Hillman Guitar No. 2
Sears made by Harmony

Silvertone front   .Silvertone back
Yahoo! A hot summer day in Strathclair, 1960. I took a walk over to the hardware store that Dad managed (a new career to offset last year's disaster when our crop was hailed out) to take a lunch break from my summer painting job. A parcel from Simpson-Sears mail order had just been delivered -- my first electric guitar . . . and amp: a Sears Silvertone made by Harmony. It was a gift from my Nannie Campbell - the first of numerous guitars she would help me acquire.

Sitting in the family 1960 blue Pontiac in the lane behind the store, I tore open the box. It was a beaut! . . . shiny black finish with metallic speckles and white trim. And that neck and fingerboard! The strings lay almost against the frets . . . no effort to play. I remember that the first thing I played on it was a low string "Honky Tonk" blues riff I had learned from a kid at Air Cadet Camp in St. Jean, Quebec, earlier that summer. This is day I will never forget . . . I still have the box it came in.

Now I could join in the family jams and be heard. At about this time my mom and uncle were talking about getting together with members of the Christie family for a Campbell-Christie Orchesta reunion. This reunion in the Municipal Hall where they had played many times back in the '30s, turned out to be my first appearance on stage with a guitar. Now I was ready to ditch those piano lessons.

I've learned since that many other guitarists who went on to major careers also had a similar experience with this model. It is a popular vintage guitar now in rock and country videos . . . Neil Young . . . Bryan Adams . . . and many others have paid tribute to it on stage and in interviews. I remember once a few years after when my Gretsch had been stolen, my rhythm player offered to lend me his Strat for a major show . . . but I just couldn't get used to the feel of it and decided to use my old friend, Silvertone, instead.

This was the guitar I took with me to Brandon College in the fall of '61 . . . a real companion for a homesick farm kid away from home for the first time.

Studying Guitar 101 in the college dorm
Bill Hillman and trusty Silvertone
1961 - Rm 317 - Brandon College Men's Res
My Silvertone on stage
Silvertone on stage

Excerpts gleaned from the web

The First Stratotone 
Made In 1953:  H44

This three quarter sized Stratotone was the very first Stratotone and was a solid body guitar. It was Model H44 and was gold in color. Very rare and valuable. It was introduced in 1953 and continued  unchanged through 57. In 1958 the Stratotone went hollow body.

 It had no F holes or other sound chamber passage and  it appears to be solid but it IS hollow! It had no tremolo but did have D'Armond pickups. This guitar sold new for under 100.00 and depending on condition now it might be worth as much as $175.00 or as little as $50.00

Mercury & Jupitor Models

The Jupitor model was introduced in 1958 as Model H-49 and continued unchanged through 1963. It is essentially a "Mercury" model H-47 with a second pick up and a "blender circuit" added. It was called a "Deluxe Stratotone" guitar. 

A two- pickup black Stratotone

Most Stratotone models had a nifty "space age type," atomic decoration on the headstock and pickguard.

The sunburst Stratotone on the lefterepresents one of the most popular versions of the Stratotone. Stratotone guitars were many a players first guitar! 

In Liverpool, back in 1962, the Beatles, a then unknown club band, used to have several players sit in with them on some of their sets. Many of these players were Stratophone players.

Technical Tip
Guard the side of your guitar with your life, when it has the jack is located there. This is a very weak point on most  Harmony guitars! To avoid damage, use a right angle cable end, never a straight plug. Also, loop the cable through  your strap as stress relief. If your guitar already has damage, consider relocating the jack to the face of the guitar.

Identifying the Model

The original Harmony models were made in Chicago, Illinois. Most acoustic Harmony instruments have a serial number stamped on the inside of the body (tone chamber). The mark will look something like 4533H1215, The 4533 represents the production number, the H stands for Harmony of course, the 1215 is the model number. Serial numbers are harder to find on electric models. Some have a label on the inside of the hollow body electrics that have the serial number. Other than that, look under the pickguard of pickups.

Dating The Instrument
If the mark looks something like F-68JT, The F stands for Fall, as in the season the 68 stands for 1968, the other marks may be a shift, production or plant number. Most electric models have the date stamp under the pickguard or under one of the pickups.

Value of the Instrument

Generally, it is worth what someone is willing to give and you are willing to take. Most Electric Harmony instuments fall into the $75.00 to $200.00 range. They are appreciating and will continue to do so. Most acoustic Harmony instruments sell in the $40.00 to $150.00 range. A good source for accurate appraisal is the Blue Book of Guitar Values. Also, this site contains a fairly good listing of values. A good rule is to check the online auctions... ebay, guitarauction, vegastoday, amazon, auctionbuy, auction addict, up4sale, etc. These sites see quite a few Harmony guitars, find your model and see how it is selling! Most Harmony instruments do not have great antique value. They are best sold as players. The older ornate models have additional worth, as well as the rare and/or unusual models.

Most Silvertone instruments were made by Harmony and Dan-electro. Harmony made the upper line, Dano made the lower end lines. The new Harmony guitars are not connected with the old Harmony company.

Availability of Parts

Many parts are readily available at local music stores, unfortunately, many salesmen and/or guitar techs do not respect Harmony instruments, and often will not want to put themselves out by looking in the back room or sifting through their suppliers' catalogues to come up with the part. Some parts are available through Harmony Service Center of BroadwayMusicCo.com

Harmony Guitars Database
Non-official resource for all Harmony guitars fans

Tracking the Beatles in Hamburg

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