Documenting history as well as my experiences with repairing and restoring vintage guitars.

Home Top Ad

Dating Harmony Guitars Harmony guitars are fairly easy to identify and date yet there still remains a lot of unsolved questions for the ...

Identifying and Dating Harmony Guitars

Dating Harmony Guitars

Harmony guitars are fairly easy to identify and date yet there still remains a lot of unsolved questions for the average collector which I am attempting to answer here.

The single best resource on the internet is the DeMont Harmony Database but it is no longer updated.
I am attempting to bridge the gap where he stopped and with what we know today.

I cite my information as best as I can but there are points that are common knowledge among the Harmony community or are observations and conclusions that I have reached from my work.
Pictures are mine unless otherwise cited.

If you are unable to identify your instrument, use the Contact Me button above and I'll do my best.

1914 Advertisement for Harmony
Image Credit


    Harmony instruments have their name on them more often than Kay instruments do but there is still a significant number of these instruments which do not sport the name of the manufacturer. Many Harmony instruments have a brand name which was given by a retailer who purchased the instrument for sale as a house brand in their own shop. You can find Harmony guitars branded Airline to Heathkit to Wizard and more!

    I have assembled a master list of brand names and who built for them 
    Department Store Guitar Brand List

    Company History

    • William J. F. Schultz forms the Harmony Company with a capital stock of $25,000
    • Employed four workers [2]
    • Harmony Co establishes their factory at 1750 N. Lawndale Avenue [2]
    • Sears-Roebuck & Co purchases The Harmony Company [3]
    • Capital stock increased to $100,000
    • Employed 125 people
    • 70,000 instruments were being produced per year [2]
    • Under talks of unionization, Sears-Roebuck sells the Harmony Company to former Harmony president Jay Kraus and work ceases on December 21st, 1940 [3]
    • The Harmony Company spends 6 months moving to 3631-3633 South Racine Avenue 
    • Harmony purchases the trademarks and brands of the defunct Regal Musical Instrument Company [1]
    • Regal guitars were sold exclusively through Fender Sales Inc 
    • The Harmony Company moves to 4600 S. Kolin Ave [2]
    • The Harmony Company is liquidated and all of the tools, materials, in-progress instruments, and trademarks were sold at auction

    Headstock Variants

    Quintessential Harmony headstock shape

    Thin, small nub
    Kay-esque single point
    [Late 1960s-1970s]

    Tuning Machines

    Harmony guitars primarily used Waverly tuning machines on their models throughout the lifetime of the company. Kluson tuners started appearing in the 1940s.

    My guide to identifying Kluson tuners can be found here
    My guide to identifying Waverly tuners can be found here


    Harmony acoustic instruments are praised for their use of solid woods. They require more care than laminate guitars (to prevent cracking) but provide better tone.

    Carved vs Pressed

    Most Harmony archtop guitars have heat pressed tops which are formed in molds to make the archtop shape which produces a good sound but is nowhere near as desirable as a true carved top. 

    There do exist models where the bracing is carved out of the same piece of wood as the top.


    • Poplar is the most common wood used 
      • Often finished in a brown lacquer to mimic mahogany
    • Mahogany 
      • Appears on higher end flat top models like the Sovereign series 
      • Also appears on mid to high end archtops as early as the 1940s. 

    Neck Reinforcements

    Double bar reinforcement slots on a 30s archtop
    • Pre-1940s - Single or double rectangular steel bar
    • 1940s - Often none
    • 1950s-1970s - Single rectangular steel bar

    Truss Rods

    Harmony unveiled the Torque-Lok dual-rod truss rod system in 1956 which was paired with their Slim-Line neck for 'professional' and 'fast' playing.

