'Holy grail' vintage Gibson guitar found by Waterloo store
Vintage guitar experts Folkway Music tracked down the instrument in Iowa
An extremely rare 1941 Gibson guitar has been found by Waterloo, Ont. vintage music shop, Folkway Music.
The instrument was located near Des Moines, Iowa, hidden under the bed of a 92-year-old man preparing for a move.
"It's an incredible find," says the owner of Folkway Music, Mark Stutman, "For all intents and purposes, it's a one of a kind guitar."
When you find that 'holy grail under the bed special' it's a big deal.- Mark Stutman, owner of Folkway Music
The guitar is a Gibson J35, which was first manufactured in the United States in 1937. Stutman, who specializes in refurbishing and selling rare antique guitars, said the instrument was produced for about five years before the company moved on to a newer model. It was called the J35 as it was a version of the guitar maker's Jumbo acoustic guitar, priced down for depression-era consumers to $35.
Stutman suspects only 1,000 of these instruments were made, and even fewer had the distinct cherry edge-burst finish, like the guitar found by Folkway Music.
"It's the most desirable of this desirable model that exists in the world," Stutman said.
Guitar sold by original owner
The instrument, which Stutman says retails for around $25,000 US, was discovered under the bed in the home of a 92-year-old man in Iowa.
The man was the original owner of the instrument, having purchased it in 1941 shortly before shipping off to the Pacific during Second World War. When he returned from the war, he never picked the instrument up.
The guitar was found when the man's children started to help him clean out his home for a move. His daughter researched the name and make of the instrument and found Stutman's guitar shop, and contacted them about selling it.
Stutman didn't jump at the call though – he wanted to be sure the instrument was what they claimed before committing to buying it, so he asked them to send some photographs.
Six months passed, and then in the mail, directly from the 92-year-old owner, a letter arrived.
"There's a little scratched note of paper in barely legible hand writing and these printed pictures of this guitar," Stutman said.
"They're horrible awful pictures, out of focus ... But I was able to tell just enough that this was a crazy rare version of this particular guitar and it was in just astonishing condition."
Stutman then flew to Des Moines, Iowa, to buy the instrument and brought it back to Waterloo.
Buyers already interested
"Everyone is going ga-ga," Stutman said,
"When you find that 'holy grail under the bed special' it's a big deal."