Guild F-20 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1956)

Guild  F-20 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar  (1956)
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Item # 8451
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Guild F-20 Model Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1956), made in New York City, serial # 3753, sunburst top, dark back and sides finish, maple back and sides, mahogany neck, spruce top; rosewood fingerboard, black chipboard case.

The primal Guild flat-tops from the company's earliest pre-Hoboken period are very rare finds; first generation examples of them in any condition are far from common! This is a very early first-year sunburst-top F-20, the smallest body size in the company's flat-top line up. This guitar was likely built mid-late 1956, just around the time Guild was moving and setting up shop in New Jersey. The label is the second version of the Guild black & white paper style, with the address printed as "New York 7, New York". This guitar is either one of the last built in the original Pearl Street loft, or one of the first assembled on Observer Highway in Hoboken.

The F-20 was a brand new model at this time, just introduced as a small-bodied economy flat-top with a lower bout nearly 1 1/2'" smaller than the earlier F-30. The dark brown sunburst finish on the top is very different from the more eye-popping red 'bursts seen on 1960s models. It was a standard option but in practice is less often seen than a plain natural top. These earliest Guild flat-tops are built with maple bodies and spruce tops, giving a notably different sound from the more conventional mahogany examples built after 1959.

Other typical period features include the early gold script "Guild" stencil headstock logo, small oval truss rod cover, open back Waverly strip tuners, and smaller dark celluloid pickguard. This guitar is much lighter in construction than typical 1970s Guilds with a vibrant midrangey sound, and also works well as a strummed chord machine. This is a fine recording or gigging guitar, a nice example of a very rare early Guild classic.
 
Overall length is 39 1/4 in. (99.7 cm.), 13 5/8 in. (34.6 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 4 1/16 in. (10.3 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 5/8 in. (41 mm.).

This is a fairly well-worn guitar with a cool vibe, not the cleanest F-20 we have had but a neat early example. The guitar shows some wear and old repair overall. As with many Guild guitars from this period, the celluloid binding has some distress. In this case there are multiple small cracks to the top and back, but it remains intact and is not flaking or crumbling away. The binding does appear to have been reglued and stabilized, and there is some fill and touch-up in spots.

The guitar shows numerous old repairs, all solidly done if in some cases not the neatest work. There are two spruce grain cracks on the top on the upper bass bout; these are sealed but the touch-up work is fairly conspicuous. The top seam has been resealed and the bridge reglued, with some noticeable touch-up around the edges. The finish on the back and sides has been heavily scuffed and buffed and, from the look of it, French polished. The top finish is original but also shows some touch up work -- it does retain a very nice patina. There is a lot of scuffing and buffing around the neck heel area especially.

The neck has had a very solid if cosmetically imperfect reset and the guitar is an excellent player even with the original full-height bridge intact. The frets appear original and remain in fine-playing shape with very little wear. There is a jack hole in the lower side, currently occupied by a jack as the guitar is set up for amplified use. With the 1950s DeArmond pickup mounted in the sound hole, this guitar has an excellent electric sound, really nailing the Lightnin' Hopkins and Elmore James vibe. It also sounds nice as a purely acoustic instrument, with a nice midrange accent.

This is a far from perfect example cosmetically but many of these early Guilds have had structural and finish issues and near-mint ones are practically non-existent. This F-20 is a funky but chic, cool, and rare early survivor of this perennial favorite flat-top. Very Good Condition.