Other Vintage Brands and Links
In this section, I have put information from my own files that I have accumulated in doing research on various brands of guitars. I've also listed links to sites where you can access information on other vintage brands (some of which are still in business today). Click on any of the underlined links to find a site, where you can find information you're looking for.
Several models of acoustic guitar are included here. If the brand is not listed, I've either not researched it, or I simply have a limited amount of information. This has been a work-intensive effort, and has been done in my spare time (which isn't a lot given my full time aerospace career and my part time guitar repair business). However, I have been researching this information for several years, and this is what I have. As I accumulate more information, I will keep this up to date with the latest information.
Note that there are detailed pages on Conn, but not others. For Conn, I've done a "deeper dive" in my research and have accumulated more information for the Conn brand, with most of this site dedicated solely to that brand.
There is some public domain information including catalogs and potentially other links at the following sites. One, www.vintaxe.com (a fee-based service) has numerous scanned catalogs that you can view with a subscription. Another site that I like and use is www.jedistar.com (free). Jedistar has an amazing number of brands featured. The site has an alphabetic menu at the top of the home page. Paul, the owner of the site, has put a lot of time into this labor of love. I strongly suggest you visit his site by clicking the link above.
Aria / Arai
The more well-known Aria brand is owned by by Arai & Company of Japan. The Japanese word, "ARIA", means expressive melody. It was first used in 1958 when founder Shiro Arai exported Japanese built classical guitars fitted with steel strings to South East Asia in 1963. Also the letters of his name "ARAI" were just switched around to "ARIA". Arai and Aria guitars started as hand-built guitars and early models were hand made, and high quality. Today's Aria guitars remain a decent quality instrument but are not considered high end instruments as they once were.
Link to Aria Guitars - Aria Guitars
Carlos - Quality Product of Korea
(Out of Production)
<<< CLICK LOGO TO SEE CURRENT PHOTOS
While attempting to find information about my own Carlos 438 guitar, I found that there is very little information available on the internet without paying steep fees for it. So I saw a need to research historic information about Carlos guitars, their construction, their heritage and to find representative pictures. I've accumulated limited information, and am including it here as a public service to those individuals wanting to find information about their own Carlos guitars. Information herein is drawn from many sources, but under no circumstances will there be any information posted from copyright or otherwise restricted sources. Acknowledgement will be provided to sources who have provided input, wherever appropriate.
The Carlos guitar brand was a brand that was initially imported by C. Bruno & Sons (known for brands Ventura, Bruno, Conqueror, Trump, and probably others). The first guitars were imported by Bruno from Korea, in the late 70's. There is little information on the lineage, but Carlos may have been imported later by Coast Wholesale Music of California. Coast Wholesale Music Corporation and C. Bruno and Sons were both acquired by Kaman Music Corporation in 1967 and 1971 (consecutively). It is thought that the last year the Carlos brand was sold was 1993. My own experience with Carlos showed them to be very thin wood, large bodies, resulting in pretty outstanding sound quality. Like many Korean-made guitars of that era, many Carlos guitars suffer from high action--necessitating prohibitive priced neck sets. Not a huge collectible guitar due to several factors, but primarily a) cheaply made, b) all laminate models, c) unfamiliar brand to potential buyers. Catalogs of various models are available on vintaxe.com.
See CARLOS for representative photos (the photo site exists as of Feb 2018, but is not maintained).
Excellent source of information on vintage and current brands: Jedistar
(Out of Production) -- THIS SITE. SEE DEDICATED PAGES IN THE LEFT MENUS FOR CONN ACOUSTIC STEEL STRING, CONN CLASSICAL, AND CONN ELECTRIC, and CONN CASES
(pronounced "em-PAIR-uh-dor") (Out of Production)
The Emperador brand was founded by Westheimer Music Company of Chicago, Illinois. Westheimer is more well known for their Cort brand guitars. I have been told that Emperador guitars were first made in Japan (for a short time) then in Korea. I have never seen a Japan-made Emperador guitar. Generally these models were knockoffs of famous brands. All models I've actually had in my hands or seen elsewhere had high action. The guitars themselves, similar to other Korean-made instruments from the same era, had this issue with high action. Whether this was from the use of inadequately aged woods, or from bad neck sets is unknown. Little information exists on the internet or elsewhere about this brand. However, I was able to have a brief discussion with an individual at Westheimer, confirming the brand and lineage. The company could not remember for sure (without doing some digging--which they were unwilling to do) the exact years of manufacture, but seems to remember that it was from about early 1980s to mid 1990's. These are occasionally seen in auction sites, such as eBay, or shopgoodwill.com.
LEVIN, who founded Goya, who was bought by Martin in the late 70's.
Vintage Goya Guitars web site
Lotus (Out of Production)
Lotus was a manufacturer of guitars from the late 1970s to the late 1990s. The quality of the instruments was economy to quite good and the price was reasonable. While attempting to find information about my own Lotus L-20 guitar, I found that there is very little information available on the internet without paying steep fees for it. I wanted to research historic information about Lotus guitars, their construction, their heritage, photos, and share what I found with individuals wanting to find information about their own Lotus guitars. Information herein is drawn from many sources, but under no circumstances will there be any information posted from copyright or otherwise restricted sources. Acknowledgement will be provided to sources who have provided input, wherever appropriate. The Lotus brand was a series developed by Midco International. They were typically copies of other brand name/model guitars, such as Gibson Les Paul or Fender Stratocaster. Lotus acoustic guitars were produced in Japan, Korea, and China, and possibly in Indonesia during the 1990s. As stated, the brand was distributed by Midco International in Effingham, IL. The Lotus brand was a trademark of Musicorp (previously Midco International). In the 1990s, they offered a wide range of acoustic and electric guitars that were designed for the student and/or entry level player. In the 2000s, Musicorp stopped offering guitars under the Lotus trademark to focus on bluegrass instruments, specifically banjos and mandolins. At some point, (unknown) production ceased on any of the original brand (the orignal brand was typified by the presence of a lotus blossom as part of the logo). Little reliable historical information can be found. Do not confuse this Lotus brand with "Lotus by Amigo". They are not related. The only link available that I am aware of is a logo web site called .
