There are modern plastic ukuleles for sale (these, for example, which retail at $160; or this new product which costs $100), and you can get plastic toy ukuleles for about $20. Meri decided to go with the third option: buying a vintage plastic ukulele on eBay.
Back in the '50s, plastic ukuleles were part of a huge wave of the instrument's popularity. Plastic was cheap and easily molded. It was also durable and relatively impervious to the elements. A number of manufacturers made plastic ukes, marketed both as toys and as real instruments (albeit with phrases like "play like a pro without lessons" printed on the box).
So popular were plastic ukes back in the day that they still regularly turn up on eBay. While some sell for well over $100, they can also regularly be had for around half that.
Meri bid on and won a Happy Tune ukulele for $25, shipping included. An incredible bargain, probably due to its bedraggled appearance. It arrived missing a couple of strings (no matter, as these would be replaced in any case) and with scuffs and dirt on the body.
For more on plastic ukuleles, please see these pages:
- John King's history of the plastic ukulele
- this extensive listing of plastic ukulele brands and models
- Ukester Brown's page on the plastic Maccaferri Islander ukulele