H1203 - Sovereign|
Acoustic flatop - Natural
Production year(s) : 1945-1972 (other years possible, not verified)
"Western special". Pinless style bridge. Older models (pre 1956 ?) had a different, rounded "figure eight" body - No pickguard on early years - Barclay branded version wears H1203-3 model number. Not to be confused with the lower end H162 (check this model number). The H162 has a simple ply binding around body, H1203 has multi-plies binding around body, better woods on the top and a double rosette around soundhole.
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|All solid woods|
Related to this model
45 comments | Add your comment !
- Gregory Jones - 2006-04-17
I love mine. Despite a half dozen applications of Stew-Mac polish it won't shine. The sides have cracks indicating that at one time or another it probably had been used as a weapon. There is only one crack on the top. All cracks have been amaturishly (?) repaired. The tuners would "pop" just as the string reached pitch. I replaced them with Grover "Vintage" open tuners with an 18:1 ratio from Stew-Mac. I love it. It sounds so fine it replaced a 00016GT. Blues on a Martin? Ha!!!!!!! My Harmony will bring tears to your eyes. This is one sweet ugly dog.
- Larry Heagle - 2007-04-04
I just outbid everyone on eBay for a 603 recently. It is in very good condition except that someone must have dropped something heavy on it just below the sound hole as there is some cave in damage right under the pickguard. This particular guitar has been autographed by bluegrass phenom Jimmy Martin and the Sunny Mountain Boys. Although the guitar vibrates freely, the overall sound is a little "thin" for my taste. Still it is a valuable addition to my collection.
- Lester - 2007-12-03
I have a '67 a friend rescued from the city landfill. I've replaced the tuners and re-glued the pick guard over the last 10 years and to this day it's still my favourite. It has way more tone than any modern guitar around the $500 range. 10 years ago this gem was a decent guitar but as time passed more and more players came to appreciate what a fine instrument these Harmony's are.
- Bob Vaughan - 2007-12-04
Just got a 1203 for free. Needs neck reset but tone is unreal. Perfect cond.despite deeply worn frets. The original finish on these things is incredible as is the wood. The top is close-grained with some bear-claw. In a word.....gorgeous! To be continued....(after neck set)
- Benny (Bass Drum) Pisani - 2008-01-04
My Harmony Soverign serial 2059H1204 was purchased in 1970 at Nunzios music store in Union City, NJ for(if I remember right) $65.00. It was the first thing I ever bought with my own money (my prior guitar my dad bought me in 65- a Dan Electro Convertable).
The Soverign was moved many times, and has sat in a case for over 25 years-unused, untuned-not really thought of.
About 6 mo ago, I began playing again and pulled it out-man what a mess, BUT, suprisingly, it cleaned up very nicely. damage wise, it has a crack in the side about 3-4 inches from the neck. but other than that, it is now clean, and quite playable. Just restrung it today- cant believe how its held up over the years. These things must have been made well for it to hold up to all that neglect. Not too bad at all.
Got my chops back & playing with a local swing band-some great memories, and somthing to hold on to and give my grand daughter.
Your musically, Benny
- eddie41 - 2008-01-13
This is my favorite of the harmony's. Turned me into a fingerstyle guitar player. Not as much projection as the 1260, and not as good for flatpicking as the 1260, but these babies have magic. Great lows, mids, and highs. This guitar has changed me from a hack to a good player.
- Mike Bunn - 2008-02-18
I bought my Harmony in 1958-59 traveled all over europe and the seven seas with it. Its claim to fame is that i taught albert lee single string picking on it, he never looked back and still has his to day. My own is i think hanging up in a bar in majorca spain. The sound from that guitar is as good as it gets, the depth of a Gibson with the tone of a Martin.
- tracker - 2008-06-08
My H203 was purchased at a flea market for $ 100.00 ...it was strung with nylon strings. I let the kids and Grandkids bang it around and it took a a beating. One day recently, I strung it up with Martin light guage steel strings and was stunned at the clarity of tone , sustain and all round ease of playing. It is a great guitar with better sound and playing qualitys that several of my high end guitars. Keep it if you have one ...cant beat the sound.
- Jessica - 2008-08-18
This is one of the first guitars I learned to play on . My dad gave to me, I've had it for about Five years and it still sounds Great.It's one of the Best quality Guitars I own.
