances in the 90's. In general, the fancier models did not sound as good as the basic ones.

Currently, almost no one builds with a sound well as it is thought to impact the tone negatively, primarily the low end. The soundwell is not there for acoustic reasons, but structural ones, or at least that is my understanding. So that Dobro may very well be as sweet as any pre-war model.

I'd suggest putting some new strings, tune her up, and see how she sounds. That matters far more than the model number with vintage Dobros, I think.
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Mark Eaton


From:
Sonoma County in The Great State Of Northern California
Post  Posted 1 Aug 2020 5:11 pm    
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To piggyback on Doug's latest comments, I did some googling earlier today and checked multiple sources that I've used in the past in researching old Dobros.

I was under the impression that the Model 25 had a soundwell, and this might have been true in the early 1930s versions.

Without citing all the details, I think my original guess that this guitar is a Model 25 is correct. Even though it doesn't have a soundwell. The Model 25 in the latter 1930s replaced the Model 19. So Mike, I'm highly confident that you can list it as a Model R 25 (roundneck). You will also want to point out the wood binding (upgrade over plastic) and the Poinsettia coverplate - those came along in the mid to late '30s.

As Doug wrote, the soundwell being present in an old Dobro doesn't seem to determine how pleasing the tone is. The Dopyera Brothers included those in the higher priced models for structural integrity. Unlike a 1930s Martin guitar which was built as lightly as possible - you couldn't kill these old Dobros with a hand grenade!

I recall seeing a photo in the past of John Dopyera standing on 2 or 3 stacked Dobro bodies (models with soundwells) as a demonstration of their structural integrity. Apparently he was really into that aspect of his guitars. Smile

But in going back to the pricing business - players who are really into the prewar Dobros are into those models (Regal-built Model 37 squareneck, circa 1936) as mentioned by Doug that were played be Graves, Auldridge, and Douglas. And those can be found in pretty decent shape for under $2K.

That being the case as we discussed in the beginning of the thread, if a Model 25 is going to sell fairly quickly, it will likely have to be priced for a lot less.

That's it for now, gotta go fire up the grill!
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Michael Douchette


From:
Gallatin, TN
Post  Posted 1 Aug 2020 6:37 pm    
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Douglas Schuch wrote:
So that Dobro may very well be as sweet as any pre-war model.

I'd suggest putting some new strings, tune her up, and see how she sounds. That matters far more than the model number with vintage Dobros, I think.


Doug, it sounds great. The tone is exceptional with new strings, which I have already done, lol. My reason for listing isn't because it's a terrible sounding instrument. To the contrary, it sounds beautiful. There are other factors involved, personal in nature, why I've listed it.
_________________
Mikey D... H.S.P.
Music hath the charm to soothe a savage beast, but I'd try a 10mm first.

http://www.steelharp.com
http://www.thesessionplayers.com/douchette.html

(other things you can ask about here)
http://s117.photobucket.com/albums/o54/Steelharp/
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website

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