Vintage Gretsch Guitars

White Penguine vs White Falcon

Hello all, After being so intrigued by the recent dumb luck story of that falcon picked up for so cheap I started to wonder what, if even possible, could have been a better or more rare find? I have heard about the infamous white penguin but know absolutely nothing about it. Is it the same guitar as a falcon? If not how many were made? Does anyone own one? Pictures please.
I picked this one up at a local thrift store a week or two ago. Though it's not a vintage model I'd say it's a bit of a rare bird.
she is a very pretty bird. So were the vintage penguins also solid body? what would be the actual spec differences between a penguin and a falcon... and why do you NEVER hear people talk about vintage penguins?
It's not actually mine but I'm hoping Santa brings it. If you do a little Google search you can find some info on the Penguin vs Falcon. Penguin= tricked out Jet, Falcon= glammed out Club. The vintage Penguin is quite a rare instrument. I think it commands a higher dollar value on the used market due to its rarity. I thought I once read that fewer than 100 were ever made. I could be wrong though.
What IS that, dmanlow? A champagne sparkle Penguin? Was there ever such a thing?
I never understood the naming logic of the White Penguin. Gretsch decides to build two over-the-top flagship guitars. One named after a strong, swift, beautiful bird of prey. The other named after a slow, foul smelling, clumsy, mentally challenged, flightless bird that swims well and is an excellent food source for anything with teeth.
Maybe it was named for the way Jimmie Webster walked?
Pro, IIRC that guitar in dmanlow's post was a Japan only deal from a year or two ago.
Still why is there so little information about the White Penguin. It is not even cataloged on these forum from what I can find Why is this damn thing so illusive and who if anyone has one?
Powerjet, look at Gretsch's website. The White Penguin is a current production model, I don't know how close to the original it is, but there is a spec sheet and such here. There's also a few new production variants of the penguin, to include a black one and one with filtertrons and a bigsby.
White Falcons were a custom order. That's why they are so rare. You just didn't walk into a music store and see one on the wall. You asked for it and ordered it and it was made for you. Fron Gruhn's site:
Although Gretsch produced the Penguin from 1955 through 1963, the model was pictured in only one catalog, and sightings in the field are almost as rare. An estimated 100 Penguins were made.
With an axe like that, Les Pauls needn't show up or apply for the job.
Here I am holding one of Gordons Penguins. Its a 56/57 near mint. This was about 15 years ago. Note my Paladins "Lets Buzz" T shirt.
and there was this one that walked into a local music store one day. The kid that had just inherited it from grandpa, was looking to trade it for something pointy...
Wow a Stereo Penguin!!! Talk about rare!
Makes me want to buy a penguin!
yeah talk about dumb luck for whoever was able to get a hold of the stereo penguin!
Each to their own I guess but I have to agree with Jimmyd on the subject of names. The 'White Penguin' has to be one of the most stupid names ever given to an instrument. And to fork out $x thousand dollars for such a thing is incomprehensible (to me anyhow). Humbug.

I get the name.. The WF was a large bird and a Penguin is a small, ocean going bird that lives on ice...Reading the new issue of Guitarist, they're saying the Falcon's had a back-order of around 10 years since they were not made in batches of 50-100, but made one at a time between 1955-1966. They were saying that only about 100 were made until they started the dbl cutaway, thinline bodies. But still this was at a time when Gretsch was asking $1K for one vs. $450.00 for a Tennessean or $595. for a Country Club.
I've only seen/played 2 original Penguin's and around 10 original, single cutaway White Falcon's. Both are exceedingly scare/rare. Ever since I saw Stephen Stills' and Neil Young's WF's I went nuts for one. Stills also had a damn Penguin!
I finally bought a White Falcon reissue in 2008. Amazing guitar and done with Nitro-lacquer, Trestle Bracing and had TV Jones Classics which I replaced with an original 60's wiring harness, early60's FilterTrons, 60's Gretsch Bigsby,60's Grover Imperial's and a Stainless Steel Tru-Arc!

BTW, I bet Ed can shed some light on Falcon & Penguin info, totals, etc.


Amazing guitar and done with Nitro-lacquer, Trestle Bracing and had TV Jones Classics which I replaced with an original 60's wiring harness, early60's FilterTrons, 60's Gretsch Bigsby,60's Grover Imperial's and a Stainless Steel Tru-Arc!

Did those modifications make a difference in your view? I mean, I am as big of a jerk vintage snob as one will find on this site but it's because I call them as I see them and I like vintage better, because it is. But I find that the TV Jones classics sound as good as the best vintage Filtertrons in my vicinity. I haven't tried his other pickups.

As far as production numbers, Ed has told me in the past that a 57 Convertible my brother has was made as part of a batch that included White Falcons. From this I would have to conclude that the company didn't wait around till there were 100 Falcon's ordered before going into production.

On the Penguins, I don't know. However, Ed talks about in the 6120 book how the 6121s were done with the 6120s. That being, then I would speculate the Penguins were produced when the Falcons were, rather than the rest of the various jet models. We'll hear from Ed soon enough.


The White Penguin might be the coolest of all the Gretsches. I doubt I will ever come closer than this add to ever seeing an original '57.

Spoiler alert: With original hard case it is offered at $80,000 -- This instrument is SOLD

But, the same store has Dan Fogelberg's '57 Stereo Penguin up for sale for $65,000, so maybe if I start saving up my pennies...


Careful though.... many penguins on the market are conversions from Duo Jets

An 80k Penguin only differs in cosmetics from a DuoJet of the same vintage. So from a playing point of view I'd rather have a DJ, and spend the other 75k on a few more guitars on my wish list. I can imagine spending a load of money on a great guitar, but not on a great looking guitar


The information in that Guitarist article about Falcon production is erroneous. Falcons were absolutely made in groups (or at least serial numbered in groups) of 50 and a couple documented at 100. Early batches sometimes shared a mix of Falcons and usually other 17" wide arch tops (i.e. Convertibles). As knavel suggested, the Penguins were handled much as the 6121s. Both solidbody models made (or at least labeled) in small quantities within larger batches of related arch tops. In the case of the 6121, it might have been 20-25 out of 100, but for Penguins the ratio was lower, and batches of Falcons that had Penguins, only seem to have a handful.

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