This is quoted from a very useful reply to an email I sent Martin about a Custom Pro that I bought, #VA027XX, on ebay, and the seller also “sold” me a HUGE cock and bull story about his elderly uncle buying it in Nashville in 1992.   (Using quotes like “I’m being completely honest with you.”)  Turned out to be complete and utter bollocks.  (I found it where the seller had bought it about a year before at an estate auction with a serial number search – thanks google)  I paid $1000 for it – have listed it on ebay for about 6 months with no takers.  So I have kept it, as….

It’s a great guitar, one of the finest I’ve ever played, without a bad sound in it – but a “transitional model”.  I believe the fingerboard to be ebony – the only ebony one I own (nice feel).  It may help others in determining origins, (and hence value) of their guitars.  Real ones go for at least 5 times as much as the Samick made ones.  Quote below:


This guitar is what we call a ‘transitional guitar’.  One of my necks but the body is most likely made by Samick.  The Neck is a Standard Pro.  The nomenclature at the end of the neck is production ‘jibberish’ code but the BM-E is of course Birdseye maple / ebony.
99.9% up to s/n 2400 is almost all mine but after that it starts to get very ‘iffy’.  While in transition Samick was pulling what ever parts they found in the shop and put them together.  My guys did they best they could.  Right after the ‘take-over’ Samick discontinued the SP because they were going to come out with there versions.  So many of the SP necks became CP.
The term Bent S stood for Bent figured top.  We bent the figured top over the arm contour.  In your guitar its a ‘quilt-ish’ top.  It looks like its on a alder body which my Bent S were.  My Bent Top backs were painted black.
This guitar is one of the most popular we made, no wonder Samick kept it going.  This is why I’m doing this in my de Erro Guitars.  I make a Bent Top as well and all my guitars right now are 7/8, Gibson Scale.  I do Quilt, Flame and California Myrtle.
Please, please don’t think I’m commenting on the quality of the guitar.  My guys still gave their all.  And you loving it is the most important thing!
Hope this helps!  Don’t hesitate to write!

13 Thoughts on “Some serial number advice – “Transitional Guitars””

  • My father passed away and my mother is asking me about one of his guitars. It’s a Valley Arts and says California Pro on the headstock. It also has a gold plate on back with Valley Arts logo and made in U.S.A.
    It is stamped CAL 01010
    My dad wrote in his book it was a 1988.
    Any info would be appreciated.

    • Does it have the cartoonish logo found on this page?
      California Pro
      If so it is one of 100 ever made and it is quite collectable. Due to the small numbers ever made, you don’t see real ones very often. Any other logo or script on the headstock that says California Pro without that logo is a Samick Product

  • i have valley arts guitar standard pro VA0160, i wanna know year of made of my guitar, thank you

  • What a cool site. I have a Custom Pro that Mike and & Co. made for me in 1988. I was a Dick Grove student and Paul Jackson Jr. brought one in to use during a workshop he was giving. I’d been in the store on Ventura Blvd and knew about them of course but after watching Paul use his for and hour or so I decided I had to have one. If I recall correctly, it took about 6 months give or take from order to take home. Worth every minute and every dime. Played all over with that ax. Different styles and gigs. It was at home at The Palomino as well as The Whiskey, The Central, and the ballrooms at the LA Biltmore.
    not to mention the

    I don’t play much anymore but I still have it and keep it set up and in good shape.
    Til’ death do us part. It’s a fine piece of American craftsmanship. Thanks for putting up this site.


    • Robert – you could (and should) submit it to the registry – it also give it a bit more credibility for your future with it

  • I have a metallic red valley arts standard pro. Probably 98% condition. Ser num 0846. Any idea of year made and it’s value.

  • I have a Valley Arts California Pro bass s/n VA02285 (Made in U.S.A. on neckplate) which has EMG pickups, a Wilkinson bridge, one piece ash body, and a slim profile mildly flamed maple neck with a tilt back headstock and the black Valley Arts California Pro headstock overlay. Definitely a Samick era bass. Fretwork is really nice and plays beautifully. Wilkinson bridge is really adjustable and the USA EMG pickups sound old school. But it sure looks like a Korean Samick.

    • John, if you email Martin about that he can tell you for sure if your Bass is a Samick or not – this is above my field of expertise I’m afraid.

      The transitional guitar I wrote about in this article is a very fine guitar, one of the finest I’ve ever played, and also plays like a dream – love the ebony board, without a bad sound in it (HSS which I don’t usually prefer). Not to say Samicks are bad, but we wrote this to preserve the history and appeal of the original shop factory and crew. Thanks!

      • I had a transitional Valley Arts Guitar as well. I should have never let it go. It was a very well made guitar. Martin helped me with the identification. He was very helpful. i sure wish I never let sold it. I have seen other models that looked alike at first chance and even had Made In USA on the neck plate but playing them was always the test and most were not even close. Still looking for that Red Sunburst

        • Actually, the Made In USA in no help whatsoever, as it seems like ALL of them have that designation…

          Wait, I lied, my Transition Custom Pro does not say that, but on the neckplate it does say “A California Company”

          • Check ebay and reverb completed listings is all I can tell you, other than the Lukathers go for more money than any others.

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