    Unfortunately the design has flaws. As tension is added to the rod, the nut is forced downwards into the channel but the upward pressure which makes adjustment difficult. The rod also stops short of spanning the full length of the neck which reduces its, already weak, effectiveness.
    1950s Harmony "Torque-Lok" Truss Rod
    Partially removed for demonstration


    • Brazilian Rosewood
      • Continued to appear on mid to high-end models far into the 1960s
    • Ebonized hardwood (maple, birch, etc)
      • (Read my Article here about the process)
      • Very common on low-end models throughout Harmony's history
      • Ebonizing process causes the wood to 'dry rot' which reduces its strength and leaves it brittle and prone to cracks and chips.
      • Very unpleasant to refret. 
    • Indian Rosewood
      • Started appearing in the 1960s as a cheaper alternative to Brazilian
      • More porous and differently colored than Brazilian Rosewood 

    Position dots

    Inlay materials are typically real pearl up until the 50s when celluloid "pearloid" becomes commonplace.
      • 3/16" white dots in an alternating 1 and 2 dot pattern appeared in the 1930s
        • Kay also used this pattern and dot size
      • Ornate stenciled designs can also be found
        • Painted on, typically, with white lacquer


    • Composition
      • Standard nickel frets are the most common
      • Brass frets appeared in the 1940s
    • Size
      • Thin, short frets were common before and during WWII
      • I cover a variety of exact fretwire dimensions on my article Vintage Fretwire Dimensions


    Harmony guitars are, in most cases, very easy to identify via their comprehensive stamping and dating system. Ink stamps are typically found on the back of the instrument and are visible through the f holes or soundhole. It is not uncommon for the stamps to be poorly inked, faded, or obscured.

    Harmony date stamps variants
    Image Credit: UNKNOWN
    Please contact me if you made this so I can applaud you
    • "F-##", "S-##"
      • Means Fall or Spring which refers to the season in which the instrument was built
        • It does not mean First or Second half of the year
        • The existence of "FL" date stamps and of Christmas-exclusive models bearing "F" stamps (for Fall) supports this conclusion
      • "##" refers to the year in which the instrument was built
      • If followed by a letter or letters, that indicates the inspector of the instrument that approved it. 
    Harmony H-54 built in the Fall of 1951
    "3585" has no known meaning and can be ignored
    Image Credit: Ebay
    • "####H####"
      • Preceding numbers are likely a batch number and have no discernible meaning
      • Following numbers are the model number of the instrument and can be easily researched on such websites as the DeMont Harmony Database
        • Harmony was known to reuse model numbers
    • "Carved Top"
      • Often printed in red ink, indicates a high end model with a carved arch top
    1938 Carved Top Stamp
    Image Credit: Reverb - Tommy
    • Dovetail Stamps
      • Sometimes the dovetails will have stamps on the heel that can only be seen during a neck reset
      • Possibly another method of dating the instrument? I'll have to find more examples
    4847 stamp on dovetail on a 1948 archtop
    • Miscellaneous Stamps 
      • "PVC"
        • Unknown meaning
    From a 1940s "Gene Autry"
      • "UV-S2S"
        • Unknown meaning
    From a 1940s Harmony Monterey


    Harmony guitars typically don't have any paper labels glued inside them from the factory. Most paper labels are from the distributor like B&J which had their own serial and model number labels. Starting in the 1960s, select models had labels which were visible through the soundhole or f-holes.

    • "A Quality instrument handcrafted by The Harmony Company"
      • Appears on 70s Harmony guitars, a few USA but mostly Korean built
    • "Special Notice This guitar is designed for nylon or gut strings do not use steel strings"
      • Appears on 60s-70s classical guitars warning players not to use regular acoustic strings


    Harmony purchased their pickups from outside suppliers and, to my knowledge, did not wind their own.


    Harmony pickups were built primarily by DeArmond-Rowe Industries which constructed the famous "hershey bar" and "gold foil" pickups (not to be confused with later Japanese gold foil pickups). If your Harmony has electronics, chances are that they are DeArmond. DeArmond also assembled the wiring harnesses for pickguards that used their pickups

    Luckily, DeArmond units are well documented and typically have a date stamp on the back of the instrument in Month Day Year format like MAR 18 1966. This will align very closely with the date of construction of your instrument. The best resource for DeArmond pickups is


    Gibson P-13 pickups are often referred to as the precursor to the famous P-90 pickup and were built in the 1940s and 1950s. There is a rumor that Gibson sold Harmony a "boxcar" of pickups and Harmony used that stock until they ran out. Nobody knows the specifics but we do know for sure that Harmony used Gibson pickups (and Gibson lap steel wiring harnesses) in some of their instruments.

