1940 Gretsch "Student" Jumbo Acoustic

Discussion in 'Vintage Gretsch Discussion' started by Far To Many, Jan 26, 2019.

  1. Far To Many

    Far To Many Gretschie

    Age:
    47
    125
    Dec 31, 2018
    Upstate, NY
    For a person that is not crazy about sunburst finishes, I have been on a roll lately.

    I saw this and was IMMEDIATELY drawn to it. Although I swore I probably would never buy another jumbo sized guitar, turns out, I like this one. The body is very voluptuous, the neck is rather comfy, and it's a vintage Gretsch.

    So with little to go on before my purchase, I really couldn't find the info I needed to be knowledgeable. So I jumped in at a fair price, even though the added shipping was very high. In the mean time, I contacted the one person I thought could help me. Ed, aka Wayne Gretschzky. Through his own research, he determined this is a Pre-War guitar, with the slight possibility it could be as late as war-time. So with that, the fact it was advertised as 1939, I'll just round it off to a nice even 1940. I will also just simply call it a Gretsch Student, as it seems to be along those lines and no real model info seems to be out there, no doubt because it must have been a real bargain for those that bought them.

    One of the reasons these are hard to date, is there is no info on the guitar itself. No serial number, no label, no writing that I have found inside. Ed, also confirmed my suspicions of it being a lower end model, to me it looks similar to a Model 40 (that sold for $40 originally), but obviously is not that model....in fact it on comparison, it is quite apparent the Model 40 is head and shoulders above this model I have here. These also seem to be VERY similar to other brands of the era that I have run across, but none bearing the Gretsch "style" headstock.

    So lets start with what I received. It appears to be spruce top, and maple sides, that may or may not be laminates. The tuning pegs seem to be very much those you'd find of that era, open gear design, with plastic knobs. There are no bushings for the tuning post on the front of the headstock. The logo is silk-screened on. The fretboard and bridge appear to be rosewood, the strap pin in the bottom is plastic, it is tight in there so I assume it to be original. The neck is bound, no side markers though, and the sound hole, front and back are also bound. That to me seems a little unusual for what was basically a cheap guitar for back then. The finish is probably typical lacquer, as it seems to flake off and have aged and checked like old lacquer does.

    1940 Gretsch Student Acoustic 10.JPG

    1940 Gretsch Student Acoustic 5.JPG

    1940 Gretsch Student Acoustic 3.JPG 1940 Gretsch Student Acoustic 14.JPG
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2019
  2. wildeman

    wildeman Gretschified

    May 10, 2015
    norcal
    Very cool, it looks like a Kay.
     
  3. Far To Many

    Far To Many Gretschie

    Age:
    47
    125
    Dec 31, 2018
    Upstate, NY
    Yes, very much like a Kay and extremely like Rex models, that according to Ed, Gretsch distributed them, but has no hard evidence they actually built those.

    However, I have found multiple sale ads that the Gretsch and Rex models and names are intertwined, most of which say Rex by Gretsch or Rex built by Gretsch. I personally feel it is misinformation (rumors) that have taken off across the internet. Why would Fred Gretsch want to manufacture another brand without his name on it? Maybe there is something I am missing there?
     
  4. wildeman

    wildeman Gretschified

    May 10, 2015
    norcal
    Yeah, not a whole lot of info about these things and Ed is our best resource. He helped me date my New Yorker as a wartime model and it's thought that it too was made by some company other than Gretsch. I just saw a Rex mandolin go on EBay that was clearly made by Harmony also a Rex guitar that looked almost like a Weissenborn so its a tangled web for sure.
     
  5. thunder58

    thunder58 I Bleed Orange

    Age:
    60
    Dec 23, 2010
    tappan ny
  6. Far To Many

    Far To Many Gretschie

    Age:
    47
    125
    Dec 31, 2018
    Upstate, NY
    Now for the ugly of this guitar. It was advertised with what was known and that it played well. Maybe I should have asked, but the one picture I had seemed to show a reasonable string action that I assumed could be fixed by shaving the saddle.

    I clearly was wrong. As cool as this little gem is, and it does sound quite lively even with ancient corroded strings, it clearly needs a neck reset....Ugghh. The action is a mile high. Someone also put a cheap nut on it that was probably for a 43 or 44mm wide neck. The low E was falling off the fretboard. The neck is reasonably straight at least, and has no truss rod. It is what it is. My guess, like most guitars of this quality, it was not properly stored and cared for through the years. The frets are of some of the smallest fretwire I have ever seen both in width and height..so no chance for a good leveling.

    The good news is, the seller was a stand up guy, and even though his ad said no returns, offered to take it back---but of course I would have to ship it back at my costs. His other offer was he would refund part of my payment, and basically sell it to me for what he had into it. Maybe that amount (his cost stated) was accurate, maybe it wasn't. But that seemed the most reasonable to me at this point, a partial refund.

    The seller also stated to me, that "They assumed the purchaser would merely be someone who would hang it for a decoration."

    My reply was "As much as I love looking at these vintage instruments, I love playing them more."

    1940 Gretsch Student Acoustic 15.jpg

    1940 Gretsch Student Acoustic 12.JPG
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2019
  7. loudnlousy

    loudnlousy Friend of Fred

    Age:
    53
    Oct 18, 2015
    Hildesheim, Germany
    That`s a coo find without any doubt.
     
