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zaterdag 24 maart 2018

Hiroshi Tamura guitars / Real value of the Japanese guitars.

Hiroshi Tamura

Hiroshi Tamura and his brother were one of the best luthiers in Japanese history. Some experts say that they actually were the best Japanese luthier, who had collected many international awards for his works, even more than great Masaru Kohno.
This is a very high grade instrument, way better that many quite expensive guitars that you might have encountered in the past and considered as great.

His guitars produce a very characteristic to all Hiroshi Tamura guitars, truly Spanish, gentle and very seducing sound. Their guitars are very responsive. Trebles are sweet and clear, basses vibrant and colorful. All well balanced, at very good volume with great sustain. 

Real Value of Japanese Vintage Guitars
The key to understand value of vintage Japanese guitars is to acknowledge galloping devaluation of Japanese yen in 1960s & 1970s. This devaluation was somewhat slower in 1980s. The best measure of this devaluation is Starting Yearly Salary of Japanese College Graduate (SYSJCG).
SYSJCG in in 1965 was 19 600 yen, in 1969 – 34 600 yen, in 1970 39 200 yen, in 1972 – 62 300 yen, in 1975 79 200 yen, in 1977 121 200 yen and in 1980 - 163 000 yen.

During 1960s and most of 1970s model numbers of Japanese guitars were strictly interconnected with their prices in Japanese yen. In late 1970s and during following decades model numbers were no longer strictly associated with their prices. Many Japanese guitar makers introduced model names instead of model numbers. Others were still using model numbers with addition of letter abbreviations or other symbols.

The best and only logical approach while evaluating real value (real grade) of vintage Japanese guitar is to compare its price in Japanese yen with SYSJCG during the year guitar was made.

Any guitar priced 100 000 in 1970 (labelled usually as No10) would be priced 200 000 yen in 1975 (relabeled to No20 or 2000), 300 000 yen in 1977 (labelled as No3, No30 or 3000). Starting in 1977 Masaru Kohno introduced his model No50 priced at 500 000 (and likely model 40 ). Soon other famous Japanese luthiers did the same. By 1983-84 Kohno started to use model names instead numbers and was raising their prices as he was pleased. Naturally soon other great Master luthiers did the same.

Knowing all of that, you can bet on that Masaru Kohno No 50 made in 1982 is practically the same quality as Kohno No 15 made in 1972, or Kohno no 20 made in 1975 or Kohno No 30 made in 1977. This has been seriousy researched.

The lowest grade models currently made by Matsuoka workshop are M75 and MH75. They are commonly considered as “beginner guitars”. Matsuoka model M30 made in 1973 is simply far, far better instrument. It is naturally better than model M50 made in 1977, model 80 made in 1982 or model M100 made in 1990. At present, the highest grade Matsuoka models are M300 and MH300. They absolutely stand no chance in competition with model M150 made in 1975… or model M200 made in 1977.

It is very important to mention that if modern era luthiers are using 40 years old woods to make a classical guitar, its price is at least $8000.

E.g. a guitar from 1969 has very little in common with a model P50 distributed in US in mid 1970’s. In 1969 it was priced 50 000 yen, while average yearly salary of a Japanese college graduate was 34,600 yen. This salary in 1970 was 40000, but in 1975 it was 80 000. The same quality guitar by 1970 would labelled as P60, by 1972 as P80, by 1975 as P100.

In fact Yamaha model GC5 made in 1969 (until 1970) was built with solid Jacaranda (Brazilian Rosewood) b/s and also priced 50 000 yen. Many other luthiers were making their 50 000 yen models with solid straight grained Brazilian Rosewood. Masaru Kohno was making his model 5 with Indian Rosewood. There was no way that Hiroshi Tamura could sell his P50 guitars if they were of lower grade.

Most Hiroshi Tamura P series guitars distributed in US in 1970’s have developed a network of internal wrinkles within the finish. They often break at the very top and create a network of hair-like fissures. It must have been caused by light induced chemical degradation of at least one of the ingredients of the original lacquer.

(Source: Victor ? )

Presented here is my 1972 Hiroshi Tamura which is
an outstanding guitar soundwise. It resembles the
Kohno and Orozco models a bit in sound: Dark low
ends combined with sparkling higher notes. Good
workmanship. A solid fine grained cedar top and 
laminated sides and back but apparently with
Brasilian rosewood. Scale is 655 mm. Nut 52 mm.

Strange thing about this guitar is the distance between
each tuner: Not the most seen 35 mm but 39 mm and
besides that the topnut (maybe not original?) was made
out of some cheap plastic which is a disgrace of course
on a furthermore quality instrument like this. Both
topnut and bridgebone have been changed now to
ivory made examples. Ebony fingerboard. Nut 52 mm.

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