- Blue in VT - 2009-03-31
I'v e recently acquired 2 of these...one from the early 60's and one from '67...and I love them both...I will have to do some serious work on both..inlcuding neck resets but even with the high action they have right now they sound Great...when They are all fixed up I hope to be able to channel the spirit of Mance Lipscomb himself!!!
- Don Knight - 2009-10-29
I have one of these. I have had it since 1986 and bought it from a pawn shop here in Victoria BC Canada. It is one of my favourite players. Sold top and a built in pickup which I think is original from the factory. Separate volume and tone knobs. Sound hole has taken a pretty severe beating over the years so I had my friend Andy repair it nicely and I am back to playing it almost daily. [your guitar should be an original H55, the electrified H1203 - added by François, webmaster]
- Fred Capo - 2009-11-19
I am restoring and early Sovereign - probably early 50's. Small soundhole w jumbo shaped body.
Only thing is the body is laminate so not sure where the all solid wood description comes from...
- - 2009-11-20
Fred, I'm not ready to believe an original Sovereign has a laminated body without an evidence. All Harmony acoustics, from 1892 to ca 1972, were solid woods. Please use the contact form on this site, so I can send you my email address. We could discuss and exchange pictures !
- Clifford - 2010-01-06
I took my first guitar lesson on my sister-in-law's 1203. It was given to me by my niece last September. The finish is heavily checked and the pickguard is missing. Instead of having the neck reset, which seems to be a typical problem, I put it in a jig with 60lb. of back pressure. It plays beautifully with Martin .010 strings. It can be heard being finger picked on my song "Candle's Glow" at ReverbNation.com/cliffordbabcock
- jeff - 2010-01-13
Oh man I love this guitar. I'm a jumbo Sovereign guy for 40 years (H1265 and many others since - H1260, Regal R235, H1266, H6560, Airline jumbos, Opus X). I ran into my first H1203 at the Trading Musician in Seattle, hanging on the repair wall with a broken truss rod and top crack. I cleated the crack, pulled the truss rod out and replaced it with another original Harmony, then finally did the requisite neck reset and levelled and crowned the frets. New bone nut and saddle, and I put on D'Addario EXP mediums. Ohmygaw!!
Volume and sustain for days, more a matter of keeping control than straining for loud and tone. Serious mojo for blues, pickin', folk, country, pure pleasure this one is. I have an H181 Fenderhead which is a damn nice guitar, but this Sovereign blows it away. Picked up another H1203 which is beat, and I may X-brace it. Though it might end up with a more subtle and complex voice, I'm not sure it could be any better than this ladder-braced cannon. Whoever said these babies have magic knows of what he speaks.
- aj - 2010-01-30
Got mine at a garage sale 25 years ago, its a late 50's early 60's, no name version, thanks to this site for ID. Great guitar for writing songs and getting that classic country rock pop 60's sound. The solid woods and old nitro finish are great, has a sound very similar to a J-4, Hummingbird, or old Epi Texan. The bridge when I got it was falling off, replace with a martin bridge. Still going strong, always in tune, funny brassy finish on frets, oversize fret markers that are shrinking a bit, may need to fix these, otherwise the go to guitar for the beach and camping.
- Gitar Tom - 2010-02-23
I have a one owner Harmony Sovereign that I picked up in the 60s. I still haven't learned how to play guitar, but this was my first. I took lessons on it as a kid. I have two sons that can both play circles around me and they both love this guitar. I think I bought it without a pickguard and added a white one. I don't see any pictures with white pickguards. It's still in pretty good shape. The neck joint might be a little soft and the strings a little high. I can't get a piece of paper between the heel of the neck and the body tho. It's cute and sounds good. I'm going to have a local luthier look at it this week for an opinion of its overall integrity.
- Lensylvania - 2010-07-19
I have owned one of these H 1203 Sovereign Harmonies since 1986. Has no serial number but is wired with a pick up in the neck. Probably an after market add on I guess. Anyone know if some came from the factory with a pick up set at the proximal end of the neck? Looks like a humbucker.
- Alan - 2010-11-04
This was my first guitar, $65 in 1956. I traded a Vega 4-string banjo I'd been playing in Dixieland bands because I had just heard Leadbelly and went nuts about blues.I worked on that, and spent a lot of time "sitting in the basement stealing from Chet." It was stolen from my office in Chicago in 1981. I have seven other guitars I picked up over time, including three Martins and a Pimentel & Sons that was made for me. I finally bought an H1203 to replace the one stolen 25 years ago on eBay last year. Same guitar, same case, same sound, looks and plays like new, about $400, and more than worth it. Sweet, easy guitar. If you find one, get it.
