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1940 Gibson Super 400
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Serial #: 96423, white oval label, hand calligraphed
Body size at lower bout:18". Scale length: 25 1/2" Nut Width: 1 11/16"
Materials: Handcarved bookmatched solid quartersawn spruce soundboard; solid bookmatched bubble-quilt maple back and sides; tiger flame maple neck with mahogany centerstripe; solid ebony fingerboard; mother of pearl block fingerboard split-block peghead inlay; wide script pearl Gibson logo; 5 ply headstock and pickguard binding, 7 ply bound body; triple bound neck and f-holes, hand-engraved heelcap with Super 400 logo.
Hardware: All original hardware includes gold Kluson Sealfast tuners with amber swirl Catalin keys, hand-engraved gold trapeze tailpiece with Super 400 script logo; compensated adjustable Brazilian rosewood bridge with pearl wedge inlays; 5 ply bound marbled tortoise pickguard. Archtop Acoustic piezo pickup with No-Drill Vintage endpin jack, original endpin included.
Notes: It's the biggest guitar Gibson ever made. Fanciest, too. Four hundred bucks bought you a lot of guitar back in 1939. Hand engraved tailpiece. Pearl-inlaid bridge. Triple bound f-holes. Even the back of the peghead is festooned with handsome pearl wedges. And the kind of 3-D northern Michigan figured maple they hoarded for decades. Gibson went all out to produce this model, right down to the hand-inscribed heel cap and the engraved pickguard bracket. The back and sides are hand-carved of spectacular bookmatched bubble-quilted maple, and the soundboard is tap tuned from finely grained hand-graduated spruce. The sunburst is subtle and rich, feathering almost imperceptibly from deep honey to dark chocolate. The neck is tapered and elegantly playable. Even the signature marbled tortoise pickguard remains intact, a rarity in instruments of this era.
The instrument is from the first full year for the modern Super 400 design, with the larger upper bout and larger soundholes introduced in 1937, and the powerful parallel braced soundboard, which was introduced in the previous model year. The hardware includes perhaps the most ornate combination of components found on any version of the Super 4, with the exquisitely engraved early style tailpiece, engraved script heel cap, and original gold Kluson Sealfast tuners with amber swirl Catalin keys. These tuners were produced for only a few scant years and are highly sought after today, regarded by many as the handsomest machines ever fitted to an archtop guitar.
This remarkable guitar was meticulously maintained by a beloved local player for over a quarter century, and remains in wonderful original condition. The instrument shows no cracks or repairs , and was carefully played without buckle or fingerboard wear. The neck has the honest thumbwear of a big band veteran, a clue to the throbbing tone of it's beautifully open voice. The original sunburst finish is all original, as evinced by the fine scattered spider checking characteristic of a true prewar nitrocellulose finish. Playwear on the body is light, consisting of a few random lacquer nicks, mostly confined to the side near the tailpiece.
Action is smooth and low over a fine set of vintage-correct frets in great condition, over a solid ebony fingerboard. The neck profile is a smooth gentle "C", and rests effortlessly in the palm, absent the clubbiness or hard vee of some prewar Gibsons. The voice is clear, rich and simply massive, with the projection and power only a well played and skillfully graduated soundboard can deliver. And finally, the guitar is faithfully, and non-invasively, amplified with an Archtop Acoustic piezo film soundboard pickup under the bridge foot, with a No-Drill Vintage endpin jack.
Only 30 examples of this top-line model produced in its year, and this magnificent instrument must surely be one of the finest surviving examples. A masterpiece of design, tone and playability, a Super 400 of this caliber is always cause for celebration hereabouts. One only: call now.
Setup: Trussrod tension and neck relief adjusted; bridge height adjusted; bridge compensation set; string slots at nut and bridge inspected and recut as necessary; bridge wheels and tuners lubricated; fingerboard and bridge oiled; body and neck cleaned and hand polished. Action set to 4/64" to 5/64" at the 12th fret, with light relief and .013 bronzewound strings.
Case: Original Geib deluxe plush hardshell case, with fitted canvas case cover.