By now you’ve seen our 2016 Holiday Gift Guide, chock full of great, more or less realistic ideas for a little something-something for the fretted instrumentalists in your life. While we were putting that together, however, it was hard not to think about what we’d really want to find under the tree, if money weren’t an object or Santa Claus were real. Here’s our Wish List, strategically sorted from “Holy $#!+” to “That’s Almost Less Than A Car.” Please, Santa, we’ve been real good this year…
Gibson F-5 (1923), $165,000
It feels a little silly to say it, but we’re seemingly looking at a buyer’s market for Loar-signed mandolins. Sure, they’re still gonna cost you more than the median home price in Cropsey, Illinois, but they’ve come back to earth, ever so slightly, and they’re out there to be found. In fact, if you walk into Gruhn you’ll have three to choose from (all priced at $165,000). We picked this 1923 example (MF8600), just because.
Dumble Dumbleland Special (1978), $159,995
Mojo is a bit like porn: you may not be able to define it, but you know it when you see/hear it. When it comes to amps, it’s more or less accepted that nothing has more mojo than a Dumble. Whether or not mojo is worth these prices is somewhat less accepted, but, you know what? Santa doesn’t care, so if we’re not paying, we’ll take it. It’s 150 watts of face-melting ooooh, possibly built for Merle Haggard, with fancy switches and exemplary use of Moore Computer for the labels [we do love our fonts]. Plus, with our less than stellar mando chops, this is much more practical than that Loar…
Gibson RB-7 (1942), $90,000
Hey, Santa, while you’re at Gruhn, would you mind grabbing a banjo? They’ve got this amazing ‘42 RB-7, not quite all original but close enough. The top-tension club (we’re assuming there’s a secret handshake) includes Noam Pikelny and Steve Martin. If their backs can take the weight (we’re guessing it clocks in around 15 pounds), ours can, too.
Fender Stratocaster (1964), $59,999
There’s something about a Lake Placid Blue Strat. Yeah, this one’s flirting dangerously with overkill – so pristine… do you really need the hang tag, strap, and, heck… even the bridge cover only matters for pictures, right? But, you know, when you’re writing your letter to Santa, should you really have to worry about whether or not your Dream Strat is flirting with overkill?
D’Aquisto New Yorker (1975), $50,000
Jimmy D’Aquisto, man… Sure, we’re always ogling D’Angelico Excels and Model As, Strombergs, L-5s and the like, but D’Aquisto was a game-changer and this New Yorker is sweeter than sweet, simple and elegant, kinda everything you’d want in an iconic archtop.
Larson Brothers Dreadnaught (1938), $40,165
Usually, when you’re thinking Pre-War dreadnaught you’ve got a D-18 or -28n in mind, but you could go another way and ask Santa for this rare bird: a Brazilian rosewood “Euphonon” dreadnaught from the Larson Brothers, in all its apparently absurdly well-tended original glory. The words of the Dream Guitars folks read like hyperbole – “The voice is immense, wide open and fierce, with juicy bass notes that hang in the air.” – but in Al Petteway’s dependable hands, their claims are backed up in the video.
Martin 000-28 (1939), $38,500
You’d be hard pressed to find a cleaner 1939 Martin 000-28 than this one currently at Jet City Guitars. And, with a fresh refret and neck reset from Dennis Berck, we’d do anything to take it for a spin. This one ticks all the boxes: 1 3/4″ nut, original bridge plate and original tuners. Sublime.
Gibson Advanced Jumbo (1938), $29,995
You knew there’d be a slope-shouldered Gibson on this list, right? Might have been a Banner J-45, or a Southern Jumbo, or it might be this, a super-slick ‘38 Advanced Jumbo, in all of it’s long-scale, Adi-topped, Brazilian back & sides-ed glory. Sure, it’s had its share of work done, but it’ll do, in a pinch.
Gibson Nick Lucas Special (1935), $29,950
Yeah, yeah, yeah… Santa’s thinking we’re getting a little predictable looking at this list. Where’s the Klein Deco? Or the Stromberg Master 400? Well, those are another kind of predictable, and, c’mon, look at this Nick Lucas! This one isn’t the 13-fret that’s become some players’ Holy Grail guitar, but it looks, plays and sounds gorgeous.
Dudenbostel F-5 (2012) $22,000
And then there’s Lynn Dudenbostel, who graced our magazine’s pages in issue 14, reappeared in a Bench Press online, and gave us a video tour of his workshop, to boot. What we got here is one of his F-5s, and it’s super sweet, innit? You can give Santa a break, or ask him to throw in a median home in Cropsey, Illinois and you’re still spending less than you would on a Loar…
Santa Cruz “Moon Spruce”/Brazilian OM (New), $17,220
Whether you’re a Moon Spruce Believer (and a Homecoming Queen) or not, this is a stunning OM from the grandaddy of boutique guitar builders. Tastefully appointed, the tonewoods do the talking on this instrument, and judging by the Music Emporium’s video clip, they do so in a clear and rich voice, honeyed and strong, and we’re already jealous of the player who gets to hear this one mature.
Martin D-18 (1941), $20,500
That Larson Brothers beauty notwithstanding, you can’t send a list to Santa without a pre-war Martin on it, can you? We do love our 000s, and 28s are always special, but we’re kinda partial to humble D-18s, and although this one isn’t perfect–it sports a replacement bridge and new tuners, it’s got a few side cracks and it’s had a neck reset and a refret–we wouldn’t want Santa to hurt himself finding one more pristine when this one sounds so sweet…
Olson SJ (2013), $13,000
We’ve had a bad case of Jim Olson on the brain since we chatted with him back in Podcast #115, compelling us to keep an eye open for any of his instruments popping onto the market, as this one just did. It’s classic Olson, cedar and Indian rosewood, richly inlaid, mintier than mint and with an Olson-installed Baggs pickup to boot. Just the thing for our incipient JT tribute band…
Linda Manzer “Little Manzer” (2012), $11,840
Depending on your perspective, this is either giving Santa a break by asking for a relatively inexpensive Manzer, or shooting for the Moon by asking for the Backpacker Guitar of the Gods. Chopped off at the fifth fret (tuned A-A on a 16-⅞” scale), this is a compact jangle-monster, punchy and chimey. The body’s wee but not so wee that you can’t appreciate the lovely Brazilian rosewood back & sides; the cedar top is rich and smooth, the appointments perfection. Man, it just looks like too much fun, doesn’t it?
Bourgeois Victorian Piccolo Parlor (New), $8,970
Speaking of small guitars, and delving back into the unusual, we first saw one of Dana Bourgeois’ Piccolo Parlor guitars in Sara Watkins’ hands and, hoo-boy, these things are neat. This one’s of the no-holds-barred persuasion, with a sweet set of Brazilian rosewood and some fancy-pants spruce for the top, and, damn, but that neck is a thing of some beauty, if you’re into that sort of thing, which we are…
Yanuziello Cocobolo (New), $5,500
You know what? We want this one, whether Santa’s involved or not. Joe Yanuziello builds all manner of impeccable instruments (see our feature on Joe in issue 37), any one of which is special, but this guitar, with that crazy cocobolo top (on a chambered mahogany body) is especially special. These instruments are singularly alive, perfectly appointed, eminently playable and so absurdly light that nothing could possibly be easier for Santa to add to his load.