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1960's Wheatstones

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I am just curious, how good are the Wheatstone anglos from the 1960s? I notice that the buttonbox has had one for sale for about a month now and usally I see jefferies and Wheatstones go much more quickly even if they cost more. Are there known problems with those 1960s Wheatstones or is it that 40 button wheatstones are not that popular?


I must admit that I am tempted on giving the buttonbox a call and ordering it myself :).




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The general consensus seems to be that the quality of materials and construction dropped off significantly in the fifties and sixties. I've never played a sixties Wheatstone but I had a sixties wooden ended one with aluminum reed frames. It was OK to play (very light) and compared OK with the victorian Lachenals

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I've tried 7 or 8 1950s/1960s Wheatstones now (both anglo and English systems). My experience is that they vary a lot. Some are really not so responsive (which is high on my list for an expensive concertina, maybe not on yours) while others are quite good. The prices they fetch nowadays are justified for the best instruments I've tried (better than a Lachenal but not as good are prewar etc), but they are overpriced IMHO if you happen to get one of the lesser ones. I say that because those lesser ones are less responsive than the quality accordion-reeded makes, which cost half as much. Your mileage (and opinion) may vary if you play styles different from mine, e.g. some folks happily pay the difference for the tone they prefer.


In other words, I wouldn't buy one without trying it or having someone whose playing and judgment I know personally try it for me. Good advice for any vintage concertina, and certainly for these.

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Ken and Paul,

Thanks for your opinions. So in summary, A good one is ok and the 40 button one at Button Box is probably worth the price being asked if it is one of those, but otherwise its over priced... I don't suppose there is any way to improve the responsiveness of the less good ones?


I guess the basic issue is that I kind of like the idea of a 36-40 button Anglo concertina (perhaps I am just being silly in wanting the extra buttons for Irish music ) and of course the concept of having a box with real concertina reeds is appealing as well. Oh well, I suppose I could see what a 36 button Norman would cost...




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Let me clarify two things. I don't believe the BB or any other established dealer would deliberately misrepresent or overprice an instrument. They give you an idea of what the current market (many buyers and sellers) is, or sometimes what price an owner of a consignment sale wants to ask. You have to compare what the overall market says with whay YOU find worth the money. I am voicing my _personal_ opinion. In my universe, concertina values would be ranked slightly differently. This concertina (or any concertina) may be (and probably is) perfect for somebody. But all you can do from a distance is ask other people's opinions.


Which brings me back to my first advice: I believe it is best to take the time and effort to try instruments like this when considering a purchase. You might talk to the BB about what it takes for you to try the instrument out with an option to change your mind and return it.


My second point is that I feel this way because we are talking about amounts of money (for the best concertinas) that would buy you a fine old grand piano. Amazing to me.


Just my two cents.

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I'll second Ken's advice: When at all possible try out the instrument before purchasing.


At the risk of becoming unpaid advertising let me say that I've bought three concertinas from The Button Box and in each case I've been VERY satisfied with the process and the instruments purchased. I believe they have a perusal plan that allows you to try the instrument prior to purchase. Doug, Rich and Bob all play concertina and their opinions have always been forthright and thoughtful.


Another good source of vintage instruments is Paul Groff. Paul has a gift for setting up a concertina so that it sounds and plays its best. He is very incisive, honest, and will work with you to find a concertina suited to your needs and preferences. I believe he has a generous "buy back" policy if you upgrade with him down the road.


Regarding old verses new: I'll steal a page from Jim Lucas' book and say it really is a matter of personal preference. There are some marvelous current makers of

of concertinas out there. Many well crafted and good sounding boxes. YOU may prefer the sound of accordian reeds in some of these instruments. It will really help your decision if you can try as many concertinas as possible.


Finally let me share my personal experience with a couple of 50s Wheatstones.

One is a C/G 30 button anglo purchased from The Button Box. It is fast, tight and has a robust sound. The tone has a "cut" to it. Some might describe it as a little harsh. The reeds are screwed to the reed pan rather than dovetailed. It has been a great instrument to learn on and I'm sure it would be plenty of instrument, for me, for years to come. The action is the post 30s Wheatstone "bent over", a modified hook and eye. It is not as smooth, quick and quiet as a nice rivetted action but not very distracting for a beginner or intermediate player.


The other is a 1952 eight sided F/Bb piccolo 40 button. This one has dovetailed reeds, and a combination of steel reeds and, for the highest notes, brass reeds, all in aluminum shoes. Now, a piccolo sound may be an acquired taste, but the instrument is well made and, to me, has an excellent sound. Action is similar to the one above.


Like the current modern makers, I wouldn't dismiss the 50s Wheatsones out of hand. There are some quality instruments out there.


So my personal experience with 50s Wheatstones has been favorable. Which means, given my limited sampling, I haven't met a bad instrument from that period as of yet. Again, it is a very good idea to try as many instruments as possible and work with helpful, reputable people to find the right concertina for you.


Best of luck, Greg

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