Vintage Hohner reeds

The Hohner Marine Band is the reference-standard, classic diatonic harmonica. It has gone through a few changes over time, but it is still the same design. It uses a Pearwood comb and brass reeds that have that classic sound and response.

Vintage Marine Bands were excellent instruments. Some of the best classic harmonica records were made using the Marine Band.

Some pre-war versions of the Marine Band are sought-after by collectors. Up until the late 1970s, the quality was excellent. Hohner experienced a few years of poor quality in the 1980s and early 1990s. They attempted some money-saving strategies which were poorly-received. Quality rapidly improved in the late 1990s as they re-tooled their shop.

When buying a vintage harmonica, how do you know if is was made during the good years (before the late 1970s and after the late 1990s)? Will it be worth the time invested to fix it up?

You can look for a few clues as to how the Marine Band was assembled like the number of nails on the bottom side, you can look at the address on the cardboard box, the color of the blue ink on the box.

But these clues don't apply to a Golden Melody or some other models of a vintage Hohner harp?

A sure-fire way to tell is to look at the reeds. This works for every model of Hohner harmonica.

The tips of the older reeds from the "bad" period are chamfered or rounded.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

If you are considering spending some time restoring or re-tuning a vintage harmonica, make sure the reeds are *not* rounded at the tips.

A harmonica from the "bad" period will take a lot of time and effort and yet still not ever play well. Be warned and don't waste your time.

Some of those old harps were held together with brass pins instead of screws. Here's a video on a neat way to get those pins out. You can tap out one side with an M2 tap and enlarge the opposite hole with a 3/32" drill bit for clearance and re-assemble with an M2 screw.