- Jay Levine - 2011-03-05
I got my 1203 fall of 1960, new. Still looks and plays great. Don't play it that much, but it still shines.
- Stephen Price - 2011-07-30
Picked up mine at a shop in S.F. in 1966 when I was in the Navy. Took it up to Kodiak, AK for an 18 month tour of duty, then back to S.F. when I got out of the Navy. Sure was a really nice guitar to play. Gave it away to a girl friend after I bought a Martin D18.
- Dick Rees - 2011-10-22
I bought one after jamming with Mance Lipscomb back in the late '60's. I gave him a J200 I had. He played that for a while but it was stolen, then recovered by his nephew a couple of years later. I played my first Sovereign until it fell to pieces...I played it a LOT. I've had other guitars, but for sheer playing pleasure it's always been my favorite. I found another at a Good Will in Tacoma WA and will be getting another from Ebay soon. Gotta be the sweetest "ride" in a 6-string for finger-style rag-picking.
- Steve - 2012-07-24
When I was in High School my friend Lucy had an old beat up Harmony Sovereign, and I think it was this model. She kept silk & steel strings on it, and it was the first good quality quitar I ever played. It needed a neck rest, and the bridge needed to be glued down, but it still sounded wonderful. That was 1965 or so. The guitar was pretty old then - I have no idea when it was built.
I almost bought a new model 1260 in 1967 in Berkeley, but I bought a camera instead. Wish I'd bought the guitar. It was another 15 years before I got a good-quality acoustic guitar.
- Wild Bill s - 2012-09-26
I bought mine in 1966. It was bought new for £28 by a friend in a shop in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1965 and sold on to me for £14 a year later (he was saving to get married). It had a hard life until the 1990s when I was able to afford other guitars. It has had cracks repaired to the sides (one in 1969 after being dropped on an icy road after a New Year's dance). It is original except for the tuners - replaced by Ibanez individual ones in 1982. It still plays and sounds great and is enjoying semi-retirement. It has amazing tone, but I only use light strings (10s) on it these days. I love it and would never part with it. My wife bought it for me as an engagement present and we have been married since 1967.
- Lee Chase - 2012-11-26
I have what looks to be a mid 60's H1203 (the date stamp is either gone or very faded). I bought this guitar from a friend in 1990 for $175.00. It plays easily and sounds great. Other players pick it up and are often amazed by its sweet tone and projection, especially for a somewhat small and inexpensive guitar. The original tuners had been replaced with Schallers and it was missing the truss rod cover. I'm looking for a replacement.
- Dorothy Calvert - 2013-02-18
Hi I have a Harmomony model H1203 guitar
I bought it 52 years ago it in good shap I still play it
- Joyce - 2014-09-27
I have an H160A 12 string harmony guitar. Why is this model not listed on this site? :-)
- Rick - 2014-10-13
I have an old Barclay but it has H1203-1 instead of a three...
- hockeymom - 2014-11-22
Hi, was given one yesterday. Sat for years with tight electric strings on it, so body slightly warped. Taking it in to see if worth fixing. Does anyone know if it's possible to narrow manufacture date? Stamp inside says 237H1203.
- geofreaux - 2016-04-11
just got a1203 at a flea market for 50 bucks in a case original.repaired a few cracks,i'm thrilled
- geofreaux - 2016-04-11
found a 1203 at flea market for 50 bucks in case i'm thrilled. few repairs plays great.
- Pine - 2017-01-11
Recently acquired a pre'56 H1203 "figure eight" or "70's Guild F-30"-style... Fully re-braced it with scalloped X-brace and back center strip... One of the best sounding guitars I've done that's not a dreadnought. First Harmony I ever did in 1977 was this exact model; loved it, but lent it to a drinker who ended up wrecking it... He paid me well, but always wanted that guitar again. Found this current one thirty-nine years later, and have re-created that unique sound of strong bass with "punchy"mid-range... Rebuilt early H1203 hard to surpass for fingerpicking!!
- Jim Fellman - 2017-02-23
I picked up one of these a while back that was pretty beat up. After a neck reset and frets it was really a sweet sounding guitar. Later on I decided to replace the bridge with a pin type. Replacing the bridge made this guitar a whole new animal. Louder, cleaner bass and more defined treble. I was going to put it in the for sale pile,but now I'll die with it.Lord help me, I have way too many guitars.