    1950s Gibson P-13 Pickup (no polepieces) on an H-56 Roy Smeck

    Do not confuse these pickups with Speed Bump pickups from Kay or pickups from Alamo. Too many people falsely attribute these pickups to each other but they are not associated in any way except appearance

    Common Issues 

    DIY repairs are the quickest way to damage and devalue an instrument
    Always consult with a reputable luthier (not a guitar tech) before performing any work
    Never ever use super glue, epoxy, gorilla glue, or Titebond III
    Guitars that are 'repaired' with these are often beyond saving
    • There are cracks in the wood
      • This occurs when an instrument is exposed to a climate different than the ideal (70 degrees Fahrenheit and 45-50% humidity) and the wood has shrunk
      • Do not try to fill the cracks with glue or put clamps on the guitar to press it together
      • Your guitar needs proper humidity and cleats
    • The neck heel is pulling away from the body
      • Do not shove glue in there or drive a screw through the heel
      • Your guitar needs a neck reset 
    • The frets have large divots in them
      • Frets are like tires on your car, they need replacing after being used a lot
      • Your guitar needs a refret
    • The strings are buzzy or the neck is bowed
      • Most Harmony guitars lack adjustable truss rods (or rods that still work) and so forward bow cannot be easily repaired.
      • Your guitar needs a fretboard planing and refret or more ideally a truss rod installation
    • The strings are too high off the fretboard
      • As string tension and climate shift the wood in a guitar, they inevitably need the neck to be steamed off and a new angle carved relative to the body.
      • Your guitar needs a neck reset
    • The bridge is lifting and coming off
      • Many bridges are glued directly onto the lacquer which causes them to lift and raise the action. 
      • Do not use glue to fill the gaps or drive screws into the bridge to bring it back down. The only fix is to remove the bridge, prep the area, sand the bridge to match, and reglue it.
      • Your guitar needs a bridge reglue and often a bridge plate patch
    • There is no sound coming from the electronics
      • This can be a variety of things from dead capacitors, dirty potentiometers, shorted wires, and even dead pickups.
      • Don't replace any vintage components unless you absolutely have to
      • Your guitar needs an electronics evaluation and cleaning




    1. I have a Hormany Acustic guitar. The numbers I got from the stamp on the back, inside. Are as follows.
      1755H1215 S47.
      I would like to know the manufacturer date. And approx worth of the guitar please.

    2. Replies
      1. I am looking for a set of keys for the guitar. Its actually a friend of mine. She borrowed it to me as my Framus is being restored. The keys turn very hard when turning. And are broke. So I want to replaced the keys for her

    3. Hi, I have several guitars of my Dads, who has passed away, and one of them is Harmony arch top, I believe it is called. Can you tell me what year it is please, the numbers inside are 9028H1215,and it just has sort of a blueish stamp under that , which looks like little wings. That is all that there is. thanks

      1. Thats a Harmony H-1215, the date stamp may be hard to read but the blue stamp is it

    4. Hello, I have a S S Stewart Acoustic Arch Top H6669 I think it is a 1939 . Can YOU Verify if it is .....I Lost the Tag some Time ago . I Believe it is made of Birch Wood . Thank You .

    5. i recently found a stella h929 in a shed and i’m trying to restore it. it doesn’t have a date stamp, however, just a stamp on the underside of the top of the guitar that reads “1833H929” can you help me date it?

    6. I have a harmony archtop h1215. I can't find a date stamp on the back, nor the top. It has 4 fret dots starting at the fifth fret, ending at the 12th, of unknown material. It has two white pin stripes painted on the face, one acting as a faux binding. it does not say it has a steel reinforced neck like I have seen many have. And the headstock is similar to the one described as one from the 40's. I am curious to know what year it is, thank you.

    7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    8. I found one guitar from The Harmony Company, on the label inside the guitar says Model No 6114.
      Can you help me?
      When was that series produced?

