Stella Concert Size Flat Top Acoustic Guitar , c. 1925

Stella  Concert Size Flat Top Acoustic Guitar ,  c. 1925
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Item # 9466
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Stella Concert Size Model Flat Top Acoustic Guitar, c. 1925, made in Jersey City, NJ, natural varnish with decals finish, birch back and sides, spruce top; poplar neck with ebonized maple fingerboard, black hard shell case.

This extremely cool Oscar Schmidt-made Stella guitar is one of the earlier examples we have seen from this iconic blues-approved brand. It has been heavily used over something like a century but remains a playable icon and a direct link to the deep pre-WWII blues tradition. These inexpensive but solidly made Stella brand guitars were often the only decent instruments affordable to rural Americans of every strips, and offered great looks and good sound for the money. When asked decades later what guitars the pre-war bluesman he recorded played, early record executive and talent scout Ralph Peer responded "Stellas, they all played those old Stellas".

Over a production history from the late 19th century into the early 1930s, the Oscar Schmidt factory in Jersey City produced seemingly endless Stella and Sovereign branded guitar variations. This is a concert sized guitar built of cheaper woods (birch, spruce and poplar mostly) with fairly plain cosmetics. The instrument does not carry a label but the iconic underlined Stella logo is deeply impressed into the peghead face and filled in gold.

The spruce top and stained birch back are not bound, but are decorated with decal transfers on the face of a chain pattern soundhole ring and a musical cornucopia, as is sometimes seen on period Zithers and Autoharps. The bridge is the typical Schmidt style with sharply cut pyramid ends and a fretwire saddle. The back is ornamented with a decal backstrip running down the center.

Internally, the construction is typically Schmidt/Stella. The 13 5/8" wide 12-fret body has a ladder braced spruce top with a large flat bridgeplate in the classic Stella mode. The 24 3/4" scale neck is somewhat chunky feeling with a softer "V" profile than some Stella models. This is a very good sounding guitar despite (or perhaps enhanced by) its very down-home funky appearance. It is extremely well-suited to the sort of pre-war blues and hillbilly stylings that tend to make players lust after an original Stella in the first place, and a real relic showpiece that would stand out in any context!
 
Overall length is 37 in. (94 cm.), 13 5/8 in. (34.6 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 11/16 in. (9.4 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 13/16 in. (46 mm.).

Usually we clean up instruments at least somewhat before putting them up for sale, but with this guitar it feels like the funk is a big part of the story. This ancient Stella appears heavily played for decades, and likely rebuilt more than once over that time. The finish has wear, gunk and dirt everywhere, with a spot of the top below the strings having a substantial funk patch and the back of the neck worn over most of its length. Still, the only non-original components on the guitar are the bridgepins and a new nut.

The original brass frets are intact, worn and funky but still playable. The neck is reset, the action good with the original bridge solidly glued down, braces reglued and a number of cracks and seams in the body sealed up. The interior shows these repairs but is intact as Schmidt built it and has not been altered by re-bracing as many have. It plays today at least as well (probably better) than it did 100 or so years ago and has strong enough mojo for anybody who has ever coveted an old Paramount 78 to be self explanatory. We don't know where this one has been, but it has plenty of stories to tell and more than a whiff of a Blind Lemon Jefferson vibe. This won't replace anyone's Martin as an everyday guitar, but if you want a real relic of when blues was only heard in the street, plantation or on shellac discs this is it, in spades. Very Good Condition.