Vintage Guitar You've Never Played? 1941 Gibson SJ-100!
Posted on November 14 2019
Results of a Guitar Safari from back in May: 1941 Gibson Super Jumbo 100! (Or SJ-100, or J-100). I had footage from another guitar safari to Abilene, TX to get this super clean, one owner 1957 Fender Telecaster but a camera malfunction messed up a lot of my footage. Anyway, it was an amazing trip, 12 hours one way to Abilene to meet with the widow of the original owner of this ‘57 Fender Telecaster. She ordered it brand new as a surprise birthday present to him for his birthday in the late 1950s. He preferred playing his 1948 Martin D-28 over the Telecaster so it remained in stellar all original and clean condition. It sold so quickly that I was unable to get some good b roll shots of it. I hope to do better next time!
The SJ-100 is a really rare and cool model that debuted in 1939. It’s a 17” wide Mahogany body flat top acoustic guitar that’s essentially a stripped down version of the SJ-200 which at the time featured Rosewood back and sides, engraved pickguard, fancy pearl inlays, and heavy binding throughout. Two versions were made of the SJ-100 with the first version featuring an interesting stair step version of the headstock, long 26” scale length, and mustache style bridge. The model was updated in 1941 to this version with large non-stairstep headstock, 25 ½” neck, and solid bridge often called bat wing or flying bat. Gibson records indicate that the guitar was discontinued in 1942, a few more left the factory in 1943, then the model wasn’t resurrected until the 1970s. Shipment total information from Gibson indicates that only 138 examples were made from 1939 to 1942. That’s far fewer than the higher priced Advanced Jumbo model (about 300 examples) and only a few more than the similarly expensive prewar SJ-200 (about 100 examples).
I purchased the guitar in person in Missoula, Montana in original and unrepaired condition except that the tuners had been updated to white button 3+3 Kluson tuners in the mid 1950s. Almost all of the buttons had broken off of those tuners by the time I got it. Everything else appeared to be unrepaired or modified and in good condition. I took the guitar to Jason Burns for a neck reset for proper action, bridge reglue, pickguard reglue with crack repair, and to have have the first three frets transplanted from a 1941 Kalamazoo guitar to retain original look but have good playability. I sourced a replacement set of tuners which closely match the original style. It’s now in excellent playing condition and sounds divine.
Book recommendation: Gibson’s Fabulous Flat Top Guitars by Whitford, Vinopal, and Erlewine. It’s a great reference book for all the different models and changes to the models throughout the years. It has pictures and information on both common models and rare models including the SJ-100 model.