      Robert Mesic

    9. I'm trying to date a Harmony Stella purchased from an estate sale:

      Sticker label:
      Model No. H6132

      The Harmony Company, est 1892

      A Quality Instrument

      No inlay, fretboard has dots painted at 3,5,7,9, and 12. Brass frets.

    10. I should also mention that there is a small made in korea sticker on back of the headstock and a round inspection sticker at the dovetail joint.

    11. Hi,

      I just got a Harmony Sovereign and I'm trying to find some more information about it. There is no label and the only inside stamp that I can locate is what appears to be W 506 JB. any ideas? thanks

    12. Hi,

      I have my uncle Harmony guitar, what I can see the Serial # 7144H937. Others on here have 4 numbers after the H. Theres just a blue smudge there

    13. THANKS for that great info on my Broadway date stamp. Can't read number in third box but it is definitely a triple box.In first box is a #3 ,second box Made In USA stamp and then cant read third box.From your chart of stamps it looks like you think it was made in 1950-51.Is that correct. Maybe if I slightly sand dirt off that third box I could read a number or two.What should it say for a 50-51? Thanks Rob

    14. Whats the date of my guitar 8527H1213

    15. Thanks for the website! I have a Stella Harmony sunburst 12-string, serial no. 8054H912, and I can't find out when it was made.
      Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

    16. I have a Harmony acoustic guitar branded as a Silvertone that apparently has 2 different dates stamped on the inside back of the guitar (visible through the sound hole). It has the long number/letter series that includes the model (H625) and 2 smaller groups of numbers in different locations. One says S-61-MO (or MD) and the other says F-62-JC. I could not find any information so far about why it would have 2 dates, though I could speculate. Does anyone have any ideas about the 2 dates? An interesting thought for the author is that this example could provide evidence (not necessarily conclusive) to support the other theory that the F stands for first half and the S stands for second half of the year since the first half of 1962 comes after the second half of 1961 (whereas the spring of 1961 is separated from the fall of 1962 by over a year). I have heard other experts argue for that interpretation of the F and S, though I don't have an opinion on the matter myself.

      1. After leaving that comment, I was looking around online. I found another person who has an H625 with 2 dates inside (also 1961 and 1962). But this person reports that their guitar has the opposite letters with each date compared to the one I have. So it remains a puzzle. The link to that person's comments are here:

        Excerpt: "This is a 1962 Harmony built for Sears/Silvertone H625 “Grand Concert” body style flattop. T are actually two date stamps inside this. F-61 and S-62 (Fall 61 and summer 62). I imagine the body was stamped 61 and then when the guitar was assembled it got the second stamp?"

    17. Correction to the above post about the H625 with 2 dates: the one I have also says F-61-MO (or MD) and S-62-JC. It gets confusing when the F and S can mean two opposite things according to what different people have stated.

    18. Hi Harmony friends, I've had a H-65 for a few years and love it. I was cleaning out the years of dust inside so I thought I'd unscrew the wiring harness and lift it through the rout to check the dates. The P-13, CTS pots, bumblebee cap, jack socket all look original and definitely haven't been tampered with. I was told the guitar was a 1957 and judging by the single square stamp it definitely looks it but the pots look to be 1964. They are the striped/zebra type of CTS pot. I have 60s CTS pots and these look different to any 60s CTS I've seen. Could they be '54? Definitely looks like a 6 to me. Can anyone help? Thank you.

    19. Hi, forget my previous post as I've figured it out. The pot stamp is 6 digit not 7 so they are original and made between 1946-57. Lovely! Very happy again :O)

    20. I have a Harmony H22 bass with the inside stamp reading
      Could you tell me what date that is please?
      Thank you.

