Dating vintage washburn guitars

Along with Harmony and Washburn, Kay was one of the mass producers of guitars between the 1930s and 1960s in the Chicago area.

These large instrument manufacturers were also known as “jobbers” and “house brands” because they produced guitars for many other retailers and distributors.

The number inside your guitar is actually a serial/production number, which doesn’t really help us in either dating or identifying the guitar.

So, this leaves referencing old Kay catalogs, price lists, and Kay books to determine what you have.

Kay can trace its roots back to 1890 when the Groeschel Company in Chicago, Illinois, began producing bowl-back mandolins.

In 1918, Groeschel changed to the Stromberg-Voisenet Company and became known for laminating wood tops and backs on instruments.

The metal headstock plate certainly tells us it’s a Kay, but the company rarely indicated the model name or production date anywhere on their instruments.

Hey Zach, I have someone interested in purchasing this guitar, and I can’t find anything out about it.As you can see, it has damage to the neck and a few cracks around the f-holes.The number I can see inside through an f-hole is “L 5573.” Could you please tell me what I have and what it’s worth? Well, we know right away that this is a Kay guitar from the metal plate on the headstock.All Kay guitar model names consisted of a “K” prefix that was followed by a three or four digit number and a nickname.(The K161 Thin Twin and K8980 Upbeat are a couple of examples.) Unfortunately, this number was rarely, if ever, stamped anywhere on the guitar.

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