Hokay, folks, this is a guitar which you may never see again outside of serious collections and museums—and the even rarer intact label gives it a reliable date and provenance. Pre-War and War-time Gibsons and Martins are readily available—for exorbitant prices--and 1950s and even 1960s Gibson/Epiphone FT-79 “Texans” routinely sell for $3500 or more. However, while the early American Epiphones were very fine instruments, evidently their production numbers were never very high, because pre-Gibson Epi flat-tops are extremely rare these days. This specific guitar is the only the second vintage FT-50 I have ever seen for sale anywhere, on-line or otherwise. It is an X-braced musical marvel which is in very good 77-year-old condition.
The scarcity of Epiphone flat-tops during the 1930s to 1950s was no doubt partly due to their battle with better-financed Gibson and Martin for a share of the steel-string market and their pre-occupation with their very popular banjos. However, this scarcity was exacerbated by the times and their clientele: first the Depression hit their buyers, and then WWII further complicated construction and innovation.
For example, Epiphone started using what they called the “adjustable thrust rod” in 1939, usually with a metal nut cover. The War Production Board's orders limited by percentage of weight how much metal a stringed instrument could have and discouraged Gibson, Martin, Epi, and others from installing metal truss rods. Gibson used a maple V reinforcement in necks while Martin used an ebony rod. Epiphone apparently suspended new production of many of their flattops altogether in late 1943 or 1944 and did not resume making them until after the War--if you look at the catalog entries for the flattops they are stamped “discontinued” for the duration. While the FT-50 was apparently a model that was not dropped entirely at that time, by 1949 the FT-50 was cut for good.
Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars indicates that the serial number “52098” clearly visible on the New York label and on the headstock indicates that it was made in early 1944, and goes on to describe it as a “flat-top, 14 ½” wide, mahogany back and sides, tortoiseshell celluloid binding on top and back, cherry neck, unbound rosewood fingerboard, dot inlay, center-dip peghead, pearl script logo, natural top finish, brown finish on back and sides. Available: 1941-late ‘40s.” The Blue Book of Vintage Guitars agrees that the FT-50 is a “00-style, spruce top, round soundhole, mahogany back/sides, tortoiseshell body binding, cherry neck, tortoise pickguard, 14/20-fret bound rosewood fingerboard with dot inlay, rosewood bridge, three-per-side tuners with plastic buttons, available in Natural finish, 14.5 in. body width, mfg. 1941-49.”
As far as a non-expert like myself can tell, virtually all of these specifications are exhibited in this guitar. The pick guard and binding are a beautiful translucent vintage celluloid and in excellent condition, although there are tiny gaps between the neck binding and the nut. The enclosed Kluson Deluxe tuners work well, are period-correct, and show no sign of change. The bridge, saddle, and 1 ¾” nut also appear to be original, while only the abalone-dot bridge pins and a strap button added to the heel are obvious replacements. It has a very nice pearl inlaid script logo on the headstock, and the 25 ½” scale neck is solid and set at the proper angle: the action is a comfortable hair over 3/32” at the 12th fret low E.
While there are some dings and scratches from over this guitar’s 75 years of making music, there remarkably is only one visible repair: a 2" crack on the bass side of the sound hole from the sound hole to part of the way to the bridge, and I must admit that there’s a label from a previous owner or store on the neck block.
There is surprisingly little fret wear, and cosmetically it is as pictured: some crazing of the finish (“to let the sound out,” as my luthier says), and all the mojo and authenticity one could ever hope for, but still a very attractive guitar. And it does let the sound out, as loudly and with as much resonance as any LG-2 or LG-3 I have ever played. Aside from its virtually unique collectability, this is an excellent player and has the resonance to hold its own in any small venue. Quite a remarkable instrument!
The case included is not vintage and clearly not original, as it's a thermoplastic hard shell case in very good condition. The latches and hinges all work, the handle is solid, and the interior and exterior are clean. It offers excellent, light-weight protection, and frankly I would probably not look for a vintage case for this valuable guitar. They ain’t gonna make any more of ‘em, and you’ll probably never see another one.
Buyer pays a flat rate of $55 for insurance and shipping to the lower 48 states; shipping costs elsewhere will be negotiated as necessary. Payment by Paypal is preferred; cashier’s checks are acceptable, but checks must clear before the guitar will be shipped.
I have made every effort to describe and illustrate this guitar and case with scrupulous accuracy, but be advised that this is a very unusual 75-year-old guitar, and I am not even a luthier, much less an expert on vintage Epiphones. Hopefully you have read this description carefully and checked out the pictures. Its return will not be accepted unless it can be shown that it was egregiously misrepresented in this listing.
Thank you for your interest in this unique piece of American musical history and very cool guitar.
Payments by Paypal, cashier’s checks, money orders, or personal checks are acceptable, but all payments must clear my bank before the guitar will be shipped. I will CONSIDER reasonable offers, even including installment payments and trade-ins, but generally since I already attempt to price my guitars very competitively, unusual deals must be unusually sweet.
From henceforth [that's how retired English teachers talk], insurance and shipping to the lower 48 states is $55 due to constantly rising shipping costs unless a specific listing says otherwise; shipping costs elsewhere will be negotiated as necessary. I have sold guitars to Russia, Japan, Australia, and over 50 other countries, as well as almost every state in the USA. Since some of my guitars travel thousands of miles, I take care to use lots of packing materials, protect the neck inside the case, and of course de-tune the strings.
I make every effort to describe and illustrate each guitar and case with scrupulous accuracy. However, many of my instruments are well-played vintage items which are many years old, and I am not a luthier. One should assume that any guitar will require some set-up to satisfy your personal requirements, and that not every flaw or ding will be seen/recognized/described in the listing. Thus the return of an instrument will not be accepted unless it can be shown that it was egregiously misrepresented in this listing. Please read the listing carefully, check out the pictures, and ask any questions you might have before offering to buy.