Gibson Super 400

Measuring a full 18 inches across its lower bout, the Super 400 cost $400 at the time of its official introduction in June 1935, $35 more than the L-5, which it replaced as Gibson’s flagship model.

Super 400 Serial Number 91809

The example pictured here was entered into Gibson’s ledgers in April 1935 (serial number 91809) qualifying it as one of the first two Super 400 guitars to be delivered by the Gibson factory (it is the earliest surviving example known at this time).

The label reads Deluxe at the top and L-5 for the model while the deco-shaped black truss rod cover is engraved Super L-5. Unlike later production examples the tailpiece is not engraved with the Super 400 legend – though the heel displays the words Super 400. Perhaps Gibson was hedging its bets between the Super L-5 and Super 400 names when this guitar was built?

The scale length is 24-7/8 inches and the top is X-braced. Deluxe features include multiple binding around the top, back, pickguard, f-holes, fingerboard and headstock. The fingerboard carries a series of split block pearl inlays while the headstock displays a five-piece split diamond motif with a similar design on its reverse. All hardware is gold-plated.

This guitar was featured on the album Tone Poems II, by Martin Taylor and David Grisman and can be heard on track six, Anything Goes.

Photos courtesy of Dave Matchette and Elderly Instruments

1935 Gibson Super 400 Serial Number 92091

Joe Spann: Super 400 serial number 92091 was shipped on the 9th  July 1935 to the New York Band Inst. Co., and then again on the 24th Mar. 1936 to Frank Staffa. It is the 14th Super 400 produced when arranged by serial number”.

Features include a small upper bout; small f-holes, an X-braced; ‘thin’ top and a 24 ¾ inch scale length. The guitar is fitted with new gold-plated Waverly tuners and a repro marbled celluloid pick guard copied from the deteriorated original by Cris Mirabella

The guitar’s truss rod cover is inscribed with the name ‘Frank Staffa’ who was guitarist for Rudy Vallee and his Connecticut Yankees  in the 1930s.

Frank Staffa, who owned this guitar

Images above courtesy of Rod Mcdonald

Alvino Rey’s 1935 Gibson Super 400 Serial Number 92096

While working with Gibson in 1935, Rey became one of the first three owners of the company’s newly announced Super 400 model, along with guitarists Tony Romano and Muzzy Marcellino (joined soon after by one Rhubarb Red, later known as Les Paul.)

That guitar was Super 400 serial number 92096. The feature that sets Alvino’s Super 400 apart is its Natural finish. Indeed, it was Gibson’s first blonde archtop, and the only first generation Super 400 shipped with a Natural finish.

Gibson’s ledger from March of 1936 tells us that the guitar was returned to the factory for repair or refurbishment, at which time the original Natural finish may have been replaced.

Images courtesy of Archtop.com

1940 Gibson Super 400N Serial number: 96112

This beautiful 1940 Super 400N features the natural finish option that Gibson introduced in 1939. Note the gold-plated Kluson Sealfast tuners, Varitone tailpiece and the Super 400 legend engraved on its heel cap

Images above courtesy of Arlan Ettinger of Guernsey Auctions and photographer Paul Schraub

Gibson Super 400N 96242 

Gibson Super 400N serial number 96242 was made for Texas cowboy William Fulton Peale, Jr. (first cousin to Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking). 

Peale ordered the guitar in 1940 but shortly after it arrived, he returned it to Kalamazoo to have his name – surrounded by a series of small stars – inlaid in pearl script along the fingerboard. At the same time Gibson installed a fancy engraved pearloid pickguard.

Images above courtesy of The Guitar Broker

Super-400 P (Premier) Serial Number 96691

In early 1937 the width of the Super-400’s upper bout was widened to 13 5/8 inches and its scale length increased to 25 ½ inches. An optional Natural finish was available by late 1937 and from 1939 the model was offered with a cutaway as the Super-400 P.

Features typical of this period include a celluloid heel cap engraved with the model name, a large Varitone tailpiece with a rounded Y shape centre section – also engraved with the ‘Super-400’ legend – and enclosed back Kluson tuners with amber plastic buttons.

Images above courtesy of Blue-G, Tokyo, Japan