  8. CousinWarsh

    CousinWarsh Gretschie

    463
    Jun 24, 2018
    Western NY
  9. Far To Many

    Far To Many Gretschie

    Age:
    47
    125
    Dec 31, 2018
    Upstate, NY
    So your saying you own a Wartime Gretsch New Yorker and it possibly wasn't even made by Gretsch? If that is the case, it very well maybe the same thing I have going on here---which was a thought I originally had. That Gretsch had their name put on a line of cheap student guitars that were manufactured by someone else and Gretsch then distributed. That would easily explain why it looks so much like other brands. (That kind of thing is common with auto and big truck parts I deal with for work)

    But again, no real info to back that up either.
     
  10. MartyT

    MartyT Gretschie

    445
    Apr 8, 2010
    Mount Laurel, NJ
    Cool! And also very interesting.......
     
  11. Far To Many

    Far To Many Gretschie

    Age:
    47
    125
    Dec 31, 2018
    Upstate, NY
    Thank You all.

    I probably paid way more than I should have. But as Ed said to me, while not necessarily valuable, they are rather scarce. I feel I ultimately paid a fair price, but the killer shipping price to get it kind of negates any chance of getting my investment back in the future...not that I am looking to sell or flip it.

    So now I sit here wondering what to do with this gem.
    -Maybe this is the point I try a neck rest myself?
    -Maybe I send it to someone for a reset? (Very Costly)
    -Maybe when the reset is done I add some nicer Waverly tuners and some proper bushings?

    I don't think there is any hurting the value here. It clearly would be a "Labor of Love" type project and I would have way more into it than it is worth. Having a nice playable instrument is much more appealing to me as much as saving a rarely seen specimen as this.

    Opinions?
     
  12. wildeman

    wildeman Gretschified

    May 10, 2015
    norcal
    This is my New Yorker, i have it stripped down and all the binding removed as I'm gonna try my hand at a rebind. I may also electrify it. 20190126_153951.jpg here it it when i got it, some of the neck binding was broken off and the body binding was shrunk and curling, it all came off easily and cleanly. I may go back with tortoise celluloid. 20160528_195539.jpg
     
    Alberta_Slim and Merc like this.
  13. Merc

    Merc Country Gent

    May 6, 2017
    Florida
  14. wildeman

    wildeman Gretschified

    May 10, 2015
    norcal
    Far To Many likes this.
  15. Far To Many

    Far To Many Gretschie

    Age:
    47
    125
    Dec 31, 2018
    Upstate, NY
    WOW, That is damn close, if not near identical! Great detective work!

    All the details they list match, except for the sides and back (I believe mine to be maple--I could be wrong though), and the tuners and bridge (string wraparound). But the bridge shape is identical.

    So is it possible, being that Kay did indeed make guitars branded under several names, that Gretsch was one that bought into those?

    Maybe Gretsch wanted a very low line affordable instrument to sell but couldn't necessarily for lack of better terms, be bothered to make them, so instead just branded their name onto provided Kays?

    Ed was atonement (as I read it), that one like I have is indeed a vintage Gretsch---but is it really?

    Questions, questions, and no firm answers.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2019
  16. Far To Many

    Far To Many Gretschie

    Age:
    47
    125
    Dec 31, 2018
    Upstate, NY
    Shipping was high because it got sent through a UPS store. The seller was not confident that he could pack it right and safe, and decided to leave it to the "professionals". He sent a picture of the receipt with tracking#. I was almost floored as the whole package was less than 7 lbs traveling 3 states away.

    I have seen that reset in my research. It honestly doesn't look hard (to me anyhow), but I can see how things can go wrong in a hurry.
     
  17. LivingMyDream

    LivingMyDream Country Gent

    FTM, in the drum world, many of the low end drumsets are known as "stencil kits." Made cheaply by an overseas manufacturer and purchased by known brands who simply put their name on the kit.

    It's not unlikely at all that the guitar world did something similar back in the day.
     
    Far To Many likes this.
  18. Wayne Gretschzky

    Wayne Gretschzky Country Gent

    Aug 27, 2008
    East Coast
    Interesting the Kay association. Those of you that have the "6120 book" (and have committed its contents to memory) will recall that on page 25 it discusses the very first Gretsch branded electric archtop that debuted (but was not depicted) in the 1939 Gretsch catalog that also announced the Synchromatic line of acoustic archtops. That odd looking little electric archtop was a dead ringer for the same model sold under the Oahu brand (see pg. 27)... and those came with little blue sticker inside that said "Manufactured by the Kay Musical Instrument Company". So it would seem there is some precedence for a Gretsch/Kay affiliation right around the time that you've pegged your new flat-top to be from. I'd say that's pretty good evidence that Kay had a hand in this one... but it's still branded as a "Gretsch" guitar, so I'm sticking by my guns that you have an interesting "vintage Gretsch" flat-top to play with.
     
    Far To Many likes this.
  19. Far To Many

    Far To Many Gretschie

    Age:
    47
    125
    Dec 31, 2018
    Upstate, NY
    Ed, Again your time and dedication of knowledge are something I owe you a debt of gratitude for. And thank you for the offline chat we had about this guitar.

    I will definitely consider it a Gretsch, no different than others claim Silvertones, or Airline...even though Kay produced those for Sears and Montgomery Wards respectively.

    Another interesting read that I found, again, all of it has to be taken with a grain of salt. But the interesting thing of the article is that most of the headstocks are dead on to mine. There is a slight, but sketchy mention of Gretsch., and the Gretsch name is again mentioned in the Rex section.

    https://www.stlamateurluthier.com/2018/10/kay-guitar-brands-and-aliases.html
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2019
  20. wildeman

    wildeman Gretschified

    May 10, 2015
    norcal
    That article is pretty right on imo. I have owned lots of Kay, Harmony, Regal type instruments and they all have distinctive features. Heck if you want to get down to it, Gretsch is doing this same thing today with Terada made instruments.
     
    Far To Many likes this.
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