(Out of Production) Imported from Japan. Intermediate to good quality. Manufactured by Matsumoku (Japan), production managed by Arai, distributed by L.D. Heater Co., Beaverton OR.
by Guild (Out of Production). Intermediate quality.
by C.G.Conn (Out of Production) Made in Korea. Generally good quality manufacture.
Oscar Schmidt manufactured guitars between 1871 (formally incorporated in 1911) and 1979--first in Europe, both in their own factories and later in the USA and in factories in Japan, and under their own name, before being purchased by Fretted Industries who had also purchased long time reputable company, Washburn a few years earlier. Washburn and Oscar Schmidt are now subsidiaries of U.S. Music Corporation--which is today based in Mundelein, Illinois. Guitars are still manufactured under the Oscar Schmidt brand--most in China--on contract. The company is basically a company on paper, whose parent company is U.S. Music Corporation. It is not the same Oscar Schmidt that made guitars prior to the '70's. Fretted Industries purchased the Washburn name in the '70s, and in 19'78, they moved to Northbrook, Illinois. That same company, Fretted Industries, also purchased Oscar Schmidt in 1979. Current day Oscar Schmidt guitars are made in China and are considered "economy" guitars.. Early ones were made in Chicago, then later in Japan. Oscar Schmidt is most well-known for establishing the standard for what is known as the Autoharp. Autoharp is actually their own patented name (patented 1926) for an instrument known generically as a chorded zither. People use the term Autoharp to describe any number of available chorded-zithers--much the same way that other brands have been used to describe a product (examples: Band-Aid, Kleenex, Kotex, Zip-Loc bags, etc). There are many brands of chorded zithers, but manufacturers are careful to never use the "Autoharp" term in describing their instruments. The instrument was devised from a zither but has pre-determined chords playable by depressing a chord bar. The unchorded zither, on the other hand, must be played manually by knowing which strings to pluck and in what sequence--much like a harp. Oscar Schmidt is still considered the standard for the chorded zither or Autoharp. The Autoharp made by OS is not the subject of this article, so that's all I'll say about it.
by Martin (Out of Production) Intermediate to high quality.
(Out of Production) Low to intermediate quality.
"Lawsuit" models and Japan vintage models
There is a series of Takamine guitars produced in the 70's, that copied the Martin half-circle logo. Those guitars are commonly known as "lawsuit era" guitars. They were designated with models like F-307 (laminated top), F-307S (solid top), F-360, F-360S, etc). As of January 2012, those "lawsuit era" guitars were commanding high prices and were very much in demand, because of their known high quality and their similarity to Martin. There was never actually a lawsuit by Martin, but it was threatened. Takamine never went to trial, but instead agreed to quit copying other manufacturers. This challenged Takamine to design their own very successful models--including their own patented G-series with NEX and FXC body shapes. Be cautious about buying a Takamine that is advertised as a lawsuit era guitar. I have found that more current F-360's and others are sometimes being advertised as lawsuit era, when in fact, they are more modern ones--carrying the current-day Takamine logo (spelled sideways on the headstock.).
Ventura (Out of Production) There are resources for Ventura guitars Search Google, Bing, etc for "The Ventura Unofficial web site". That site is an authority on Ventura brand (C.Bruno&Son) with an emphasis on accurate reliable information.
The Ventura Unofficial web site. The authority on Ventura brand
(C.Bruno&Son) with an emphasis on accurate reliable information
FG-series and other Vintage Models Resources: Visit and go to their support pages and find the Yamaha Guitarchive - a Yamaha-owned site to look up model numbers. Known to contain some errors.
Yamaha Serial Number Wizard - Found also at the Yamaha USA site. As with other Yamaha sites, may not return accurate information.
OTHER VINTAGE BRAND LINKS:
MANY BRANDS -- original catalogs (Subscrption Required) GOOD!!!
Has many scanned catalogs of several brands for viewing (not downloadable).
This site shows pics, gives history, and has links. Limited brand coverage.
The most extensive accumulation of brands that I know of. The site provides an alphabet menu at the top of the home page, and selecting a letter takes the user to all documented guitar brands beginning with that letter. In each brand listing is typically a photo or photos of a headstock and some other features.
Vintage Instruments We Used to Own
Sometimes people don't know what they have. I am guilty. I had a Harmony Hollywood guitar from the 1950's. It belonged to my Dad who passed away in 1986. I'd had it around so long and the action was high, it was in a cheap chipboard case, and the action was horrible. I didn't know at the time what a collector's item I had, nor did I realize it could be made playable. I donated it to a charity (after deciding first not to just throw it in the trash). Oh how I wish I knew then what I know now...
Some other instruments have found themselves donated to charities, and were acquired by lucky bidders. Some of the ones I've run across while putting this site together are:
1) A 1900's Hillyard - Made by the Chicago Music Company who was formerly located at Adams and Wabash Streets in downtown Chicago. This guitar went for $306 on shopgoodwill.com. The bidder got a steal. The guitar was likely worth much more. See the listing by clicking here (it will be up on the shopgoodwill site for about 2-3 months, then Goodwill Industries will remove the photos and the listing).
2) Another recent sale of a 1956 Martin brought $2235...it may have worth as much as 10 times that.
These vintage instruments were probably found in closets or attics, or like me--kept for years and finally just donated out of ignorance of their actual rarity and value.