Oscar Schmidt 'Stella Gambler' c 1935 | $1450 | (Inv#1932) First off, we love to find guitars like this one .. obvious one-owner guitar, lots of 'mojo', cool vibe, unique, and great sound and playablility. One would imagine that thirty years ago this guitar would have been destined for the trash heap. Today, there is a growing awareness of the so-called 'catalog' guitars from the twenties and thirties, and we love to rescue and release them!
This iteration of a Schmidt-made Stella has become known as the 'Stella Gambler' due to the playing cards decals applied to the tops. Almost every Gambler we've seen or owned has been the 'DeLuxe' type, which sports the pearloid fingerboard, a fixed pin bridge and three or four sets of card decals. This one we'd call a plain old 'Gambler' since the board was natural maple (not salvagable), only two sets of playing cards, and the stud tailpiece with a floating bridge, which we've never seen on a Gambler, not even in photos.
The Gambler was part of Oscar Schmidt's Decalcomania line of guitars, offered during the tough times of the depression to save on the cost of materials. The catalog description claims the body to be cherry, but this one surely looks like birch. The top and sound hole are bound in white celluloid. The neck is likely poplar. 'Stella' is embossed on the head stock.
This is a concert-size guitar so the body measures 13 3/8" across at the lower bout. Scale length is 25". The neck measures 1 3/4" across at the nut and string spacing is 2 1/4" across at the saddle.
The guitar came to us in fairly rough shape, and needed lots of TLC to get it playing to its best again. The original finger board was so divoted, and frets so worn, that it was not worth keeping, so we installed a new ebony board. We used pearl to copy the original position markers, which were simply black paint on the old board, and inlaid them into the new board. While the board was off we installed two carbon fiber rods to keep the neck straight and stiff. The new frets were leveled and dressed. We pulled the back (a good portion of it was already loose) and reglued the braces. The neck was reset and a new nut and saddle were crafted. For as rough and tumble as the guitar appears, there were no cracks to address! We filled a grain seam that was open along the neck along the bass side, which we see a lot in the mass produced guitars of this era. The original tuners were gone, so we sourced a set from a 'donor' Stella, and cleaned and lubed them for optimum functioning. The bridge appears original, but is an unusual shape for an OS guitar of this period. The black finish shows lots of play wear (and its consistency indicates a one-owner guitar), and the metal parts show oxidation. Action is set at 5/64". The year?, '1935', is painted inside the sound hole. Overall, a pretty solid, mostly original and rare iteration of the popular Gambler model.
Best of all, it plays really well and in our opinion is among the best sounding of the Gamblers we've owned. It has the powerful ladder-brace midrange tones, no muddy-ness, with hints of a resonator, likely due to the tailpiece and possibly the stiff neck. A joy to play.
Comes with a soft case.
Check out the sound clip.
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Forty eight hour test drive on all instruments..if not to your liking, return for refund minus shipping costs.