Rickenbacker Silver Hawaiian Lap Steel Electric Guitar (1939)

Rickenbacker  Silver Hawaiian Lap Steel Electric Guitar  (1939)
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Item # 10021
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Rickenbacker Silver Hawaiian Model Lap Steel Electric Guitar (1939), made in Los Angeles, serial # D-1276, nickel plated finish, stamped metal body, original tweed hard shell case.
This is a very clean original example of a just pre-WWII Rickenbacker Silver Hawaiian Steel Guitar. This most striking pure deco era instrument is not only one of the coolest looking of all lap steels, but one of the finest sounding as well.

The Silver Hawaiian was the next model designed after the all-Bakelite Model B, coming into production about two years later in 1937. With a nickel-plated stamped metal body, the Silver Hawaiian was the same shape and layout as the Model B but rather less expensive to build, resulting in a retail price 30-40% lower. The hollow chambered body gives a more "reverby" sound than the earlier solid instruments, with a slightly more acoustic character to the tone.

This guitar has typical features for a 1939-40 era model. The headstock logo plate still reads Richenbacher "Electro" Los Angeles, like the earliest ones. The horseshoe pickup is the much-beloved prewar 1 1/2" magnet model with a mounting flange marked with the recently awarded patent number. The output jack is on the bass side, but by this point both the volume and tone controls were positioned on the treble side of the pickup -- the earliest versions lacked a tone control entirely. This example also has the contrasting black and white "flying saucer" knobs and a molded plastic bridge and nut.

The plated metal exterior gives a very flashy appearance -- Rickenbacker's original description states "...delights the eye with its flashing beauty", and indeed, this is a most striking-looking and fine-sounding prewar steel. This one is complete in the original case, also very well-preserved. A real Deco masterpiece Rickenbacker, looking like it was flown in by a chrome-plated DC-3 from pre-WWII Los Angeles to our 21st century world.
 
Overall length is 29 3/4 in. (75.6 cm.), 9 1/4 in. (23.5 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 22 1/2 in. (572 mm.). Width of nut is 2 1/8 in. (54 mm.).

This striking silver guitar is very clean overall and original except for replaced tuners, which are Japanese-made strips neatly installed probably in the 1960s or '70s. Tuner issues are unfortunately common with this model, as the original Grovers carried by most of them have sintered metal buttons very prone to crumbling. This installation is functionally and aesthetically fine, if not exactly correct for the period. All other hardware is original including the all-important pickup and wiring at the heart of the guitar.

Other than that substitution the instrument shows only some minor wear. The plated finish has some tiny spots of corrosion but still shines like bumpers on a brand new 1955 Cadillac. There are small-stick-on numerals added to the fingerboard designating some fret positions; these could be removed cleanly if desired but they do add an extra period touch so we have left them in place for now. The greenish tweed-covered case has some external light wear, but is solid and fully functional. This is a player's delight in a prewar Hawaiian steel, except for the later tuners one of the nicer Rickenbacker instruments from this period we have seen recently. Overall Excellent Condition.