Blackstone 18653 front

Close-up #3: 1940 Blackstone SN 16853

This sunburst finish beauty was offered for sale on eBay and other platforms some time ago where I saved the photos from. I didn't buy it – although I sometimes think I should have. Further down you will read why...

Blackstone 16853 label

As the "green" label states, the guitar is a Blackstone model with SN 16853. Introduced in the early 1930s as a mid-priced, 14 3/4 inch wide model with all black finish, the Blackstone was twice upsized to its final 16 3/8 inch body size by 1936 – with a carved spruce top and an arched, one-piece laminated maple back, showing off its nicely figured wood in a sunburst finish.

Blackstone 16853

By 1939 Epiphone had standardized the headstock design of its guitars and mandolins to this center-dip shape which was similar to that of its main competitor, Gibson.

Blackstone 18853 head

Below the Blackstone model as it appeared in the 1939 catalog. Since its launch in the early 1930s, the list price of $75 remained unchanged until October 1940.

1939 catalog Blackstone

This Blackstone is equipped with Epiphone's custom E-logo enclosed tuning machines which were offered in the 1939 catalog as an optional add-on. The "Blondes" flyer from early 1940 announced that all guitars from $75 up – i.e. including the Blackstone model were delivered with these fancy new tuners.

1940 Blondes flyer

But what year is Blackstone SN 16853 actually from? Now it gets really interesting!

If you look up Epiphone serial number dating charts in common vintage guitar reference books you will probably read that SNs in the range 16000–17500 were built in the year 1941 – dating Blackstone SN 16853 to c. mid-1941.

But then we had a closer look at the documents accompanying this particular instrument.

Blackstone 16853 paperwork

What we had seen before are Epiphone instruments which still have the original Guarantee Card in the case.

Blackstone 16853 card

However what we have so far only found with this Blackstone SN 16853 is this letter by the Epiphone company, confirming the return of the duplicate Guarantee Card and registration of the original owner. It states that the original owner, Mr Wilbur Groesbeck from Feura Bush NY, bought this instrument through the Stephen St. John School (which was a music school based Schenectady NY).

The true surprise is the date of the letter: November 30th, 1940.

Blackstone 16853 letter

This means that Blackstone SN 16853 was sold by November 1940, i.e. manufactured at the latest in fall 1940, possibly earlier. Which means: one year earlier than suggested by the traditional Epiphone SN dating charts!

Documents like this letter are invaluable to trace and understand the history of the old Epiphone instruments more accurately. Based on such information the year allocation for some Epiphone serial number ranges were revised in my charts and database.

Unfortunately, it is rare that such documents survive with an instrument. Thus my call: If you happen to own original sales documents of a vintage Epiphone instrument, please contact me.

(Sep 23, 2016)