Dyer "Style 9" Harp Guitar

Circa 1907

Early and incredibly rare variant!

 

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NOTE: Click on any photo to enlarge, and click a second time to increase to full resolution; select images will appear "actual size" and beyond.

Anyone who knows vintage Dyer harp guitars - those fabulous instruments built by the legendary Larson brothers in Chicago - knows that the famous "type 2" model shape came in five basic styles -from the plain "Style 4" to the incredible "Style 8" with its tree-of-life pearl inlaid fretboard seen here:


Sir G's personal Dyer Style 8, not for sale.

How then, can I be offering a Style 9?!

Truth be told, it's more like a "Style 7-1/2" ... as it's somewhere between a Style 7 and 8. But that is indeed what this c.1905-c.1907 instrument was probably labeled (its label is missing).

How do I know this? Because a labeled Style 9 almost exactly like it was discovered in 2023. I tell the story of both these 9s - and how they compare to the Style 7 & 8 - in my article here. You'll definitely want to read that at some point. Once you have, I think you'll agree that this is a rare bird indeed that we are offering here.

While once "all-original," some damage necessitated that it be restored, which I'll mention shortly. Nevertheless, I believe we've priced the instrument fairly based on these repairs and its current condition, combined with the "coolness factor," and absolutely stunning rarity.

Here is a "before" image, from my files, taken by a previous owner. In it, you can see the original finish and the damaged, poorly repaired top through the center.

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The current owner, who resides with this instrument in France, had it restored by Florian Chateau. They provide this list of work undertaken:

  • Neck reset
  • Re-fret (thin banjo frets, to match the originals)  
  • Fingerboard straightened with a thin piece of ebony under the last frets (between FB and top; see last three photos bottom right)
  • Re-glued the bridge and new thin maple bridge plate (original spruce plate destroyed)
  • Re-glued braces and a new brace at the bottom (lowest brace of the soundboard toward the tailblock)
  • Crack repairs on top, back and side of the arm
  • New top patch with 100-year-old spruce from another guitar restoration
  • New binding patch on the top above end pin (see last photo at bottom right)
  • New inlays on the bridge to fill the holes made for screws in the past
  • New inlay at the 5th position fret marker
  • New bridge saddle (bone in place of the old single fret wire saddle)
  • New French polish of the soundboard to get a unified color (Florian French polished with shellac and alcohol, like the original finish. A light tint was added to the mixture to match the very old spruce color.

 The owner adds:

"The guitar is currently strung with custom-made silk & steel Pyramid sub-bass strings and D'addario silk & steel strings for the neck. Either tuned to standard GABCD, or down a step, they sound great! It sounds really full with a lot of definition (both bass and high notes), something quite 'piano-like' to my ears. Basses are quite boomy, the lowest G string is full-sounding. There is a king of natural 'reverb' when only playing the neck with nice sympathetic vibration from the sub-bass strings. The guitar is far louder than my jumbo 6-string. It plays nicely with low action thanks to the neck reset and low tension strings. Action is 3-4 mm at the 12th fret on each side. The neck stays well tuned. The sub-bass tuning pegs are not as easy to tune but keep it snug the moment you find the right position." (Note that most vintage Dyer owners playing professionally swap out the original bass friction tuners for Stew-Macs, Waverlys, or Rickards. See my blog for the latter. - Sir G).

More info from the seller:  

  • The A-string sub-bass tuner is different from the other as the plastic knob is missing a part and the metal is a different color (shown in headstock image with blue arrow)
  • The damage behind the neck is due to overuse of an old capo.
  • The bridge pins seem to be original for the guitar section, with new ebony for the sub-bass section.
  • The instrument comes with a Gator TSA-61 Keyboard Case. It is a perfect fitting and very protective case!
  • The binding layout seems kind of unusual nowadays, but we found under the fingerboard that it was originally colored with this pattern: green/natural/red/mother of pearl/red/natural/green. The exposed binding colors have faded with time. (What he's referring to here is the extremely detailed and colorful binding surrounding the mother-of-pearl. See second-to-last photo bottom right. One really needs a magnifying glass to see all the detail; originally, the area the blue arrow points to was even more colorful when built. - Sir G)

"To conclude, with the exception of the bridge plate, bridge inlays, bridge saddle, fifth inlay marker, soundboard patch, frets and the lowest top brace the guitar is fully original."

Nicely said. From the description and work by Chateau, I would imagine this then to be a fully-functioning, great-sounding Dyer. Meaning, you get rarity and a ready-to-go vintage instrument. I do notice a line at the lower bout's inserted piece of new spruce and a couple of scuff marks, which the owner has photographed for us. He acknowledges the amateur photos, and says that many photos appeared too "orange" (which I tried to correct), with the closest "true" color of the top being the single professional photo at the top of the page. Of course, every monitor skews to different shades, so whatever you're seeing is just an approximation.

The owner will ship the instrument from France in a hard Gator case (I last used their larger case for Gibson harp guitars myself), and he is offering free shipping anywhere in Europe and $300 shipping to any location in the United States. I would therefore say that shoppers needn't be concerned with shipping cost or safety!

This Dyer is a hard one to price (see below), but is clearly extremely rare. And unusual. And includes free or low shipping. It has noticeable but well-executed repairs. Will that other Style 9 ever come up for sale? Perhaps. Perhaps never. This - the only other - is ready to go now, and while not a Style 8, it kicks all those standard Style 7's asses. And you can tell all their owners so. 

I'd ponder all this and make your offers accordingly and quickly!

-Gregg "Sir Gregory" Miner

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Specifications: 

  • Spruce top (patched)
  • Mahogany back & sides
  • Ebony headplates and fingerboard
  • Mahogany neck
  • Original tuners
  • Five sub-bass strings, tuned G-A-B-C-D (custom Pyramid silk&steel. Replacement PB strings here).
  • 25" scale
  • 1-7/8" nut width
  • Dimensions: 15-1/2" lower bout, 4" depth at tail block, ~43" total length
  • Gator TSA-61 Keyboard Case

PRICE: $11,500

Shipping: Free to Europe, $300 to continental U.S.

Contact Sir G for purchasing information

On consignment, not on premises


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