Introduced in 1912, the L-4 was Gibson’s finest guitar offering until Lloyd Loar’s designed L-5 arrived ten years later. The L-4 originally featured a 16″ body, carved top and back, oval soundhole, and lavish trimmings. Interestingly, the model didn’t change in any real significant way until the later 1920’s, and it remained a round-soundhole model until the Gibson catalogue was revamped in 1934-35.

This example is the finest L-4 we’ve ever encountered. It is crack and repair free, completely original, beautifully set-up, and in simply breath-taking condition. The guitar plays well with original frets that show only modest wear, and a properly fit and adjusted bridge. The instrument’s original finish shows little playwear and a light assortment of dings and scratches. Original tuning machines work well, and the tailpiece, pickguard, nut, and bridge are all in similarly excellent shape.

The guitar has an incredibly unique tone amongst archtops. What is most surprising about the L-4 is its flattop-like bass response adjacent to its full and bloomy mid-range pop. It has an open depth and amazing volume — almost a 3 dimensional tone — and sounds, not surprisingly, like the popular music of the 1920’s and early 1930’s. Think Lonnie Johnson, Eddie Lang and the like.

Carved spruce top and birch back with single white bindings, bound oval soundhole, and diamond-mosaic rosette. Raised tortoise-celluloid pickguard, adjustable ebony bridge and truss-rod (Loar-era features), trapeze tailpiece. 11-1/2 fret neck joint, highly radiussed fingerboard, 1-3/4 nut, sharply V-shaped neck with deep profile and a 1st fret depth of 1.127”. Pearl ‘The Gibson” headstock overlay, pearl nut and fingerboard dots, ivoroid fingerboard and soundhole binding, ivoroid tuning buttons. No cracks, repairs, or changes other than bridge-fitting and set-up. Perfect top shape with no sinkange.

A very rare and exciting instrument, with original hardshell case.

1923 Gibson L-4 oval hole archtop vintage guitar 1923 Gibson L-4 oval hole archtop vintage guitar
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An absolutely incredible find, this 1935 Gibson Jumbo came to us from the family of the original local owner. It is about as perfect and clean as a vintage guitar can be, 100% original, and has just had its neck carefully reset by Folkway’s own, Mark Stutman.

The Jumbo was introduced in 1934 and has the distinction of being Gibson’s very first Jumbo-sized flat-top Spanish model. It was the forbearer of the J-35, J-45, and every other slope-shouldered Dreadnought that followed. To say that the Gibson Jumbo is an historically important model is a huge understatement; and this 1935 Gibson Jumbo example is, without any exaggeration, among the finest of its kind in existence.

The Jumbo was a fairly expensive model upon its release at the depths of the Great Depression. At $60, the Jumbo was a lot of money for most people (an L-00’s $27.50, by comparison), and sales were sluggish. As such, Gibson simplified the guitar’s appointments in 1936 and settled upon what became the J-35, which was accordingly priced at $35.

The Jumbo was designed with certain unique features that make them quite unique among slope-shouldered dreadnoughts. The body depth was almost untapered from the endpin to the neck heel, which adds considerable air-volume to the guitar and, by extension, more bass. In order to make the guitar’s bass less overwhelming, the soundhole size was reduced by ¼” to 3-3/4”, and the top was braced with three tonebars rather than two. Most Jumbos were built with tops that measure thinner than J-35 spec, which, in combination with the stiffer bracing, results in a guitar that can really be thought of as a really big L-00. The mids and trebles are thick, forward, and round; there is huge headroom, and the bass is there to support all the strength and power the guitar has to offer. If you’re lucky enough to play a Jumbo that’s not been heinously repaired, you’ll likely discover that there’s no better flatpicker in Gibson’s model history. Sadly, there are so few Jumbos remaining today that most who read this post won’t get a chance to experience one of these incredible guitars first-hand.

This 1935 Gibson Jumbo is in near-perfect condition. Playwear is limited to light string grooves on the first three frets and capo wear on the back of the same part of the neck. The only crack is at the inner pickguard margin, and there is a 1” back seam separation that has been glued. The neck has been reset and the bone saddle is a look-alike replacement of the original, which was cut low; but the bridge, pins, bridge plate, bracing, nut, frets, and all the finish are factory stock and are without repairs or modifications. It’s a seriously clean 1935 Gibson Jumbo. Original Grover G-98 tuners, original rope strap, endpin, and ‘Challenge’ case, too.

Spruce top, mahogany back and sides, mahogany neck with bound rosewood fretboard and inlaid pearl dots. Bone nut, nickel tuners, pearl headstock logo. Small rectangle bridge with factory original bridge bolts and pearl dots, firestripe pickguard. Bound top and back, sunburst lacquer to all surfaces of the Gibson Jumbo.

The body is 16” wide with depth that tapers from 4-1/2” to 4-3/16. 3-3/4” soundhole diameter. V-shaped neck with 1-3/4” nut, 24.75” scale, and 2-3/8” string spacing at the saddle. Neck depth measures .968” at the 1st fret and 1.065” at the 9th. Set up with Darco 12s and an action of 5-6 64ths. The original frets are untouched.

With original case

Listen to our audio clip here. 

1935 Gibson Jumbo vintage acoustic guitar

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Introduced in 1934 as a replacement for the HG-24 Hawaiian, the original Roy Smeck Stage Deluxe featured the same body dimension as the Jumbo, which was also introduced in 1934. Both of these new large guitars featured 16” wide bodies with deep sides that didn’t taper much in thickness between the endblock and neck heel. As Gibson transitioned from the Jumbo to the more tapered-sided J-35 in 1936, the Smeck followed suit. As such, the early Smeck models are the only ones built with a deeper body. This example is from the 4th and final documented batch of Roy Smeck Stage Deluxes built in 1936, likely from around the middle of the year and among the last of the deep-bodied Smecks. The depth of the sides taper from 4-1/2” at the endpin to 4-3/16” at the neck heel.

Originally built as a Hawaiian, or lap-style guitar, this Roy Smeck Stage Deluxe has been converted for Spanish (AKA Normal) style playing. The conversion is nicely done and is blended in well with the rest of the guitar’s originality. The neck has been carved into a very comfortable soft V, with a nut width of 1-7/8”. The neck depth at the 1st fret is .890”, which feels appropriately sized and neither too large or too small. The headstock front and back and the neck heel retain their original finish; side dots and real frets were added during the conversion. The original fingerboard was reused and has not ever been separated from the neck; no truss rod was added in the process (and none was needed). The guitar’s current fretwork is brand-new (done here) and neck relief and playability are quite perfect. The tuners are modern Waverly’s with ivoroid buttons.

The Roy Smeck Stage Deluxe guitar’s body features original finish throughout, with touch-up adjacent to the fretboard extension, where the board was narrowed. There are four repaired top cracks including one at the pickguard’s inside margin, two repaired back cracks, and one small side crack that’s been repaired and locally touched up. The original bridge remains in excellent condition and has been reslotted for proper intonation. The aged bone saddle was installed here, the bridge pins are original. A few brace ends have been reglued over the years, and the bridge plate is a well-made replacement. The bridge pin spacing is 2-3/8”.

A wonderful sounding Gibson Jumbo, this Roy Smeck Stage Deluxe is loud and powerful and has limitless headroom at the ready. Its voice is very focused, fundamental, and clean, with overtones kept at bay; which makes it a perfect flat-picker. The bass is not overpowering but is quite present and underlies the mids and low mids well. Trebles and upper mids are strong, thick, and perfectly defined.

With non-original hardshell case

1936 Gibson Roy Smeck Stage Deluxe vintage acoustic guitar

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