Here’s quite a finding: a semi-hollow Silvertone Jupiter 1423 guitar from 1961 with all its original accesories!
The gold sparkle over black finish is a Silvertone 1423 exclusive. Apart of some minor marks on the back, it’s a very well-preserved guitar.
The original chipboard case is in very good condition, with just some spot marks due to humidity. It’s still structurally sound, the internal cloth remains intact, and even the external leather piece is still in good shape. All I had to do was to clean it carefully and remove the superficial rust.
The fretboard and its binding were separated due to low humidity. The wooden bridge was broken, also because of the dry environment it was living in. But the finished surfaces were very good, especially taking into account its 55 years of age.
As if it weren’t enough, inside the case were the original cable that came with the guitar, the user’s manual, a detailed explanation of the 1423’s unique circuit (in a typewrited carbon-copy!), and even the sales receipt to the original owner. Amazing!
It’s very difficult to find an early ’60s guitar in such a good shape, but to get it with so much documentation and accesories is the rarest event ever!
Although there is no serial number anywhere, there are a couple of clues that allow me to positively date this as a late 1961 guitar.
One of the documents sports the words “SEARS TELEGRAM – DIAMOND JUBILEE”. Silvertone guitars were sold through the entire USA via the Sears catalogue, and its Diamond Jubilee (75 years) happened in 1961. Additionally, the pickups have an inked seal with the day of their construction.
To get an idea of its age, let’s remember what was happening in 1961:
– In April 12th, 1961 Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space.
– In August 13th, 1961 the Berlin Wall gets built.
– “Stand By Me”, sung by Ben E. King, became a classic.
– The Beatles were still an unknown bar band!
What makes this an extraordinary finding is that Silvertone guitars were cheap instruments targeted to students. Due to this fact, these guitars were mistreated and neglected once their owners bought a fancier one. It seems the original owner of this 1423 never played it, since its frets have no wear and the wood shows no sweat marks. Even the pickguard shows no scratches!
Even the knobs have a history. Daka-Ware was a trade name for compression-molded knobs, handles, and ashtrays made by Davies Molding, L.L.C. Again, “vintage” can’t get more authentic than this!
The electronics were covered with some nasty stuff all over them, but after a carefully cleaning they worked again flawlessly.
The fretboard was the most problematic part. Its edges were already separated from the neck, as the binding was. And the mother of pearl block was almost falling off its place.
The fretboard came out easily. The glue was so shot I didn’t had to warm it up.
I used an unique method for gluing the fretboard back. I took a piece of expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) to even out the pressure along the entire fretboard. It adapts itself to the curved shape of the wood and over the frets, and its effectiveness can be seen after unclamping everything: the EPS shows a “negative” imprint of the surface.
To repair the inlay, I first had to use a syringe to insert hot water under the block. Easy, right? Not when you can break a mother-of-pearl piece that’s 55 years old! And there’s always a place for surprises…
As you can see, the inlay is glued to a thin wooden laminate. If someone tries to extract the block carelessly, the mother-of-pearl could be separated from its wooden base… and that base is what keeps the shape of the inlay.
The mother-of-pearl comes as a flat piece, but the fretboard shape is curved. The mother-of-pearl was carefully pressed against that maple shim to give it the desired curved shape. When the glue failed (as it did on the rest of the fretboard), the mother-of-pearl piece simply returned to its original flat shape. That’s why it looked like it was raised along the edges.
The repair required to slightly heat the mother-of-pearl to soften and have it bent again while keeping the maple shim underneath, and then glue it all together in its original place using a wooden piece shaped to the same curvature of the fretboard. All this has to be done quickly enough to avoid it to cool -and thus, to become rigid again- before I can get it in its correct place with the desired shape.
The last step was to clean and buff the frets to a mirror-like shine.
The bridge was a difficult decision. Since I assumed the owner wanted to play this guitar, I decided not to create an exact copy of the original Silvertone bridge because that design has two inherent defects. First, the outer edges break apart very easily (as it already happened on this guitar). Second, the parabollic shape of its top don’t offer enough material to perform a correct string length compensation. That’s why I created a wooden stepped bridge similar to the ones used in the ’50s era Gibson ES 175. I used the original wheels and hardware. It doesn’t look original, but it is period-correct and much more durable.
These days, the Samick factory is building modern replicas of Silvertone guitars with a much higher quality. However, the new 1423 doesn’t sound like the old ones for a few reasons:
1) The original pickups were DeArmond “Silver Foil”, but current ones are “Duncan Designed” pickups, very similar to the Gretsch Filter’Tron.
2) The current bridge is a metal “Tune-O-Matic” bridge. The original one is a wooden one.
3) The body woods are also different. The “Silvertone-by-Samick” guitars are all-mahogany, while the original ones had maple sides with spruce top & back.
As a result, the newer ones sound like a Gibson ES-335 or an Epiphone Casino. Not bad at all, but players who prefer the unique tone of the Silvertone 1423 are still hunting for the vintage ones. And I think you can’t get more vintage than this!
The current owner brought this guitar to me to fix it and give it to a youngster who is learning to play guitar. After explaining him the value of this instrument, he told me he’s gonna show it in a special place in his living room and buy a cheaper one for his kid!
If you have a vintage intrument you can show it as a museum piece, but it is important to play it once in a while to avoid the damages caused by neglect. This Silvertone is finally ready to rock any stage or amaze any recording enthusiast. And I can tell you this guitar sings beautifully. As a goodbye, I leave you with this video, which was made with another 1423: