Rating Guide For "Collector-Grade" B3s

  Something a little different for a Sunday Morning...
I'm often asked to rate old Hammonds but sellers don't always like the results. I put this less-than-serious guide together for just those occasions. It's not meant to be a legitimate guide for evaluating old Hammonds.


  This organ doesn't exist! There have been no "perfect 10s" since the last B3 left the factory in the mid-70s. Even then, most B3s were less than "perfect" when they were built! The whimsical "B3-in-a-box" doesn't qualify either because it surely has problems related to age. Forget about trying to figure out what constitutes a "10," this organ is a fantasy mostly in the minds of neurotic collectors. However, in the unlikely event that such an organ does exist, it's hidden away in a glass case somewhere in Japan. You would not be allowed to touch, let alone play it. In fact, no one, not even the current owner is allowed to play it.


  B3s in this range are as good as a 25+ year old console can be. They are original and cosmetically, mechanically, and electrically perfect. However, they almost never come up for sale so don't waste your time looking for one. Should one appear on the market, it means that the owner has died or his family had him committed for excessive obsessive-compulsive behavior!
In any case, the price would be outrageous. You can't afford it unless you are willing to sign over your retirement account and first-born to the seller.


  This was granny's late husband's organ! Six years ago you could have scammed the old girl and grabbed this B3 for 300 bucks but now she KNOWS what a lowlife you really are! An offer that would have brought a smile after the funeral will now likely get you the finger. After all, she has the same resources you have since her son gave her that damn computer! This rig ain't leaving the condo until enough money changes hands for a face lift and an ocean cruise to Tahiti! And keep in mind that granny also needs LOTS of extra cash for the slot machines and blackjack games onboard ship.


  Okay, this B3 is less than perfect but it's not all that bad.
Everything is intact and it plays great. The vacuum cleaner banged into the legs and bench a few times and the music rack that got busted when Darth Vader went airborne was expertly repaired. This organ has been in the same family for almost three generations, it has survived multiple moves, kids, grand kids, and a divorce. Alimony is a bitch so the owner is now willing to part with it for a mere $8000 as long as you pay for the moving. And if you're really nice, he will even toss in the JR-20.


  You would probably rate this B3 as "average," unless, of course, it's on eBay where it would be "mint" or "pristine!" It spent the 50s in a restaurant cocktail lounge where it acquired its quaint yellow keys and smell from all the cigarette smoke and cooking grease. The small burn in the left cheek block is less than attractive. This organ went home with the owner-organist when he retired in 1965 and it has not been played or serviced since. Of course it's full of crud and won't start, but if you bust your ass for several weeks, you can likely restore back to reasonably decent shape.
The asking price for the B3 (and the beater 21H Leslie that came with it) is $5000, or roughly double what the pair sold for new in 1955.


  This organ was sold to a touring gospel group after the original owner/wannabe rock star decided to get a real job. Cosmetics are no longer a factor in determining value. The fall board, music rack, and original bench are missing. Surprisingly, the rest of the organ is mostly intact but it's on it's third set of pedals. Various gospel musicians with huge feet stomped the first two sets of pedals into firewood years ago. By necessity, this B3 has seen serviced regularly but the manuals, drawbars, electronics, etc., are disasters. When it's finally replaced, it will be sold to another gospel group because no one else will pay the asking price.


  This B3 is similar to one above but the damage is more professional.
It was on tour with a name rock act for a number years so the pedals, and even the original console are long gone. The new "console" is essentially a packing crate but that's okay since it lives in a custom flight case. Very little is original, factory parts that weren't replaced were heavily modified. Naturally the organ sounds like shit, any similarity between the sound of this rocker and a stock B3 is purely coincidental. The original owner spent $20,000 for "customizing" but it has been turned into a pile of junk. However, don't think you can buy it cheap! An aging rock-fan-turned stock-broker has offered to pay ten times what it's actually worth for the bragging rights of owning it.


  Newbies believe B3s like this are great but, in reality, the organ is a total RAT! Even diehard B3 enthusiasts are turned off by its deplorable condition. It may work but it requires extensive work before it can be returned to reliable service. Years ago people junked organs in this condition but now have second thoughts. Unless you MUST have THIS organ, don't be tempted by the low price. Considering the average person thinks ANY organ on four legs is a B3, a 60s Lowrey Festival is a better deal. Only your mother or the finance company will know for sure.


  This "organ" qualifies as a B3 because 51% of the original pieces are included in the deal. Of course it doesn't work, it can't! There's not enough "organ" left for it to work! Unless you are certifiably crazy (or active on certain online Hammond users groups), you won't consider "project organs" like this for anything other than salvage. If, by chance, you have already bought this organ, you can always part it out on eBay for a hefty profit. Other Hammond enthusiasts understand your plight so the level of ridicule will be minimal.


  Even the most optimistic enthusiast acknowledges the fact that this piece of junk has lost its right to be called a B3. More pieces are missing than included, and those that remain are too far gone to have any salvage value. However, if the skeletal remains of the console are present, and you are extremely naive, you may still think it still has some "potential." When all the laughs and bad jokes subside, you can always turn this botched autopsy into an abstract sculpture. Even eBay is not an option in cases like this.
Hope you had some fun with this,

Harvey Olsen
Musicville, Inc.