Creek Don't Rise

Restoring old Type A?
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Author:  paulrace [ Tue Jul 10, 2018 8:10 am ]
Post subject:  Restoring old Type A?

A reader writes:

While recently cleaning out my elderly uncle's apartment to move him to a nursing facility I came across an instrument that I was not familiar with. Doing some online researching I came upon your site and learned it is an Autoharp. It is the very one that is on the far right in the picture of the 3 Autoharps on your site, I think it is that same one the lady in the picture is holding. It says Registered by Oscar Schmidt and looks like it is from the 1930's. Is there anyway to get an exact or estimated date and value of this instrument? I can send you pictures if you need that.

Any help or assistance is greatly appreciated.

Thanks for getting in touch. I understand the difficulty of cleaning out a home of an aged relative. My father was a farmer, and you'd better believe there was a lot of stuff in the barn.

Unfortunately, you probably have one of the most common designs, which would mean it doesn't have any appeal to speak of for collectors. Or for players, unless it's very clean, in very good condition, with no signs of rust to speak of.

I put together an article on how to guestimate the value of a used autoharp. MOSTLY it involves identifying what kind of autoharp and model it is, and trying to determine the condition. ... _value.htm

If this article doesn't answer your questions, please feel free to respond to this e-mail and attach photos. If nothing else, I can help you narrow down the type of autoharp you have.

- Paul

Author:  paulrace [ Tue Jul 10, 2018 8:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Restoring old Type A?

The reader responded (with a photo of a very old, damaged Type A autoharp):

Thank you very much for responding, I sincerely appreciate it. The information that you provided was very helpful. My uncle is of the impression that it is worth a lot more than it really is but I will not interrupt his belief since he only has a few years remaining. I will hold onto it for a while then pass it on to someone or an organization that has a greater appreciation for it. The Autoharp is not in very good shape, according to my layman perspective. I have attached a picture of it.

Again thank you for everything. You have helped me learn so much about something I knew nothing about just a week ago.


You are right, that is exactly the same model I show in the photo you found. It was Oscar Schmidt's most common model between 1920 and 1950, so there are thousands out there. This one is missing the screw-on l-shaped board that covers the pins that the strings loop around. Most of them do, so that's not surprising.

It's also missing several of the pushbuttons.

Neither of those are problems, though, compared to the cost of replacing the strings (about $65 a set), and - if you don't want to do it yourself - the cost of paying someone to replace them ($100-150). Hopefully you can see why these don't get restrung or rebuilt very often. They have almost no collectors' value, and making them playable costs much more than buying a used later model in playable condition.

Personally, I love mine and am thinking about investing in strings for some of my stranger old pieces, so people DO restore these. But it's a labor of love, and not a question of profit.

Hope this helps.

Have a great day.

Paul Race

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