The Gibson 'Super Jumbo' SJ-200 is the undisputed king of acoustic flat-top guitars, and has been used by the Kings of music in their respective fields, from Gene Autrey to Elvis Presley. The SJ-200 (also known as the J-200) Gibson was designed to be big and impressive, with a big and impressive sound and a big and impressive price! There is some discussion regarding when the first SJ-200 was actually made by Gibson, but 1937 is generally accepted as the start of production. Either way, in 1952, only 201 SJ-200s were made. This is one of them. Serial number is A10277, and F.O.N. is 9733, indicating a build date early in 1952, when serials of all Gibson instruments ran from A9419 to A12462.
Scale length on these awesome guitars is a full 25 1/2", contributing to the great tone. The very best timbers were selected, and the model soon settled down to a norm of having select Spruce top with Maple back and sides, as with this guitar. Neck is a three-piece laminate of maple and rosewood, and the fretboard is Brazilian Rosewood.
In 1952, Gibson still made these beautiful classics with a solid back and sides; in 1955 the back and sides changed to laminated maple. For this simple reason, many post-'55 SJ-200s show much fancier grain detail on the backs and sides - it's easier to achieve with a laminate! This was the same time that the pickguard changed from being hand engraved to the cheaper molded version. In '55 the name of the model also changed to J-200 (although labels still showed 'SJ' for some years).
Another important change occurred during 1952, when the single X bracing that had been used since 1942 reverted back to the stronger but arguably less toneful double X bracing used before 1942. At the same time the body depth increased from 4 3/4" to 4 7/8". This guitar still has the single X bracing and the 4 3/4" depth, placing it early in 1952 (confirmed by the serial number - see above).
The back and sides of the curly maple body are in the original sunburst finish, with delightful age checking.
At some stage in the past the bridge had been replaced with a later (post 1961) 'closed' bridge, and the guitar had also been fitted with an under-bridge piezo pickup and end-pin jack, enabling the guitar to be amplified and used professionally. We brought the guitar straight to Jim Cargill, Melbourne's best luthier (in my humble opinion, if he's not one of the world's best, and a mightly nice bloke as well). With Jim the guitar has undergone a sympathetic partial restoration back to original. The neck was reset, a correct pattern replacement pickguard and open moustache bridge was sourced at quite some expense direct from Gibson, and the top was refinished in the correct original burst finish. The structural work was undertaken by Jim Cargill, while father Merv (now effectively retired) did the burst finish on the top as only he can! A truly stunning guitar, and one that sounds as good as it looks! The under-bridge piezo pickup was retained. Click the 'more pictures' link below to see the detail photographs of the Cargills' stunning work.
The original high-quality 1952 case ("Lifton - built like a fortress") comes with this guitar, complete with its original deep pink lining in surprisingly good condition. I have never before seen one of these cases with the original USA-made Excelsior keys - 2 of them - still inside the pocket!
Sold to lucky new owner in Melbourne
I have been contacted by a previous owner of this guitar, who informs me the guitar was once owned by Slash, of Guns n' Roses! Obviously I can't confirm this, but it sure provides an interesting slant!.