In many ways, the 1930s was the decade that defined and shaped the modern acoustic guitar. On the heels of Maybelle Carter, more and more players began to use guitars as lead instruments in string bands. Relative to other instruments, guitars were also more affordable—and more portable! Not only did guitars fit depression-era budgets, but guitars were the perfect companion for thumbing a ride out on the dust-bowl or hopping in a boxcar to get to the next Juke Joint.
In today's market, '30s models often come with exorbitantly high price tags, and because of their historical significance, they mostly deserve to. Nevertheless, there were many low-cost, workingman's guitars built in the '30s, too, and perhaps these more accurately embody the era. While these guitars might not demonstrate the same level of impact on the future of the guitar industry, they can still be inspiring guitars, more than capable of capturing the sound, feel, and mojo of yesteryear.
Here's an interesting relic from the 1930s—a vibey archtop guitar from Harmony! In the mid-'30s, Harmony produced a line of archtop guitars under the name "Valencia." This Harmony Valencia Archtop appears to have been made around the mid-'30s, and its body measures 15-1/2" across at the lower bout. It is a pressed top, and the body appears to be all Birch.
This '30s Harmony Valencia produces authentic old-timey archtop tone. It's got that classic thump for old-time swing music, and it captures its own unique played-in character and inspiration. For example, the finish on the back of the neck is worn just perfectly behind open position. Modern builders try so hard to replicate that "relic" feel and detail, but it just feels different when it's authentic.
Despite its age, this circa-1935 Harmony Valencia is in nice playable condition. It appears to have been refretted, and the original bridge is sitting on the low side, but the setup is nice at present. When it gets loud, the original pickguard has a tendency to rattle, but it could be easily removed if it became a bother. The nut may have been replaced. All six tuner buttons have been replaced, but the old machines hold tune nicely. This old box has a lot to offer.
Any way you look at it, this circa-1935 Harmony Valencia is a great old archtop. It's hard not to love the pearloid peghead overlay and way-cool "Valencia" stencil. This old Harmony archtop includes a basic featherweight case that is also a bit worn.