Tuesday, October 23, 2018
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Gibson Nick Lucas Special Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1935)
Gibson Nick Lucas Special Model Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1935), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 91959, sunburst top, dark back and sides finish, mahogany back, sides and neck; spruce top, rosewood fingerboard, original black hard shell case.
This guitar is an extremely unusual example of the Nick Lucas Special, the Gibson company's first high-grade flat-top guitar. This particular instrument's small 13 3/4" extra-deep body was an original signature design element of this model, but by the time this example was made in 1935, it had been outdated for some years.
This Nick Lucas is 12-fret guitar similar to those built in the 1927-8 period but actually dates to 1935, as evidenced by both the serial and factory order numbers found internally. The Gibson shipping ledgers indicate this particular instrument was built for an endorser named A.L. Caroselli, and shipped on May 22, 1935. It would be interesting to know why Mr. Caroselli wanted a new Lucas built to the old pattern; perhaps one he had been using was lost or damaged or was simply nostalgic for the older design…we will likely never know.
Whatever the reason, this customer's whim resulted in a unique and wonderful guitar, in some ways combining the best of two eras. By 1935, the Lucas was a larger maple guitar with a 14-fret neck joint, still distinguished by the extra deep body finished in sunburst with a fleur-de-lis headstock inlay. This ebony Special is not a direct re-issue of a 1928 model either; the black-and-white tuxedo livery is also a custom feature, and a very striking one at that.
The guitar’s top is braced in an X pattern with design and workmanship typical of 1935; the bridge, pickguard, nut, and tuners are also from that period, indicating this guitar was not a "leftover" from the late 1920’s but a newly-built "oldie". The soft "V" profile of the 12 fret neck is also more typical of the mid-1930’s; the late 20's examples had a rounder-backed feel. The tuners are early Grover G-98's with riveted gears.
The guitar is superbly elegant and fairly fancy in an understated way. The soundhole edge is bound and there is a triple wide inlaid celluloid ring outside it. There is triple binding on the top, and the white pickguard completes the look. The fingerboard inlay is a fancy shaped pearl pattern originally designed especially for the Lucas Special. There is a pearl script "Gibson" logo straight on the peghead above the fleur-de-lis inlay. The original round "Gibson Special" Nick Lucas portrait label under the soundhole is intact and quite well-preserved; Nick's enigmatic smile still peers out clearly.
The sound is quite powerful for a small-body instrument; punchy and loud, but still sweet. This is an excellent guitar for ragtime picking and other period styles with the requisite snappy sound but added low/mid response thanks to the unusually deep body and X-braced top. The guitar plays very well and is structurally better preserved than most of the earlier and fragile 1920's Gibson flat-tops. This is an exceptionally rare instrument, especially in this condition; a possibly one-of-a-kind and fabulous piece of Gibson history.
Overall length is 38 in. (96.5 cm.), 13 3/4 in. (34.9 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 4 5/8 in. (11.7 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 24 1/4 in. (616 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/4 in. (44 mm.).
This is a very nicely original guitar, down to the bridge pins and endpin, with some play wear and several minor repairs but no serious alterations. The original rosewood bridge has been lowered slightly on the fore end, and the saddle is a correct-style bone reproduction. The treble side has had a pair of cracks repaired very cleanly by the waist, and that has been inconspicuously oversprayed. This is a very neat job with color-matching very well done, and it's hard to see even on close inspection except for the smoother patina. Despite these repairs, this is overall just a lovely guitar – internally unaltered, all original braces are tight and intact; all other finish is completely original with some dings, dents, and scrapes, but no major loss.
There is a small scar on the back of the headstock from an incorrect Waverly tuning machine once installed in the low-E position; we dug deep into the special reserve parts drawer and have re-installed an EXACT matching original riveted Grover G-98, at which point the guitar practically sighed in thanks. Rather remarkably, the neck has never been reset; there has been a very clean refret with the correct style wire. The guitar is an excellent player with a big sound for a small-bodied instrument. Superbly striking, possible unique -- this very special Nick Lucas Special is one of the coolest Gibson flat-tops we have seen in a while, complete with its original HSC. Excellent - Condition.
Item # 8023
This item has been sold.
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