Oscar Schmidt Sovereign Jumbo (Stella) 12-String Ca 1920 | $13,750 | This is an iconic flat top acoustic 12-string with a storied history. Made in Jersey City at the Oscar Schmidt factory about 1920, this particular model, marketed as Auditorium size, was made most famous by bluesman Huddie Ledbetter, aka 'Lead Belly'. Subsequently, the 'jumbo' Stella 12-string has become the Holy Grail of 12-string guitars.
This particular guitar has a rather interesting provenance. In the 1960s, it was owned by renowned vintage guitar purveyor Jon Lundberg. Lundberg's shop in Berkeley was ground zero for many folk and pop musicians of the era, and provided rare and unusual instruments to the discerning player. Early in the 1970s, Lunberg was known to have built for him, eight exact replicas of the Stella jumbo 12-string. Although this particular guitar was not the exact model for this group of eight, it likely served as an inspiration to have them created. The Lundberg 12s, although rare, are held in high regard by players and collectors today.
In 1966, this guitar was purchased from Lundberg by budding blues guitarist Stefan Grossman, still active today as a country blues guitarist extraordinaire and developer of top-shelf teaching materials for acoustic guitarists.
This jumbo is fairly typical of the jumbo 12s we've seen and handled over the years. First, it's a top of the line OS offering. The body is higher grade mahogany, with a mahogany neck. The top is spruce and is bound by a 'rope and squares' marquetry (not seen by us before) and white celluloid. The sound hole is adorned with the same inlay, and trimmed with white celluloid. The marquetry in the back has a different pattern from that on the front. The head stock is veneered with Brazilian rosewood. The tuners, Brazilian bridge and stud tailpiece all appear original. The end pin is missing. Inside the sound hole the label reads 'Sovereign Guitars and Mandolins'. Sovereign was the nomenclature for instruments at the higher end of the OS line.
Prior repairs were all likely done in Lundberg's shop. These include a repaired top crack on the treble side, and a top crack parallel to the fingerboard extension; side cracks where the sides meet the heel, one on the bass and two on the treble; heel crack; back crack. Most are cleated, and the guitar is structurally sound. Additionally, the frets were replaced and the fingerboard may be a replacement, too. The replacement saddle is compensated, and most likely done in Lundberg's shop as well. The finish is original, and shows nicks, dings and wear in spots.
The body measures 15 1/2" across at the lower bout. Body depth is 4 3/8" at the end pin. Scale length is 26 13/16", and the neck measures 1 15/16" across at the nut. The neck is a comfortable (and typical) soft 'V' carve.
Action is set at 5/32", but there is enough saddle if lower action is desired.
Stella 12s are quite rare. We've owned and played a number of them and the tone produced by this one ranks among the best. It has the bone-rattling bass, mid-range tone that will loosen fillings, and trebles that are at once piercing and sweet...the 'it' guitar for Lead Belly and Willie McTell pieces. We can offer a letter of authenticity and provenance penned by Stefan Grossman to the buyer. The guitar comes with an early example of a Calton case, built like Ft. Knox. Check out the sound clip, and visit our website www.vinagebluesguitars.com for more photos and additional sound clip.
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Twenty-four hour test drive on all instruments..if not as described, return for refund minus shipping costs.