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Author Topic: How to Find Your Hohner Harp's Vintage.  (Read 6787 times)

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Offline John Broecker

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How to Find Your Hohner Harp's Vintage.
« on: May 31, 2008, 03:06:09 PM »
Hello, Hohner Hounds.

With the recent discussion of the Hohner 260 and it's variations, I thought that a discussion of determining a Hohner's approximate vintage may be interesting to other harp collectors.

This post is based on information from Alan Bates, internationally known harmonica collector; conversations with Sissi Jones, Hohner repair technician and Hohner historian; and Richard Smith, Senior Collector at Harmonica Collectors International (HCI). 

This article was written for HCI in 2002, by yours truly. It is about Hohner products only.

In some cases, with this article, we may be able to date the harmonica to within 10 years. In other cases, it's not that simple, or may be impossible, if the harmonica has been repaired or customized.

Here's what we know: We can't usually get an exact date of the harmonica's manufacture. There are too many factors involved, and Hohner has never kept precise records on dating their harmonicas. Also, details given from experts may be incomplete, false, true, or somewhere in between. The experts disagree at times.

But, we can accumulate enough factors to make an educated guess, using the guides in this article.

There are at least 6 ways to estimate the production date of a Hohner harmonica, listed here in no particular order:

1. The Box or Container, Harmonica Materials:

The harmonica box or case may contain copyrights or patents that may help. The box or case illustrations
or box/case material (paper, cardboard, plastic, tin, wood, cloth-covered, vinyl, leather); the linings or no linings, box hinges or no hinges; all may help an expert identify the relative age of the harp container, but not necessarily the harmonica itself.

The harmonica's materials may also help in the estimate of it's vintage. Generally, the more primitive the harmonica looks, the older it is.The first Hohner harmonicas were made by hand, on a kitchen table, by 4 workers, in 1857 (as the story goes).

By 1880, Hohner used modern machines, ushering in mass production techniques. The first harmonicas (not Hohners) were made in 1822, and used lead reed plates or no reed plates.hand-hammered brass reeds, or other less expensive materials, and hand-carved wood combs. By 1830, harmonicas were being made in the USA and England. The English "Aeolion" had no comb, and was a reed plate and reeds only.

The experimental and unusual-looking harmonicas were made mostly between 1880 and 1940: tremolo sextets with handles for rotation, harmonicas with bells, with drums, with horns, etc., with compass, looking like a banana, a fish,
a zeppelin, looking like a piano, a harp, a boomerang, a boat, an airplane or car, etc.

Wood remained the most popular material for combs until the second half of the 20th century, when other comb materials became popular. Plastic, (1940s), acrylics and metal alloys (1970s?)then more expensive metals in the mid-1980s.

Reed covers also changed materials over the history of the harmonicas. Home-made wood covers (1830s to 1860s?); cheap metal covers (1850s?); to to nickel-plated brass, to brass, to other metals, to ivory(1880s Wm.Thie tremolos),
to plastic covers (1940s); Dupont Delrin (1960s);then stainless steel covers (1980s?); back to rare woods, bakelite, etc (1990s?).

Continued in the next post.

John Broecker
« Last Edit: May 31, 2008, 03:09:12 PM by John Broecker »
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Offline John Broecker

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Re: How to Find Your Hohner Harp's Vintage.
« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2008, 03:45:04 PM »
Hello, again, Harp Magnets.

This is a continuation of a previous post on how to determine the vintage of your Hohner harmonica. Please read Part One before this post.

2. Catalogs, Brochures, Method Books, Song Books, Posters, Electronic and Other Media:

The printed page is a treasure of important harmonica technical details, note charts, illustrations, sheet music, practice tips and harmonica descriptions. The copyright of the publication may give an estimated manufacture date more precisely than a guess.

You'll know that the harmonica listed in the book was sold in the year of the book's copyright, and the published material often contains historical data about the harmonica, company, and photos of famous harmonica players at different stages of their careers.

3. The Cover Plates: Hohner World's Fair Medallions and Other Awards Medallions:

The covers are embossed (earlier harmonicas), engraved (later harmonicas), enamel painted (most in the 1930s -the 1936 World's Fair, etc., but also later dates), and usually contain the Hohner brand name, harmonica model name, and other details.

Each award medallion (circle with a city and year listed inside the circle) tells the year of the award. By using the latest award date, you will know that your harmonica was made AFTER that date.