- Mark Sutherland - 2017-06-20
I recently bought a Barclay branded Sovereign at flea market for the princely sum of $6.00. Reglued the bridge and adjusted truss rod. I love this thing. I'm taking up learning to play after 40 years away from first lessons as a kid.
- David Knopfler - 2018-04-20
When I bought my 1960s Harmony Sovereign back around 1974 it came with Grovers on it - Anyone know if this was a private customisation or if it might have been sold originally this way?
- Paul - 2018-05-08
I have a 1203 with a serial number but no date stamp in a box, it looks like it says (very faded) something like "VA11946" with "1945" underneath it. This looks like it was written on the inside back underneath the serial number. As the guitar came over from Canada I'm thinking VA is Vancouver? It is a more figure-8 shaped body, with no truss rod cover, no scratchplate.
- W - 2018-05-21
Paul, any interest in selling?
- Paul - 2018-05-24
W - yes, but it depends where you are I suppose. Do you have an email address?
- D. Joslin - 2018-07-07
Picked up a H1203 today at a garage sale for $25.00. The bridge was off and hanging by the strings. Will take to a luthier and have it put back on and checked out. Other than the bridge it is in very good condition. Can not find a date stamp anywhere, used a mirror and looked all over the underside of the top. I am thinking it is a pre 1966 because it did not come with a pick guard.
- Tetsu - 2018-07-28
I purchased a H1203 at a shop in New York through eBay. It cost $995. Found a serial number and model name stamped just under the endblock and managed to read as 302?H1203, the last number preceding H faded. Without a pickguard. HARMONY logo on her headstock is block letter. Since she is in battered conditions as a whole, I cleaned and polished as much as I could as an amateur without sufficient tools and somehow changed the old peg to Stewmac's Golden Age tuners with Bell-end baseplates. The problem is that I cannot set the bushings attached with the peg set since the pegholes are narrow and screws have become loose. If I want to do more, I should take her to a luthier. Strung up with Ernie Ball's Aluminum Bronze, light gauge of 11-52, however, she is easy to play with low action and sounds good with clear and rustic voice. Above all I am very satisfied to get Mance Lipscomb's guitar. Actually she is very similar to H1203 Mance is playing on Texas Songster album's cover. Mance's H1203 seems to have no bushings nor pickguard, and has block letter logo and... What if she is exactly the very Mance's guitar? Who knows? By the way I am very sorry that most of acoustic guitar players ignore Harmony here in Japan. Gibson? Martin? Vintage? Nosense! Fingers and sprit that count.
- Bob Seman - 2019-02-17
I have a h1203 with a date stamp of s45 It is in the figure of eight shape very light with a tailpiece.The photos on the site don't look like mine.The pickguard on the figure of eight models shown is not like mine it is not black it is sunburst and a.different shape.Maybe my copy predates the understood model production dates.
Regards and happy playing
- TVulgaris - 2019-07-28
I got one some months back, remembering how fabulous the late 60s ones were; this one does not have an adjustable truss rod or truss rod cover and has the same pickguard shown in photos #45 & 46, which I guess wasn't very common. I'd guess this is late-50s, early 60s, but can't read much more than "03" at the end of the S. N., anyone with a better idea based on the pickguard, please chime in.
The bridge had been replaced with a pin bridge (screwed in in the middle of each side, so of course it pulled substantially and needed to be reglued), and someone had put a tailpiece on this, which was later removed.
The action's high, but not horribly so, I think I can straighten the neck enough without taking the fingerboard off. I certainly can't take any more off the saddle without losing too much down-bearing, but even with really old strings on it, it sounds pretty good, I wasn't going to put new on it until I got the setup better.
- Dan O'Hare - 2019-11-01
That Harmony Sovereign acoustic is the exact make and model from the same era as the acoustic guitar used by Jimmy Page to record "Stairway To Heaven" with Led Zeppelin for their fourth album.
- Billy B in Vermont - 2020-02-09
I own Leon Redbones old Harmony. Itâ€™s his first professionally played and well documented guitar. Iâ€™m just not sure of the model. Large pryimid bridge doesnâ€™t resemble an H1203. Next to Lances, I would say itâ€™s the most famous Harmony to those really in the know.
- Jim Eden - 2020-06-27
Put the 1203 up against a Gibson or Martin any day. Getting very hard to find at any price.The woods are truly amazing and the necks are some of the best ever made. All need neck resets and in my opinion a pin bridge. Wonderful sound! In was lucky to acquire 3 about 15 years ago. Blues on a Martin. I don't think so.