We have now confirmed with Gibson and Gruhn that this instrument is noted on the 1952 Gibson serial ledgers as a "Special Order" on December 5, 1952. And, significantly, the instrument doesn't show on the corresponding shipping ledger for that time indicating that it was picked up at the factory. This was common for employee builds and local customers in Kalamazoo.
That significance is mostly in the timing of the Alnico V Staple and harness in the guitar which we have authenticated to be original to the instrument. It is known that around this time, Seth Lover was developing the Staple and, heretofore, the first were seen in 1953 models. This pickup doesn't match any other known Staple and appears to be an early prototype built on a P-90 dogear baseplate. And, as a likely employee build, that also explains some of the other unusual features present.
The instrument is a special ordered 1952 ES-350 with factory ordered block pearl inlay neck, carved spruce top, Ebony board, Zero Fret, flamey Maple back and sides, and a single Alnico V Staple in the neck position. All factory original, blacklights and authenticates completely and perfectly.
Very exciting and historic find - both for the unheard of a zero fret on a Gibson. And then there's the fact that it appears to be one of the first, if not the first, example of the Alnico V staple going out the door at 225 Parsons St. in 1952. We have authenticated that the pickup was never previously removed and that the solder joins and potentiometers are also original to the guitar.
The crazy thing is how well it all works together. The staple just sounds amazing and easy to see why folks give these cult status and there's tremendous tonal range - even with only the neck pickup. And these old ambered and warm 1950s sunburst guitars are like old pals and play like the devil!
Evidence of moderate playwear on the neckback but the frets and board are very nice and the overall finish is in Excellent shape with only a few dinks with the typical swirl of love, patina, and very light finish checking. There is an old, short, and stable hairline fracture on the neckback (shown). Looks ancient and doesn't effect play in any fashion.
The flame on the back and sides just glow and the carved Sitka Spruce top is exactly what Gibson excelled on in the 1950s. Nice original California Girl pink lined Gibson case. Also appears that gold plated Grover Imperial tuners were installed at the factory. Note that all hardware and screws on this instrument were correct for the model year and gold plated,
The guitar plays nicely and very fluid action and the staple just comes in sorta between a p-90 and humbucker and the rectangular magnets bring a great string separation along with a fearsome roar when you dig in. I feel like this instrument easily covers jazz, rock, and way more easily and is major cool in the process!
Collectors take note as you'll probably never ever see something else like this!
A beauty for your collection!
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