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Thread: Three Early Kentucky Mandolins Made In Japan

  1. #1

    Default Three Early Kentucky Mandolins Made In Japan

    I am a Newby here on the Mandolin Cafe and have read and researched as much as possible but I seek others who have more knowledge than me about the early Kentucky Mandolins made in Japan.

    I understand through advertising material that Saga contracted in 1978 to start having mandolins made under the Kentucky name in Japan.

    These three mandolins that I have acquired are all low numbered and wanting to know if anyone might be able to say when they may have been produced in Japan...

    Here are pictures of the Kentucky KM-250S KM-200S and the KM-180S Models, all with early four digit numbers.

    Thank You in advance for further information.
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  3. #2
    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: Three Early Kentucky Mandolins Made In Japan

    I can't answer your question, but I can tell you that I am impressed with your collection of mandolins! Good luck with your research and I am certain someone here will help you.
    Stiver A style (MAS has stopped here)
    Kentucky KM-950
    Keith Edward Coleman A style, oval hole Mandola
    Weber Gallatin A Mandola "D hole"
    Rogue 100A (current campfire tool)
    Harley Benton A style (grandchildren's learner)

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  5. #3
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    Default Re: Three Early Kentucky Mandolins Made In Japan

    Did you try calling Saga in South San Francisco? They’ve researched serial numbers for me. Good folk.

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  7. #4
    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Three Early Kentucky Mandolins Made In Japan

    My second mandolin was a 250S from that era that I bought used in a Pawn shop for $45, at a time when I didn't have a mandolin. Pressed top, if I recall, and the short neck, but it was playable. It served me well enough for several years.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Three Early Kentucky Mandolins Made In Japan

    The Saga Music website is here. Try contacting them. It doesn't hurt to at least try going to the source.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  11. #6

    Default Re: Three Early Kentucky Mandolins Made In Japan

    Thank you all for the information. I have sent an email to SAGA with the information. I also have another KM-180S #11424 and a KM-600 #84.5.02 I have been very impressed with these Kentucky Mandolins Made in Japan.

    I have some early SAGA advertising material and include some pictures of the information they contain. The pictures in the SAGA Brochure is not dated, it includes pages showing the original hard shell cases offered along with tail pieces, tuning gears, and bridge. Article is from the 1984 Frets story on Kentucky Mandolins made in Japan.
    Thanks again to all.
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    Last edited by Jazzkids; Oct-27-2020 at 12:53pm. Reason: added picture and info

  12. #7
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Three Early Kentucky Mandolins Made In Japan

    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzkids View Post
    I am a Newby here on the Mandolin Cafe and have read and researched as much as possible but I seek others who have more knowledge than me about the early Kentucky Mandolins made in Japan.

    I understand through advertising material that Saga contracted in 1978 to start having mandolins made under the Kentucky name in Japan.

    These three mandolins that I have acquired are all low numbered and wanting to know if anyone might be able to say when they may have been produced in Japan...

    Here are pictures of the Kentucky KM-250S KM-200S and the KM-180S Models, all with early four digit numbers.

    Thank You in advance for further information.
    Those look really cool! I have a Korean KM-200S that was my first mando, and it is a decent enough instrument. I've heard the Japanese ones are pretty good.

    Mine is a 1998 and the serial number starts with 98, so I'd be willing to bet your first two digits are the years.

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  14. #8

    Default Re: Three Early Kentucky Mandolins Made In Japan

    From what I have read in other posts and in the SAGA brochures that I have, after the first few years of production in Japan they changed the headstock inlay from what is picture in my post to a Fleur De Leis style and they changed the tailpiece from what is on mine and in the early catalog picture to one that was stamped Kentucky.
    Attachment 189430Attachment 189431Attachment 189432

  15. #9

    Default Re: Three Early Kentucky Mandolins Made In Japan

    As far as early Japanese built Kentucky mandolins, their serial numbers and date determinations etc, here is a quote from Desert Rose:

    The Japanese Kentucky mandolins went thru a few different numbering systems, even within the same maker. The Maruko mandolins system changed about three times and the Kasuga made instruments were a totally different system that likely changd as well. Some can be determined by the style of the number some not
    Scott


    Scott Z (Cafe name Desert Rose) was there in Japan at the time these were built. I believe he knows as much as anyone on this subject. Don't know his status. Looks like he hasn't posted since 2014.
    "I play BG so that's what I can talk intelligently about." A line I loved and pirated from Mandoplumb

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  17. #10

    Default Re: Three Early Kentucky Mandolins Made In Japan

    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzkids View Post
    From what I have read in other posts and in the SAGA brochures that I have, after the first few years of production in Japan they changed the headstock inlay from what is picture in my post to a Fleur De Leis style and they changed the tailpiece from what is on mine and in the early catalog picture to one that was stamped Kentucky.
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  18. #11
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    Default Re: Three Early Kentucky Mandolins Made In Japan

    I always have to chime in on 1980s Kentucky mandolin discussions.
    You've got a nice collection going here. This catalog of from Saga shows the Kentucky mandolins that were made at the Kasuga factory. I have this catalog as well. I got it in 1983 or '84 from Saga. So, these mandolins are from this era. I'm not sure you'll get any closer to the year of manufacture than that. But, good luck and report back if you find out anything. Your detective work about the inlays and tailpieces sounds reasonable.

    I learned on a KM90 (?), an army navy style mandolin Kentucky made. It's not even in that catalog so it was older or pretty low-end. Uncle owned a black km180 which we all played. It sounded really good for back then. The top eventually collapsed years later.

    The frets article excerpt is really speaking about the Tahara (small) shop. This is where the "master models" were made. These were "hand made" instruments. This is where Sumi eventually worked. But don't confuse the Tahara shop instruments with the Kasuga factory instruments. I think I remember a FRETS magazine review about a entry level kentucky like maybe a KM-250. Some of the higher models KM850s made at Kasuga factory are pretty good mandolins and often have prettier wood than many of the Tahara shop "master model" mandolins.

  19. #12
    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Three Early Kentucky Mandolins Made In Japan

    NFI

    I just saw a Kentucky pancake model listed on the GC website. Not a lot of info provided but it does look like a fun little mando!

    https://www.guitarcenter.com/Used/Ke...n-115390075.gc

  20. #13
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Three Early Kentucky Mandolins Made In Japan

    I had the coolest KM-250 from Japan. I even loved the chipboard case!

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    f-d
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