Dyer Style 8
Harp Guitar, c.1912
True, it’s not quite as big a bargain as the previous Style 8 I sold for $14.5k…but that one had a giant hole in it (though was soon restored to perfection and the owner is now enjoying a fantastic instrument worth probably twenty-five grand).
This just-now-cataloged specimen is a one-family Dyer, acquired new around 1915, according to family lore. The original label shows #749, which in my current theoretical timelines would put it in 1911 or 1912. Jose Rio, living in Vallejo, California (about 30 miles northeast of San Francisco) may have bought it from a local music store, ordered it from the Dyer store after seeing their monthly ads in The Cadenza, or even won it in one of his frequent gambling sessions. We will never know, but he obviously loved this instrument and derived income from playing it for many long years.
He kept it in its original tooled leather case, and no major damage appears to have occurred to it over its lifetime…only Jose's own wear and tear. Similarly, it appears to be all-original, other than someone having replaced the outer row of neck tuners. Only the last bridge pin and nut post are missing (I added temporary replacements).
After removing the ancient strings and cleaning it up a bit, I took a series of photos without strings to show as much as I could (entire right column). I then strung and tuned it up lightly, then moderately, to test drive it. As predicted, one can already play this “as is” in the lower positions, even with a split bridge, uneven neck and some loose braces. Tonally, it’s at least a solid 8, using a system where I’d rate typical Dyers 7 to 9, with an occasional clunker, and very rarely, a true 10 (sorry, I’m not like most dealers who simply call every single Dyer “fantastic-sounding”). It may be a bit louder than some.
As you can see, the cracked bridge needs to be repaired or replaced. The top deformation is surprisingly minimal, perhaps because the top braces look a bit more robust than some. Like all Dyers, the fingerboard dips down some after the 12th fret. Treble side of the fretboard is pretty straight, the bass side has a bit of roller coaster. There is noticeable fretwear in the lower positions and some fingernail marks in the ebony.
The top shows obvious playing wear, including extensive small fingernail marks (how much Jello did these guys eat back then, anyway?!). The abalone seems intact (very minor thin or missing areas), appearing a more muted color from the heavily yellowed varnish. The pearl tree-of-life inlay is all there. The headstock veneer is a nice color, with some typical cracking some bass head areas.
Original finish is typical: a tad cloudy here and there, minutely checked (subtly “alligatored”) over some portions, with normal wear and tear. It appears to be crack free (there is something by the small soundhole that I can’t resolve). Tapping reveals a couple subtle loose back braces.
How much work you decide to have done on it is entirely up to you, but you of course have my standard 48 hour approval period if you wish to have it checked out after purchase.
Bottom line: The Style 8 Dyer remains the most coveted vintage harp guitar of all time (in my experience, it’s also shown the most appreciation in “market value”). This one brings the known total with serial numbers to 15 (unknown if any others without label or # are out there). Honestly, how many more can possibly turn up?
- – Gregg "Sir Gregory" Miner
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