Gibson Super 400 Arch Top Acoustic Guitar (1940)
Gibson Super 400 Model Arch Top Acoustic Guitar (1940), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 96112, natural lacquer finish, burl maple back and sides, spruce top; flame maple neck with ebony fingerboard, original brown leather covered hard shell case. Item # 7550
Gibson's swing-era masterpiece, the pre-war Super 400 is one of the great fretted classics of the Deco era and one of the most impressive archtop guitars ever made. Amazingly only 7 Super 400's were produced in natural in 1940; this is one of them. The natural finish option was new for Gibson in 1939, and the option of a cutaway (the "Premier' model) soon followed-for whatever reason the non-cutaway natural Super 400 is the rarest of all prewar variations. This guitar represented the pinnacle of the traditional archtop guitar just before WWII; only a top professional player could have afforded such an instrument at the time.
This is a "second generation" Super 400, with a number of features (besides the natural finish) different from the earlier models, first built in 1935. The scale length on this guitar is 25 1/2", longer than the 24 3/4" used by Gibson on most earlier instruments including the first Super 400's. Epiphone had long used this higher-tension scale, and Gibson likely felt the need to match the cutting power of that company's competing Emperor. The top of the earlier super 400 was actually X-braced; by 1939 Gibson had reverted to the parallel braces they had pioneered for all arch-top guitars. The upper bout was also widened on the 18" Super 400, enlarging the body cavity for even more volume. This guitar sports all these evolved features, making it a prime example of the fully evolved prewar "Super 4".
Everything about this guitar radiates opulence; the neck and sides are made of fantastically grained burl maple, the top of very fine-grained spruce. There is multiple binding everywhere and the ebony fingerboard and headstock overlay have bold Deco-styled split block pearl inlay. The marbled celluloid pickguard is multibound, and all hardware is lavishly gold plated. The Kluson Sealfast tuners are equipped with amber Catalin buttons specific to this period while the tailpiece is engraved and exhibits a two-tone burnished gold plate that is lovely to behold. Even the bridge and truss rod cover are unique. Gibson went all out to make this, their most prestigious instrument as impressive to both the player and audience as possible. In both looks and sound this was the benchmark of all period arch-top guitars.
Included with the guitar is a Gruhn Guitars appraisal from earlier this year that details some of this instrument's history when new. It was first logged as a Super 400 in natural finish on May 20th 1940, shipped out with its original leather covered case but returned to the factory not long after-actually quite common with these top-line guitars. It was then shipped out again to west coast dealer Sherman, Clay & Co. on November 6th, at that point apparently finding a home as Gibson has no further record of the instrument. The refinish and refret performed subsequently may in fact be factory work, but it actually looks better and more era-appropriate than most Gibson factory refurbishments we have seen. Whatever its history, we are thrilled to offer this high-Deco masterpiece, a joy to play, listen to or just plain admire!
Overall length is 44 in. (111.8 cm.), 18 1/8 in. (46 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 3/8 in. (8.6 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 25 1/2 in. (648 mm.). Width of nut is 1 11/16 in. (43 mm.). This guitar is in exceptionally fine condition, and while it appears not heavily played over the past 70 years does show the signs of the highest grade of professional work. The body and neck have an old and expertly done refinish, in the correct style natural lacquer. This appears to have been done quite some time ago, as the finish shows signs of natural ageing and use, with a lovely slightly amber patina. There is one very small repaired grain crack to the back just near the upper waist-this is under the finish and appears to be a very old and clean repair.
All hardware remains original and in excellent condition-the gold-plated tailpiece and tuners in particular show crisp detail with little wear and no signs of having been replated. The only alterations to the guitar are an old refret (once again extremely fine work) and a gold Gibson strap button added to the side just above the neck heel. The original pickguard and bracket are intact (with some slight cupping upwards from shrinkage) and there are no signs of the guitar ever having had any pickup installation as is commonly seen on these instruments. The original bridge is fully intact and the neck angle is excellent-this is an exceptionally fine playing and sounding instrument, as fine a Super 400 as we have ever heard.
The sound has both depth and definition, powerful if required but also delicate if played with a lighter touch. This wonderful and truly exceptional guitar is still housed in the original leather covered hardshell case, which has a lot of wear overall but is still fully functional. Priced far below what it would be if absolutely original, this is a wonderful player's example of Gibson's finest high-deco archtop guitar. Excellent + Condition.
Prices subject to change without notice.