The Twelfth Fret ~ Since 1977 ~

Gibson Super 400 Acoustic Archtop Sunburst, 1937

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The Gibson Super 400 strode above most others when giant archtops roamed the earth, and is still one of the largest production guitars made.   Making its introduction in 1934 as the ‘Super L-5 Deluxe’, the non-cutaway model was quickly joined by a cutaway model, initially named the  Super 400 P for ‘Premiere’.   The ‘400’ designation was originally a reference to the price.  

These were top of the line for acoustic archtop guitars, and were played by many top artists – Merle Travis being one.

Production of the non-cutaway Super 400 ran from late 1934 to 1941, halted for the duration of WW2, and resumed in 1947 until 1955.  At that point, the demand for cutaway models overwhelmed non-cutaway.   From that time, pickups started to be added, initially on the ‘McCarty pickguard’ which put one or two P-90 type coils and controls on a black plastic, retrofit pickguard.   

In 1937, however, many professional guitarists adapted to electric use by way of the deArmond ‘monkey stick’ pickup, which clamped to the string section between the bridge and tailpiece. One of these is included in the case pocket. The pickup mount was technically named the ‘pressure rod’ but few used that term.

The tuners are gold-plated Grover Imperials with stair-step buttons, and the tailpiece is specific to the Super 400 and engraved with that name. The tailpiece engraving matches that on the heel cap and on the label, visible through the bass side sound hole.

The Gibson Super 400 features a large body – 18 inches wide – with a solid, carved Spruce top, Figured Maple sides, solid, carved Figured Maple back and a Maple neck with, at this point, an multi-bound Ebony fingerboard. In 1949, Rosewood was used for Super 400 fingerboards. The bridge is Brazilian Rosewood with Mother of Pearl accent insets on each side of the top section.   At this time, the Super 400 top used an X-brace system. Later models, and those built to this day, use parallel tone bar bracing.

Here we are looking at an early, pre-WW2 Gibson Super 400 dating to 1937 and built at Gibson’s Parsons Street plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan, sporting the optional Sunburst finish. The top was refinished long ago following some crack repairs, and the entire body was oversprayed.

As is to be expected, this guitar has been refretted over its 84 years. The current fretwire has moderate to heavy wear, particularly in the lower positions but it plays well as is.

The label is intact, but and as is often the case the serial number area has faded.   

This 1937 Gibson Super 400 is very nice to play. It’s big, but it is comfortable and relatively light. The action is relatively low, and the guitar is quite resonant and lively.

The original brown Gibson hard shell case is included.

While it has fallen out of production in the current climate, Gibson has recently offered the evolved Super 400 CES (Cutaway Electric Spanish).
It can for now be viewed at this Gibson Legacy page.

Price: $12,999.99 CAD
  • Model: Super 400
  • Year: 1937
  • Finish Sunburst
  • Class: Vintage
  • Serial Number: 94968, built during 1937 in Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • Country of Origin: USA
  • Condition: Good
  • Date Posted: 08/06/2021

  • Consignment Item

  • Including original Hard case
  • Instrument Weight: 6.6lbs 3kg
  • Scale Length: 647.7mm 25.5in
  • Nut Width: 41.95mm 1,651in
Gibson Website

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