Rickenbacker A-25 Lap Steel Electric Guitar (1934)

Rickenbacker  A-25 Lap Steel Electric Guitar  (1934)
$7,500.00 + shipping
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Item # 11683
Prices subject to change without notice.
Rickenbacker A-25 Model Lap Steel Electric Guitar (1934), made in Los Angeles, serial # 448, gold enamel finish, cast aluminum body and neck, original black hard shell case.

This is an extremely clean example of the very rare early Rickenbacher A-25 Electro Hawaiian Guitar (nicknamed the "Frying Pan" for its distinctive shape) one of the most historically important of all 20th Century guitars. It was the first commercially successful electrified string instrument as the initial carrier of the celebrated pre-war 1 1/2 inch horse shoe magnet pickup, the first electro-magnetic instrument pickup to be perfected and still one of the greatest-sounding units ever. While Rickenbacker went on to produce many other instrument designs, the "Frying Pan" is where it all began for both this California company and modern electric guitars in general.

The instrument was first offered in *extremely* small numbers in 1932-3 as the Model A-25, with a 25" scale length. A companion A-22 model with a 22" scale followed and as the short scale became more accepted on Electric Hawaiian guitars the A-25 was heavily outsold by it. The number of extant A-25s is very small; many are rumored to have been collected for scrap aluminum drives during WWII! They rarely come up for sale 80+ years later in the 21St Century. The A-25 was marketed as a Hawaiian guitar, but the neck is round-backed so theoretically the instrument could have been played Spanish style, something designer George Beauchamp alluded to in the original patent application.

The very first Electro steels from 1932-3 have no onboard controls, this example has a single volume pot with an octagonal knob on the top. The fingerboard is integral with the neck with raised ridges for fret indicators and black position dot markers. The entire instrument extremely futuristic for the 1930's, a high deco minimalist design fabricated from a single piece of cast aluminum with a hollow space inside. This body was finished in a fragile gold enamel wash that is amazingly intact on this example. The strings run through the body and over a separate chromed metal saddle, through the horseshoe magnet pickup and on over a chromed brass nut to the slotted headstock.

The pickup is the first major version of the famous Rickenbacker horseshoe unit with the old thick 3/8" magnets and long individual screw poles in the coil. The unit is adjustable overall for height with a knurled knob at each end. The first pattern mounting flanges have no "Pat. Applied For" stamp, but there is a very discreet "Pat.Pend" stamped into the body behind the bridge. The slotted headstock has a brass metal name plate that reads "Richenbacher Electro, Los Angeles" with "RE" between mirrored lightning bolts. The combination of a serial number without an "A" prefix and these features suggest this example dates to no later than 1934; early Rickenbackers show somewhat inconsistent features and markings as the tiny Los Angeles factory could be pretty lackadaisical about fine details.

This example is simply the cleanest we have ever seen; it is all original except the pickup was rewound by Todd Clinesmith and sounds fantastic. Amazingly enough even nearly 90 years on the guitar itself is still a very fine musical instrument and remains one of the best-sounding steel guitars ever. While there will always be debate as to the "Absolute First" electric guitar (See: Vivi-Tone) it was the Rickenbacker Electro that established a commercial market for amplified instruments, and dominated it in these first years. George Beauchamp's electro-magnetic pickup was by far the best sounding and most successful first generation design and set the basic pattern form all that have come since. The A-25 remains unique, in some ways as modern as when it was first introduced and one of the most distinctive guitars ever designed.
Overall length is 31 1/4 in. (79.4 cm.), 6 3/4 in. (17.1 cm.) across at the widest point, and 1 1/2 in. (3.8 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 25 in. (635 mm.). Width of nut is 1 7/8 in. (48 mm.).

This is simply the cleanest, best preserved A-25 we have ever seen, with the very fragile original gold wash finish in a far batter state than most. It shows small chips, scrapes and dings mostly to the top of the body but no large areas worn away; many of these have lost this finish entirely by now. The back and sides are extremely clean with only light wear. The tuners are original, mounted in the buttons-up position most steel players have preferred since the 1930s.

The heart of the instrument -- the original large-magnet pickup -- has been expertly rewound by Todd Clinesmith, a true guru of vintage steel and sounds fantastic, with tons of volume and a truly singing sound. The single volume control still has the original fragile octagonal knob. This is simply a fine playing and sounding amazingly clean example of this historically important and highly sought-after lap steel guitar in a superb original hard case, a rarity in itself. This has a later handle (the original is inside) and bears a charming small sticker on the outside declaring it is "Covered in Genuine DuPont Fabricoid" we have never seen before. Overall Excellent Condition.