The last poll asked about the new Collings ukuleles, specifically the entry model UC-1 concert ukulele. I had put up a poll about the approach of various guitar companies' approach to the ukulele, and I had lumped Collings with the likes of Breedlove and SCGC as building very high end custom ukuleles. Well, I think it would be more accurate to put Collings in the same category as Martin now that we have more information about how the Collings ukuleles will play out in the marketplace. By the way, I'm fairly surprised that such a large percentage of voters (almost half) didn't know who Collings was. I guess I didn't know much about them myself but checking around the 'net leads me to believe Collings is one of the more highly regarded guitar builders today. They are more or less positioned between the giant guitar builders such as Taylor or Martin and the sole custom shop luthier. They don't crank out a ton of instruments per year but apparently their quality is very high.
According to what I've gathered so far from some of the Collings' dealer websites (Collings website has yet to include a product page for their ukes), there will be 3 models available. The UC-1, UC-2, and UC-3:
-UC-1 (list $1150): Basic mahogany uke similar to a Martin style 0 of the old days. No bindings. Martin style headstock. Satin finish.
-UC-2 (list $1600): Mahogany or Koa with body bindings. Collings "haircut" headstock". Gloss finish.
-UC-3 (list $2600): Fancy koa ukes with headstock, body & fingerboard bindings . Collings "haircut" headstock. Possibly varnish gloss finish.
This is fairly similar to how Martin divided up their lineup in the old days with the various styles (0, 1, 2, 3, 5). Given that Collings has built a pretty good reputation of quality for themselves, these might have a chance to be the modern day "vintage Martin" ukes in the future.
In terms of pricing, my reaction to the $1k street price of the UC-1 is that it is actually something I would consider. $1k is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, and with a LoPrinzi model A concert costing about $500, the Collings UC-1 appears to be pretty expensive. But if you compare it with say a Kamaka concert, which usually runs about $800+, it became a little bit more reasonable. It is a handcrafted ukulele by a highly respected guitar company, and compared to the Martin re-issue style 3 sopranos, which costs in excess of $1500 and are also made by a respected guitar company, the cost of these Collings concerts seem to be within reason, at least to me. This, of course, assumes that these Collings ukes have great sound quality. Based on the reputation of their guitars and mandolins, and also comments from musicguymic, who has a couple of these, I think it should be safe to assume that they are at least very good, if not outstanding.
The UC-2 & UC-3 models seem pretty expensive at MSRP of $1600 & 2600 respectively. But they more or less correspond to the Kanile'a K-3 & K-4 models, which are in fact roughly in the same price brackets. The Kanile'a K-4 has more blingy pearls & abalone, but the UC-3 appears to have a varnish finish, so the cost for those might be a wash. To be sure, I think these higher model Collings are REALLY expensive ukes, but perhaps not as outrageous as they initially appeared.
I think what Collings is doing with ukes is closing in on what I would personally like to see good guitar builders do. That is to provide ukuleles that compete in the price bracket of the Hawaiian builders such as Kamaka. The Collings UC-1 is a bit north of the Hawaiian makes in terms of price, but they are roughly in the same ballpark. I believe these will be a hit if they put the "haircut" style headstock on the UC-1 (their plan is to use the Martin style headstock on UC-1 and "haircut" style on UC-2 & UC-3). A high quality U.S. built mahogany uke for about a grand just might find a nice little niche market. The UC-1s I've seen on the internet have all sold pretty quickly, so the market appears to be there for them.
Here are links to some pictures of prototype Collings ukes from Acoustic Music Works (I'm not sure how long these links will be good for):
UC-1 (prototype w/"haircut" headstock)
UC-2 Koa & Cedar
UC-2 Mahogany sunburst
The new basic Collings concert uke (UC-1) sells for about $1k, your reaction is:
-Not bad at all! Sign me up!: 3 votes (8%)
-It's a fair price, I would consider it: 1 vote (2%)
-It's a fair price, but I will pass.: 11 votes (29%)
-It's outrageous! I'll stick with LoPrinzi, thank you.: 5 votes (13%)
-Who is Collings???: 17 votes (45%)