1960s Harmony H1203 Sovereign 000-size Guitar

This guitar was "trade bait" and then it wasn't -- then it was -- then it wasn't again. Sometimes you guitar collectors spin me around -- and around -- and around!

Clearly, this is a heavily-played, heavily-enjoyed old Sovereign 1203 model. It's got no date stamp but it's early-to-mid '60s at the latest as it has no pickguard, the older-style finish and trim, and the neck and construction just feels early-'60s. You can tell right off the bat when you've handled as many of this same model as I have. It also has the give-away bone nut and saddle which gave way to plastic by the mid-'60s.

Also: these earlier ones just sound better. It's got this woody, punchy, aggressive vibe to it that suits fingerpicked country-blues perfectly.

Despite all the wear and tear, the instrument itself arrived in decent order to the shop -- no hairline cracks, no real big issues. The neck was a hair backbowed, though some fussing with the frets and getting the string gauges right solved that. It also needed the other usual work to get it up to snuff, but at least I wasn't endlessly regluing loose braces or cleating cracks in the top.

Repairs included: neck reset, fret level/dress, compensation and adjustment of the saddle, cleaning, and setup. It'll be getting a drilled-out endpin for an endpin jack and also a K&K acoustic pickup installed, too -- as well as a bridge reglued and a bit of mod at the bridge.

Made by: Harmony

Model: H1203

Made in: Chicago, IL, USA

Top wood: solid spruce

Back & sides wood: solid mahogany

Bracing type: ladder

Bridge: rosewood

Fretboard: rosewood

Neck wood: mahogany

Tone: woody, aggressive, forward, punchy

Action height at 12th fret: 3/32” bass 1/16” treble (fast, spot-on)
String gauges: 54w-12 lights

Neck shape: medium C/D

Board radius: ~10"

Truss rod: adjustable

Neck relief: straight

Fret style: medium-small

Scale length: 25 1/8"

Nut width: 1 3/4"

Body length: 19"

Body width: 15 1/8"

Body depth: 3 3/4"

Weight: 3 lb 9 oz


Nick R said…
The block capital logo ended in 1962, I believe. The snake tail to the letter S as well identifies it as an early example as do the other features you point out. It appears to have lost its white Harmony truss rod cover. These guitars have a big fan club.
Jake Wildwood said…
Thanks Nick, I really appreciate your notes and additions to my posts. I just don't have time these days to delve into these deep so it helps a lot!
Jake Wildwood said…
& yes, the truss cover is my own from transparent tortoise, as the original white was gone.
Brandon McCoy said…
Wow, great piece of information, Nick. I really appreciate that. As Jake mentioned, I've flip-flopped a couple times about selling this guitar as I previously had a late 60s 1203 that I didn't bond much with. I'm a big fan of Mance Lipscomb, however, so that desire for a 1203 isn't likely to completely leave me and I think this one has turned out to be a real gem of an old guitar.

And Jake, as always, thanks a ton, man!