Vintage Gretsch Guitars

Help ID this antigue archtop!


Congrats! She's a beauty, for her age.

Hey Ed, What are these worth? Just curious.

– Suprdave

Thanks! And I have the same question... can't find any of these online.


Thanks! And I have the same question... can't find any of these online.

– NathenDahill

Post more pics. Replaced parts lower the value as does condition.


Other than the highest-end examples, Gretsch was never notorious for their acoustic models. With a good set-up these can be serviceable guitars, but the Amercian Orchestra models rarely fetch much over US$1000. As lx mentions, condition and originality are everything in a collectible vintage guitar.


And I'm positive the tailpiece on yours is from the '50's or later. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It just differs from the '30's version.


Alright, then I'll defer to that. There must be subtleties that I'm not aware of.


And I'm positive the tailpiece on yours is from the '50's or later. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It just differs from the '30's version.

– lx

lx, can you elaborate on this? I'm not expert enough to claim to be right or to claim that you're wrong, but if I'm wrong I'd like to learn something (making the attention spent here more worthwhile). Thanks.

I thought it looked very much like the Model Thirty-Five tailpiece in the 1939 catalog.


For added reference, here's the one in the Reverb link I posted above:


From our database here on the site, a 1940-42 Model 30. This tailpiece is a close match with the OP's guitar:

I've found other prewar examples with similar features (e.g., the crosspiece; the "Gretsch" nameplate at the bottom), and I've also noticed that there seems to be a level of inconsistency with regard to the exact details of old Gretsch tailpiece designs. I'm not surprised, as I've noticed the same thing with regard to Gibsons in my many years as a Gibson enthusiast.


From a 1936 Artist Model 150


Model 30 (?), serial # 6392


It does look a lot like the one you posted. But it's not the same.

First off: the string retainer. There are four "sections" or indentations on the 1930's version (post 32-3). The one on NathanDahill's has eight, which is what is on the later 1950-1980 (approx.) versions.

Next is the square section with the Gretsch logo. The vintage version you posted has rounded sides and what looks to be an engraved Gretsch logo. The version on Nathandahill's looks to be the eight sided version with the machine stamped logotype that started showing up around '50/51 and continued until around 1980, seen first on lower-end Electros and mostly on New Yorkers and the '59 and later Clippers. The '56 catalog introduced the Dynasonic Clipper as having the "deluxe" ("G") tailpiece as opposed to this earlier trapeze type seen on the Corvette.

I realize this is all very granular, but I've had three Gretsches with these tailpieces and as NathanDahill noted they stay very shiny regardless of the rest of the guitar. You begin to notice these subtleties when you see them more often. Ed Ball just made the observation that the 1940 Gretsches have slightly larger, more open, f-holes than the 1930's versions, something I hadn't noticed. This is perfectly illustrated on the one you posted above. And I really dig the scalloped pickguard!


We won't know for sure until we see closer pix of NathanDahill's tailpiece. A possible "test" is to remove the tailpiece and see if there are more screw holes. We'll never know the complete story on Gretsches until all models have been accounted for: which will probably never happen, but meanwhile we are all making history with scholarly debate. This is the essence of peer review. And it's fun!


Not trying to be combative here, lx, but I remain unconvinced by your reply. You refer to "the vintage version" I posted. Yes, the OP's tailpiece is a bit different from that of the guitar in my Reverb link. But I posted three more photos to illustrate that the details on the prewar tailpieces varied, and some of the design elements that you're suggesting came later were actually in use prewar. Some of those elements I've illustrated match portions of the OP's tailpiece, and in addition to that, I found one in our database here (prewar) that looks nearly identical: Look at the 1936 (gold) example I posted. It has more than 4 horizontal "sections" on the crosspiece. Clearly that's not a "1950's" design element. That same 1936 tailpiece also has the 8-sided bottom piece with the Gretsch logo, and I've found others that also had that. Look closely at the details of the others I posted. I think a web search may reveal even more examples of what I'm talking about. Just as with Gibson's variety of tailpiece designs in those early years, I think there was less standardization and consistency than you may think.


Jim, I don't think your being combative at all. I 'd love to see better pics of NathanDahill's tailpiece as well as the one in your link. I make all observations with the implicit understanding that these are tentative and not conclusive, that is, not black-and-white, set-in-stone.

If anything, Gretsches are a history of exemptions to "the rule," whatever that is. Billy Zoom once said something like all Gretsches are prototypes. (Sorry if incorrect, BZ.) There was a lot going on with Gretsch in the vintage era and I view everyone's observations and discussions as valuable, informative and fun. I'm always ready to be proved wrong - it's a good way to learn.


I make all observations with the implicit understanding that these are tentative and not conclusive, that is, not black-and-white, set-in-stone.

Well, that sounds a lot different from "I'm positive the tailpiece on yours is from the '50's or later." (winking smiley here, which never seems to work as designed for me on this board)


I LOVE the dialogue here! Firstly, because it's being done objectively without any emotional crap. Just a couple of Gretsch nerds (a term I use with affection) trying to bring meaning to the often foggy history of these guitars. But secondly, the degree of minutia that's being referenced is awesome. Many fans don't want (or need) to delve into the molecular level of these guitars in an effort to discover more. I do... and I enjoy it when I find new brothers willing to dive into the deep end with me!!


I'm glad it comes across that way, Ed. It can be tricky to "argue" with someone on a forum without coming across as mean or snarky.

I'm not nearly as knowledgeable about Gretsch models and their history as most of the people here. Seriously. I've said it before, but I was always a Gibson guy until I bought my CG in 2011. So I've learned more here than I could ever hope to teach you guys. I'm just a detail-oriented type, and somewhat OCD. I'm also very visually-oriented, and spend an unhealthy amount of time scouring the web for photos of things that interest me. I also love history, and I have quite a bit of experience in 20th century design and decorative arts. The minutia is fascinating to me, and wherever there's any hint of a mystery or a puzzle, I want to get involved and try to figure it out.


This is exactly what I will always love about this place. I've got a degree in history and another in fine arts. I've done commercial illustration and design. We're all bound by more commonalities than just these mysterious great Gretsch beasties.

I've always thought that the world messed up a bit when the early web people designed and called these places electronic forums instead of electronic civic forums. It would be cool if Brian Setzer came back, but there are still lot's of great and interesting people here.

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