4. The Embossed Star, the 5-point Star, the Engraved Star, or No Star:

The star is located in the Hohner trademark, in a circle, between the two hands. It's usually located on the bottom cover, but in earlier models, it has been seen on the top cover.

According to Sissi Jones at Hohner USA, the fewer points on the star, the earlier the harmonica was made.
Also, if the small, embossed star had had 6 points and was raised from the surface of the covers, the harp
was probably made before 1902.

The 5-pointed star was also embossed (raised), smaller than the engraved star, and commemorated the 5
Hohners running the company after Mathais Hohner's death in 1902. He passed the company to Jacob,
Mathais, Jr., Andreas, Willy and Hans in 1900.

A larger, engraved (not raised) 6-point star was used later, until 1937, when the Nazis ordered the 6-pointed star removed from the Hohner trademark, claiming that it was a Star of David, the Jewish religious symbol. In fact, it was a commemoration of the 6 Hohners running the company before 1900, not a religious symbol.

From 1937-present day, there is no star inside the circle in the Hohner trademark, although a few models were re-issued with the star after World War 2, as pre-war saved covers on post-war harmonicas.

Continued in Part Three.

John Broecker
« Last Edit: May 31, 2008, 03:51:45 PM by John Broecker »
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Offline John Broecker

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Re: How to Find Your Hohner Harp's Vintage.
« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2008, 04:27:52 PM »
Hello, Hohner Harpers.

This is Part Three of an article on determining your Hohner harmonica's vintage, published by Harmonica
Collectors International in 2002. Please read Parts One and Two before this part.

5. The Arms or No Arms, Coat or No Coat, Long Sleeves, Jagged Sleeves, Short Sleeves (Cuffs):

The arms, coat, and/or sleeves are found in the Hohner trademark, surrounding the circle that contains
the star or no star.

According to Richard Smith, HCI, the type of arms around the center trademark circle may also date a
Hohner harmonica. If the arm's shirt sleeves are long and jagged, your harmonica was made before 1925.
If the sleeves are shorter, and have partial coat sleeves with shirt cuffs, your harp was made after 1924.
If the trademark has shirt sleeves with no coat, the harp was made after 1950.

6. Key Stamp, Major or Minor Key, Model & Number, In English, German, Spanish or French:

The same models of harmonica are often re-named and sold in several countries. The covers are changed, in the language of the country to which the harps are sent. The language on the covers is determined by the harp's area
of distribution. This may or may not help determine your harmonica's vintage.

In Germany, our key of Bb is stamped B, and our B is H. Also, in German, dur means major, and moll means minor key. Some harmonicas have the key stamped on the top cover, othes are engraved, embossed or painted on the comb or top cover. Genrally, embossed key stamps are older harmonicas, then engraved, then painted key stamps.

Expert harmonica collectors may also determine a harmonica's vintage in other ways, such as shape and/ or size of the rivets holding the reeds onto the reed plates, amount of tabs on the covers (for the cover screws or nails), and so on.

Generally, harmonicas that have 2 tabs on the right side and 2 on the left side of each cover are older harps (circa late 1880s through about 1937), than the harmonica covers with one tab on the right and one on the left. Also, the shape of the single tabs on the covers is also important for dating. The rounded tabs are earlier models from about 1910 to about 1940, and the square tabs are generally dated from 1940 to present day.

All of the statements in this article are subject to discussion and contradiction, but are based on experiences of reliable harmonica collectors, players and repair people. For more information on dating your Hohner harmonica, contact (2002 information):

Alan Bates, HCI, 426 Bayberry lane, West Grove, PA 19390 (USA).

America's Shrine to Music Museum (Alan Bates' collection of 3500 harmonicas donated to the musieum),
414E. Clarke St. Vermillion, SD 57069-2390 (USA)

Hohner, USA, Inc., Sissi Jones, Repair Dept.,1000 Technology Park, Glen Allen, VA 23060 (USA),
Phone: (804) 515-1900.

John Broecker
« Last Edit: May 31, 2008, 04:35:12 PM by John Broecker »
The doctor told me that I had Type A blood, but it was a type-o.

ElkRiverHarmonicas

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Re: How to Find Your Hohner Harp's Vintage.
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2008, 06:21:58 AM »
I'm bumping this one back to the unread threads for folks. It's too good.