Museum: Gibson Guitars

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1936 Gibson Jumbo

FON 551B-12. Some time ago a gentleman and his college-aged daughter visited us from a small town about 30 miles from the store. They brought with them her Grandfather's old guitar, and were hoping that we would be able to make it a little easier for her to play. This kind of thing happens pretty often at Folkway.

We had a look at what was in the case, and then replied:

"Well, we certainly can make this guitar a little easier to play," and while pointing at a Seagull guitar that was hanging in the repairshop we added, "but you might consider buying one hundred of those with what this guitar is worth!"

And that's how this exquisite and perfectly original single-family-owned 1936 Gibson Jumbo has come to be for sale here at Folkway Music.

The Gibson Jumbo is among the most important models of acoustic guitar ever produced. Introduced in 1934, the Jumbo was the largest 'Spanish-style' flat-top Gibson had yet made, and their first truly modern 14 fret large-bodied flat-top guitar. It was the original slope-shouldered Dreadnought, and father to the similarly shaped J-45 model which has since come to define Gibson acoustic guitars.

The Jumbo was finely built and had a powerful, loud, and balanced voice, elegant looks, and a modern neck feel. But it was introduced at the height of the Great Depression -- and with a high price tag. By sometime in mid-1936 the Jumbo was retired, redesigned, repriced (from $60 to $35) and reintroduced as the J-35.

Gibson records indicate that not very many Jumbos were built over the model's two year production run - and nobody knows how many have stood the test of time. They were exceptionally lightly built, and every other Jumbo we've encountered has had some collection of issues; and, all too often, poorly executed repairs.

This example, from the second-last batch produced, is far and away the finest Jumbo we have ever encountered or have heard tale of. It is completely original and unmodified, has a perfect original neck angle, and is essentially free of repairs. The guitar has been played, but appears to have been treated with the kind of care you'd expect one would offer to an expensive guitar that was bought during the Great Depression.

Original and unmodified finish throughout, no brace repairs or reglues, original bridgeplate is intact and in perfect condition, original bridge is well-glued, full height and unmodified; original saddle is also full height, and the guitar's original bridgepins and endpin are in excellent condition. Original nut has never been off the guitar, original frets lie true and play well, and the guitar's original Grover tuning machines are in perfect working order. There is one hairline top crack that was glued by us (hide glue, no cleats, no finish touch-up) that's all but vanished in the fine crazing of the guitar's lacquer finish. It's nearly impossible to see, and we have a hard time finding it in the detailed photos we've provided here. There are no back or side cracks, and there's not even a pickguard margin crack. The original finish is in excellent condition; with light scratches and minor chips here and there. There are small areas of capo marking on the back of the neck.

A loud and powerful guitar with some of the attributes of a pre-1939 J-35, but with significantly less brashness, better overtone development and a more complex tone over all. The trebles are very full and meaty, and the bass is well-accentuated and quite present. Balance is exceptional, headroom is endless. The guitar is everything you'd hope it to be and then some. It holds up beautifully under a heavy flatpick or hard fingerstyle attack, and still manages to maintain its richness of tone when played more lightly. Its response is immediate, without any sag after the initial string attack, and the sustain is lovely and even.

The Jumbo has a few very distinctive design features. Most notably, the body has almost no taper it its thickness from endpin to neck. This one measures 4-1/2" deep at the endpin and 4-3/16" deep at the neck heel. The top has three un-scalloped tone bars and a small soundhole that measures a hair over 3-3/4" wide. Mahogany back and sides, red spruce top, white bindings, and sunburst on all sides. Mahogany neck with bound rosewood fingerboard, pearl dot inlays, and pearl Gibson inlay. 24.75" scale, 1-3/4" at the nut, V-neck carve, 10" radius fingerboard, 2-3/8" string spread at the saddle.

Currently set-up with 12-54 strings, the guitar's action measures 5 to 7 64ths at the 12th fret, there's ample saddle height available for adjustments, and the truss rod functions well. Original frets show minor wear in the first position and play cleanly.

The guitar comes with its original chipboard case. We can furnish a high quality hardshell case for shipping.

All told, this Jumbo is quite likely the finest of its kind in existence. It is, in our estimation, quite beyond compare; and among the most exciting instruments we have ever offered for sale here at Folkway Music.

Click HERE for our hi-def video feature of this instrument.



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