My 2004 KoAloha Concert Ukulele

I cannot remember if I have told the story of my 2004 KoAloha Concert Ukulele. I just sent it in for repairs, and will not see it for at least a month (shipping included), and I wanted to post some photos, as my ukulele will never look the same again.

In February, I stopped by a local second hand music store because they were offering a Kamaka Tenor for $800. That’s a great price, and while the Concert size of ukulele has become most comfortable for me, I still own and play plenty of tenor ukuleles. In fact, most of the ukuleles we are buying for our new school are tenor ukuleles, as Outdoor Ukulele does not make a Concert size instrument!

I played the Kamaka and it clearly had some damage to it on the bottom (it had been dropped as happens to all ukuleles). I played it and just wasn’t moved by it…and then looked around the room. There were some other very nice ukuleles..it turns out that a very good customer of the shop had died, and they had purchased all of the ukuleles he owned from the estate. Handing on the wall, looking rather plain was a KoAloha, marked for $399. It was labeled, “Mahogany KoAloha.” The neck stamp (where all KoAlohas are dated) read “January 2004.”

The date on the 2004 KoAloha. Current date stamps are a little more nicely done

I played the instrument, and it was lovely. It had some bumps and bruises on it, too (the person that owned these instruments was clearly a player). But I wasn’t sure about a mahogany KoAloha, as I knew some of their earlier instruments were in a line called KoAlana made of Sapele (then later laminate…a new series of KoAlana instruments are due soon).

I contacted KoAloha and asked if they had made mahogany models in this time period, and they did not…and indicated that instruments from this era of KoAloha’s history would likely have a Koa fretboard and a Koa neck, too.

This instrument has an orangish glow, making it pretty clear why the store would have thought it was Mahogany.

I’m not sure what a solid Koa KoAloha from 2004 is worth, but new models (with non-Koa necks and fretboards) are selling for more than $1000 these days; and well over $750 used.

I went back to the store the next day after hearing from KoAloha, asked if I could get a teacher discount, and walked out with the ukulele in a hard case for under $400 (including tax). It also had upgraded Gotoh UPT tuners (About $65). That was a steal. I don’t feel bad, because I know the store paid less than that for the instrument to the family.

Upon closer inspection after buying it, I noticed that the bridge is lifted up. It hasn’t gotten worse, but KoAloha has the best warranty in the business. If something happens to the ukulele due to construction issues, they will always fix it. And if you do something to your ukulele, they will do their best to fix the problem (although you may have to pay for your error–which makes sense). KoAloha calls this their, “Better than the weather warranty.”

Bridge lifting up.

So I reached out to KoAloha last week, and they told me to send the ukulele in, as this was a problem with some of the older models with a slotted bridge. New models have a tie bar bridge (My Concert KoAloha Opio actually says, “KoAloha”). They will repair the ukulele and refinish it and send it back.

The new tie bar type bridge currently used on KoAlohas

My 2004 KoAloha is going to be all shiny and new when it comes back. It cost quite a bit to send it…$35 for the lowest cost I could find; UPS quoted more than $120! I don’t know how companies work out deals to send ukuleles for under $15. However, my KoAloha will never look the same…both the bridge and the finish will be different–and I doubt it will be orangish any longer! Also, this one has a black nut and saddle…KoAloha doesn’t use these any more, either! I had dropped the ukulele this Spring (a strap slipped loose from the strap button), so there is a little extra damage than when I bought it…but it is still in sound overall shape.

So that is the story of my “real” KoAloha (I have a tenor and concert Opio, but they are made of sapele and acacia, respectfully). I’ll make sure to post photos when it comes back.

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