Beltone Flat Top Acoustic Guitar, made by Oscar Schmidt , c. 1925

Beltone Flat Top Acoustic Guitar,  made by Oscar Schmidt ,  c. 1925

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Item # 8349
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Beltone Model Flat Top Acoustic Guitar, made by Oscar Schmidt, c. 1925, made in Jersey City, NJ, natural varnish finish, Birch back and sides, spruce top; mahogany neck with ebonized fingerboard., chipboard case.

This guitar is a very worn but still quite playable example of a rare original large-body flat-top made in the Oscar Schmidt factory, one of the signature instruments for fingerstyle blues pickers everywhere. This particular guitar is branded "Beltone", indicating it was originally made for and sold by the firm of Perberg & Halpin in New York. This company commissioned instruments from different builders (even briefly Martin) for sale under this brand name which, at least initially, was intended as a higher-end line.

This Beltone is not overly fancy but is a large and relatively good quality guitar for this maker. The body has birch back and sides with a spruce top bound in celluloid. The original ladder top bracing is intact (many of these guitars have been re-braced with an X pattern, which substantially changes the sound). The top and sound hole are bound and bordered with colored wood purfling that is something of a Stella trademark.

The guitar has several other telltale Schmidt characteristics, including squared-off kerfing under the top, a position dot at the 10th fret, and a particular design of wide-ended pyramid bridge. The 26" scale mahogany neck has a deep and chunky round-backed profile with a hint of a "V". The typical slotted headstock has a "Beltone" logo etched into a pearl diamond set into the face. The sound is powerful with a lot of character. While quite played-in and battered, around this remains a good player's example of this relatively rare instrument.
 
Overall length is 40 1/4 in. (102.2 cm.), 15 in. (38.1 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 4 in. (10.2 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 26 in. (660 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/4 in. (44 mm.).

This guitar is the very definition of a "blues machine". It has been played, whupped, and played again for decades and shows every inch of the road it has been on. Nevertheless, it is still a good player's instrument and sounds fantastic, with a deep rumble and growl only these old Schmidt-made guitars seem to possess.

The finish is basically completely gone from the back and sides, and mostly worn away on the neck and top. The neck has been reset and the original bridge is preserved, recut for a new canted saddle and deeper string grooves in front of the pins. Incredibly, the wooden pins with a celluloid dot are the original 1920s pieces. It must have been refretted as the frets do not show much wear but they appear in an older style, with a narrow crown and small tang unlike most modern wire. The ebonized maple fingerboard has a long sealed crack down the center for most of its length, and much of the color has worn away. The tuners are old but not original.

There are several sealed top and back cracks, all solid but not neatly done. The top bracing appears intact, but 3 of the 4 back braces are replaced with much lower modern wood pieces. The top appears very dirty, with the initials "J D" seemingly scratched into the lower quarter.

We could continue with a litany of cosmetic faults, but really this is not a guitar for someone bothered by imperfections. It is a player's instrument with more character than many guitars accrue in the lifetimes of several owners, and we're guessing this one has out-lived some already. We recommend that it be kept tuned down a couple of steps (C or C# seem ideal) and it should be good for decades more. Includes a funky green-painted chipboard case from the 1940s it looks to have lived in for many decades. Very Good Condition.