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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.
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, www.elderly.com
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.
Photos courtesy of Blue-G, Tokyo, Japan. (blue-g.com)
1940 Gibson Super 400N
This beautiful 1940 Super 400N features the natural finish option that Gibson introduced in late 1937. Note the gold-plated Kluson Sealfast tuners, Varitone tailpiece and the Super 400 legend engraved on its heel cap.
Serial number: 96112
Top: Spruce, natural finish
Back and sides: Maple
Neck: Maple with mahogany centre strip
Bridge/tailpiece: Rosewood, gold-plated Super 400 ‘Y’ centre Varitone trapeze
Tuners: Gold-plated Kluson Sealfast tuners with amber plastic buttons
Pictures courtesy of Arlan Ettinger of Guernsey Auctions (www.guernseys.com) and photographer Paul Schraub