Bass and cello registry

Cello of the Month

New Registry member Dylan Sapp in Georgia received this cello from his aunt, who’d found it set out on the street with trash, and he’s interested in restoring it. At first glance it doesn’t look like much, but it’s a score for the research, a 140. I’ve classed in the Supreme series, but that’s tentative for now, and I’ll explain why.

'49 140

Kay’s 1947 model-line revamp updated the cello lines and brought in a new designation system, holding over only the trusty 55 group (Student series) and adding the 110 (Orchestra), 120 (Concert) and 130 (Maestro) groups. In 2017 we found the first 140 survivor, with high-end details. As far as I know this model was never catalogued, and I speculate that it was meant to replace the prewar 165, which is similarly rare. Five years on, the second one has appeared, confirming its production-model status and features, including ebony appointments and edge purfling, as well as extending its production span from 1948 into ’49. The finish here is quite dark, possibly from exposure, but the ’48 survivor carries the same lacquer contrast pattern as the 165.

What’s difficult about this model is that excepting its contrast pattern it seems to be the same as the 130 in its details. Why make two different models the same way at the same time?

I have this question about the earlier 75 group, too, which differs from the 60 only in its price. The early cellos got their model designations from their target retail prices, so the 75 was priced 25% higher than the 60, and it’s difficult to imagine how a salesperson could justify this degree of price differential — close to $500 in today’s money — for what was essentially the same instrument. The 75 group was discontinued by 1941 while the 60 went on for another seven years. Why would Kay choose to repeat that mistake amid what was clearly a reform initiative? Was it just cockeyed optimism about the postwar return to the kind of economic prosperity not seen since the ’20s? I’ll have to put a pin in that pending more data. Let’s hope I’ll see another one before 2027.

140: ’48-’49 (so far), 4/4 only, likely fewer than 50 built

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