Re: Dating

Pat wrote:
>>There have been only two significant cosmetic changes to the Marine Band 
>>since it was introduced in 1897 in the US. The first was switching from the 
>>two tabbed ("mickey mouse ear") covers around 1920-something, 
>Also, the earliest ones had the patent date engraved on the upper.
>This was later dropped.

Here is a picture of one of these earliest versions, from an ebay auction (may 
not be around long, this auction has ended):

>The actual style of the trademark design varied quite over the years
>before they removed it completely.

The portrait of M. Hohner also changed subtly over the years, as did the 
curvature of the covers, and the style of the rear opening, as you mention.  
The earliest examples have a minimal lip at the back openings, these days it's 
quite pronounced.  

>the number of larger holes at the ends of the reedplates has changed
>from three to two. In the 1990s, they started stamping the reedplates
>with a production code.

Yes, although this is difficult to detect without removing the cover plates.  
The original model had two holes, and then it changed to three with the single 
tab cover, and with the recent retooling in the 90s (at which time the started 
adding the "freshness dating") they've gone back to two at each end.

>I've seen at least three different types of rivet heads used on Marine
>Bands. Maybe four. Also there have been several changes in reed
>materials (hard to spot just by looking, especially if the harp has
>discoloured with age) and reed profile (easiest to spot by looking at
>the weights on the tips of the lower reeds). Also some harps made in
>the 80s have the corners of the reeds clipped slightly. 

There seemed to be a change in material of the plates sometime in the mid-90s 
as well, though I have no way to confirm this.  I grind a lot of these plates, 
and noted that one batch of production seemed to grind more easily and heated 
less during the process.  

>Reed lengths and widths have remained constant, however.

The constancy in reed dimensions is significant, as it enables repair on an 
ancient Marine Band using reeds harvested from modern plates.

>The comb material has also been
>changed from peach wood to pear wood (not sure I could really tell
>just by looking). There are probably some other things that I've left

I wasn't aware of the peachwood combs, do you have an idea when this switch was 
made?  I have seen several VERY old Marine Bands which seem to have a different 
quality of wood.  

>if you are shopping on eBay, you need to remember
>that harps often do not come in their original boxes.

Yes, sometimes they aren't even Marine Band harps in those boxes!  Generally, 
the people selling very old Marine Bands haven't a clue about them, and often 
times tell stories about them ("My grandfather brought this home from Germany 
after WWII") that just don't jibe with the facts.  You should always try and 
ask as many questions and get as many pictures of a potentially 
collectible/restorable instrument as possible before you buy it.

>All in all, somebody could write a book on how to date MBs from all
>these things, but not me - at least, not this week...

No one better qualified than you, Pat.  I've seen most of these variations, but 
I've never tried to document and date them.  I know roughly how the major 
changes occured sequentially, but not at what point in history.  Does Hohner 
keep any data or examples on this topic?

- -tim

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