    21. I am trying to find a pickguard for my deceased father's 1945 Harmony guitar but can't find anything out there. Thanks to this thread I discovered the numbers inside and it was made in 1945. I dont play but would like to get it presentable and hang on the wall for sentimental reasons. I have pics of where the pickguard was broken if you would like to see. Thanks so much

      1. These guys can make a pickgaurd for you...

    22. Just picked up a beautiful Harmony made S.S. Stewart, with original case and period correct strings and cord strap. The Harmony serial number is 4820H2422. Would love any information that could be found. Haven't found a date stamp yet but I'll look again. Also have an S.S. Stewart parlor guitar. Luckily, the owner signed and dated it with pen and ink when he bought it, 1889

    23. My Harmony has the ink stamp: F-73-ML, and a paper sticker: Model H6130 Stella A Quality Instrument Hand Crafted by Harmony, Chicago, Ill Made in USA, and then below that, another ink stamp with an apparent serial # 01610. Any idea what the ML stands for? I assume the guitar was made in fall of 1973. Headstock is stamped Harmony, with stylized "H"s painted on the fretboard at 3,5,7,9,and 12th frets. Open gear tuners - one of which is bent, and the plastic knob is gone. Local music store sells good quality Kluson tuners with closed heads that should do the trick, I think. I bought it for nostalgia. My first guitar was a Kay/Harmony. This one is in pretty good shape, and holds its tune amazingly. String action is terrible, just like the original. 8-)

    24. I have a Harmony acoustic H6565N which I bought from a guitar shop in Farnham, Surrey around 1990. It was my first guitar and I didn’t ask too many questions, just loved the tone and looks. After a while the high action got to me so I played it less and less. I did try to adjust the truss rod which wouldn’t budge, to the extent that I began to think the allen key bolt wasn’t connected to anything. I did reduce the saddle height until there was almost no height left in it but it was still playable. I moved onto electric guitars and the Harmony was left in the corner with occasional playing in first and second positions.
      With lockdown I started seeing the H6565N as a project and attempted to bring it back to life. Unbelievably I got the truss rod to move by adding grease and working the Allen bolt slowly but surely. The relief is now much better. I have since replaced the plastic saddle and nut with bone versions, with great patience and the guitar has come back to life. I am now looking to replace the machine heads but could do with some help in finding some that might fit the headstock. So far in my search I have only found a relatively cheap one (£12)I’m not convinced about. Does anyone know of a good quality replacement set of tuning pegs that may fit this machine head?
      For those interested there was a very favourable review of the model in Music UK magazine from Sept 1982.

      1. Those cheap Chinese-made tuning heads are surprisingly good. I replaced the semi-sealed tuning heads on a mass-produced Martin I was given and the difference in ease of tuning is remarkable. The brand I used is Alnicov. You can get Gotoh branded machine heads for £40 to £50 from a luthier supply shop like Tone Tech in High Wyckham, Buckinghamshire. Measure carefully and you can get an exact replacement.

    25. My serial number is 21438 no letters

    26. i have a gretsch archtop made very well but the numbers inside look more like a Harmony . does anyone know if harmony made any for gretsch

    27. thank you for the info,
      can anyone help me find out more about it? like what year etc...
      only numbers I can fin. 465h62

    28. Harmonymodelnumberho3o1tawian8433591874

    29. I have just a picked up a Monterey mandoline the stamps inside read 3561H417 and UV-S2S can anyone date this Mando?

    30. My Harmony is a classical H177, F 70. On the paper label are words Custom Built.
      Is it custom built?
      I have been told 3rd hand that a select group built these and certain other custom guitars.

    31. I have an H162 that has a standard serial number stamp, but otherwise from what I can see without a mirror, it just has either an o “O” or a zero “0” where the date stand typically is...

    32. I have s/n K49 and is not encircled within a oval or rectangle. I would like to know the date of manufacture and make/model. thank you
      Please respond to

    33. Hello
      I have a 12 string Harmony but cannot identify it because the 2 inch sticker is apparently darkened by
      age which is in the sound hole. It has no numbers at all. Please help me solve the riddle of its
      date of production and series, Thank You

    34. Hey, I have a 1930-40 beare and sons "the michigan". From what I under, Harmony manufactured these guitars pre war era and they were imported by beare and sons Ltd to England and branded "the michigan". The stamp inside is the oval (S-34). So I belive this to be 1934. I am currently doing a neck reset and have seen a stamp on the neck "1054" does this have any relevance? Thank you.

    35. i have harmony with serial number 6324h6583 is this really a 1932


    Please include a form of contact or reach out to me directly ( otherwise you likely won't see my response

    Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.