Catch of the Day: 1932 National Style 2 Plectrum

1932 National Style 2 Plectrum 

In 1920, as I described in this Catch, the banjo was so popular in America that builders made quite a good business of fitting ukulele, guitar and mandolin necks to banjo shells. But as the decade wore on, and recording and amplifying equipment became more efficient, bands started replacing the loud and raucous banjo with the mellower-toned guitar. Now, guitar makers started fitting banjo necks to guitar bodies to help banjoists ease themselves into the new guitar-centric universe. In the 1920s, the two most popular style of banjos were the short-scale tenor and the long-scale plectrum, both of which had four strings and were played with a flatpick. The 5-string banjo, which was played fingerstyle, was for all intents and purposes dormant.

Of the two flatpicked banjos, the tenor was far and away the most popular so it stands to reason the tenor guitar was more popular than the plectrum guitar, which makes today’s Catch, a very nice 1932 National Plectrum a rare bird indeed. National made two versions of the plectrum, the single-cone hourglass-shaped instrument pictured here, and a tricone version with a triangular body. (You can read about a National tricone tenor here.) These days there are quite a few people playing tenor guitar but almost no one playing the plectrum guitar, which is too bad because these old Nationals sound really good. The scale length is about the same as that found on a Irish bouzouki and I bet these would sound really good on a set of jigs and reels. This very clean 1932 National Plectrum is priced at $2750 and it’s for sale at Gruhn Guitars.

Click here for the original listing.