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Thread: Kay mandolin identification

  1. #1

    Default Kay mandolin identification

    I'm hoping to find some information on my mandolin. I inherited it a few years ago and went from having no musical background to falling in love with playing this instrument.

    I've searched around to try and identify the model but didn't get far, even after searching through some catalogs. I have however stumbled upon some posts that mention Kay counterfeits (here and here).

    There's also writing scratched inside the mandolin through the sound hole that says my city's name and "1-1-48" (pictured). I'm wondering whether "1-1-48" could be 1 January 1948, which may narrow the search.

    Any information would be greatly appreciated!

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  2. #2
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    40.1646 N, 74.2083 W

    Default Re: Kay mandolin identification

    First off, there was never a reason to counterfeit a Kay mandolin. They've always been readily available and inexpensive. The Kay brand name has been owned for years by companies that have had the instruments made in other countries. The Japanese used a Kay shape (well, close) as well as a Harmony shape on some imported mandolins in the 70's. If they were labeled Kay or harmony it's because the owner of marque ordered them.This is a Chicago made Kay A style mandolin, very common shape and known headstock shape. The tuners place it in the 40's at a time probably soon after WWII. It has the well known Waverly cloud tailpiece that was used buy everyone and Kluson tuners that were used by many. Soon after this was made they went to the enclosed Kluson tuners. Feel good if the neck joint is solid as many Kay's from this era and earlier have failed. Chances are the top is solid but the back and sides would be suspect as Kay was selling laminated bodies as early as the 1930's as a feature. These were entry level instruments. Someone may be able to pop out a catalog page but they built a whole lot of these. I've not seen a date like that but it's possible, it's close no matter what. If it's playable and you enjoy that's the value. They don't bring a whole lot of money at resale.

    Here are the recently sold instruments on eBay to give you an idea and the range of the instruments.

    Some history of the company can be found here.

    I think the scratched information inside meant something to someone but I doubt it was done at the factory.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Kay mandolin identification

    Thanks for the helpful reply!

  5. #4
    Registered User nmiller's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Rocky Hill, CT

    Default Re: Kay mandolin identification

    It's a K-72. This model was introduced sometime after 1942, appeared in the 1944 catalog, and was gone by the 1948 catalog. The writing does look like a date, but it's not from the factory. The original catalog price was $15.00. the obscure side of vintage instruments.

  6. #5
    Registered User f5loar's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002

    Default Re: Kay mandolin identification

    I don't recall seeing kays with serial nos. or FON. Usually only the model style like K-XX So this looks to me to be the date the original owner got it and he put that date in there. So 1948 it is , although it was probably made in 1947.

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