NEW LISTING! - 14/10/2017.
Just arrived - Selling on commission for a customer.
Update - 19/10/2017 - NOW SOLD & on it's way to buyer in Sweden!
Amongst regular sales of Classical guitars, also Brazilian, English and Spanish made, I have sold many Japanese made classicals, but this one is a little different....a really exceptional quality, Japanese Tama Classical Guitar, referred to in the maker's original literature as "Grand Concert Guitar", which appears to be from the early 1970s.
Offering really excellent sound and playability, the guitar has some exceptional quality detailing and fittings, with richly coloured timbers, of the traditional combination of Western Red Cedar top and Rosewood back & sides.
There is a considerable level of "buzz" around Tama guitars in general in various forums, and from the level of prices you can see, they seem to be regarded as pretty much the top of the tree of Japanese made guitars. A quick look at eBay & other sites gives prices of anything between up to around £1,100. See also the update about the link between Tama guitars and Juan Orozco & Kohno.
Stock Number: VTGC1032.
I have sold quite a number of Japanese made Classicals from this period, which are invariably beautifully made with attractive woods and elegant detailing. They are very good sounding and playing vintage guitars, with great character. Of all the ones I have sold, this has one has the most exceptional detailing features and fittings, undoubtedly of real style and quality.
Although it has no specific dating on the guitar itself, there is sufficient internet research information to date it possibly to 1973, or very shortly after that. My customer bought the guitar around 2012 from the well-known online seller, Nick's Guitars, for a price of £785, but is prepared to consider reasonable offers. The brief details from that sale and extensive array of photographs is still viewable in the Nick's Guitars picture library, the link to which is included below.
There are certain references to the 3550 model only being made in 1974, and with Cedar top & Ebony fingerboard, which is probably where the Nick's Guitars dating originated, but I suspect that the Serial Number of T3061256, stamped on the main brace front of the soundhole, is more likely to date the guitar to 1973, on the basis so often used on Japanese guitars that the 3 represents the year, 06, the month of June, and 1256 the production number in that month. On the other hand, the Unofficial Tama Guitars website, also on the links below, indicates that Tama Guitars were only made between 1974 & 1978, but does not record any serial numbers starting with the number 3....the lowest start number being 4, leaving open the possibility that this is an early guitar, in fact from 1973. Anyway, I think it is safe to describe it as "early '70s". The "P" designation added to the 3550P, stamped on the neck block, indicates that this model has high-quality laminate top.
This is a really very elegant Classical guitar, quite exceptional amongst the many Japanese classical guitars I have seen, and will provide an excellent instrument for a student or an experienced player. As you will see from the photos the richly coloured woods are beautiful, and the finish retains superb depth of colour. The beautifully grained top has intricate decorative soundhole Rosette and dark-edged multiple binding. The elegantly carved headstock has very handsome Rosewood facing, with similar herringbone decorative centre stripe inlay. The Rosewood bridge, has smart light-coloured wood binding and Rosewood inlay.
The Rosewood back and sides are also richly coloured, particularly attractively grained, book-matched, with centre inlay stripe, and again the exceptional quality feature of edge bindings on the rear. The matching Rosewood sides have also have side bindings, top & back and end stripe - the whole guitar has the exceptional look of quality!
Original maker's literature specifies that "The bracing is all hand-shaped and sanded for excellent resonance"....a comment that you would not find these days for other than the most high-end luthier-made guitars. Further information included in the "DESCRIPTION UPDATE - JUAN OROZCO/KOHNO CONNECTION" section opposite. The degree of attention to detail is evident throughout and although the top is a high-quality laminate, it is not specifically poorer in terms of sound quality, just a slight difference, I find only detectable by the keenly-tuned ears of some professional players and luthier/guitar-builders I know.
The guitar's continued integrity after probably around 43 years is testament to the manufacturing quality, and to the high quality of laminate woods used, typical of Japanese construction of this period. Although there is much discussion about the use of laminate woods, it has enabled the production and long-term survival of some superb looking and sounding, but affordable vintage guitars, and I am sure has contributed to the survival of this guitar in such great condition, due to the greater durability and freedom from cracking and distortion problems which have seen the failure of many guitars of similar age which were made of solid woods. It is now apparent that over the years these high-quality laminate woods have developed an excellent strong mature tone and volume.
The dimensions appear to be quite traditional, with 652mm./25.7" scale and full width fingerboard, 52.5mm./2.07" at the nut, on a reasonably shallow, slightly "D" profile neck.
In my internet search on Tama guitars I came across an eBay USA listing/result of a Tama Classical Guitar selling in auction style sale at $1,300USD in 2011, and a price list showing that the 3550 model was priced at $345USD...a very healthy price as long ago as 1974. The history of the connection to Ibanez is not fully clear...I've seen references to the Seisakusho, Aichi, Japan being an Ibanez factory, to Tama guitars being made by Ibanez & to Ibanez taking over the factory in the late 1970s, but you may know the story more fully. However, I did appreciate the one comment I read, along the following lines..."This is what Lexus is to Toyota = Tama guitars to Ibanez vintage guitars".
Please see the added update section opposite headed "DESCRIPTION UPDATE - JUAN OROZCO/KOHNO CONNECTION", following additional information kindly provided by Noud Koevoets, for which I am most grateful.
The guitar is clearly all original, and having been very well looked after, really does not look around 43 years old! The condition is excellent, beautiful finish, with only very few minor dings, including on the top & back edges, a small chip out of the headstock, and small indentations and areas of finish imperfections on the back of the neck and headstock, plus probably a string-changing scratch behind the bridge, but only noticeable on close scrutiny - all in all, really minor markings for a vintage guitar, from normal usage and in no way prejudicial.
The guitar has been inspected in conjunction with the highly respected professional luthier & classical guitar-builder I work with, and no sign of any ongoing issues found, but I do know from my customer that the bridge was recently reset at Sheehan's workshop in Leicester. The original engraved machine heads are working well, set on beautiful Rosewood faced headstock. Playing-wise, there is only the very slightest visible wear to the frets and to the fingerboard.
The action at the 12th. fret is possibly a little lower than many classical players would prefer, at around 3.0mm./3.5mm., although this may be ideal for less experienced/student players, and, with excellently aligned fingerboard, the action would be easily raise by fitting a replacement, taller saddle, and the guitar plays very nicely indeed.
The age/type of the existing strings is not known, and whilst the guitar sounds exceptionally good with the existing stringing, a buyer will want to re-string with their own preferred choice of strings or, prior to sale, I can fit a set of quality USA made La Bella Classical strings, probably 850-B, with Golden Alloy Basses and Black Nylon Trebles.
The probably original black covered and case, with brown soft-lined interior, is included, in serviceable condition, but for the fact that two of the catches are missing, probably not hard to replace, and there is no key. However, I may be able to supply a Hiscox Liteflite hardshell case, if available, at modest additional cost.