Broadway 5009

Close-up #16: 1931 Broadway SN 6009*

* formerly identified as SN 5009 (corrected Oct 2018)

I saved these amazing photos years ago, I don't remember where I found them.

Just from the first image at the top one could hardly tell what model or even maker we are looking at – although the soundholes may hint to Epiphone: Such single-bound cello-style f-holes were typical for the 1935–1949 DeLuxe. But that spectacular pickguard and armrest unit are obviously a custom job, as is the fingerboard with block inlays up to the 21st fret.

Now, look at that headstock! Never seen any other like it. But we can spot some pearl banners of an early Broadway hidden in there. The asymmetric headstock shape also fits, however "banner" headstocks never had binding – not to mention all that additional pearl work including an "E" logo ... The tuners are modern gold Schallers.

Broadway 5009

The label inside this Broadway is of the "blue" type introduced not before WW2, with a typed serial number – indicating a replacement label likely added during a later refurbish at the Epiphone factory (with the original SN typed onto the blank space): The number reads "5009"* – the lowest SN of a Masterbilt series instrument documented so far!

Since we assume that the Masterbilt SN system started at 5000, this Broadway is most likely one of the very first examples built in 1931. Originally the SN would have been stamped into the wood.

* Correction Oct 2018: Just surfaced has DeLuxe SN 5009 – with the serial number clearly stamped. Therefore we now assume that the serial number of this Broadway is rather 6009 – we often notice that figures "5" and "6" look very similar. (Furthermore, the wood grain of this Broadway's back is also more typical of a 1932 example.)

Broadway 5009

Pictured below the Broadway in the 1932 catalog. Model specs were a carved top and a "correspondingly graduated back" made of "American Walnut" ...

1932 catalog Broadway

... which is present on this modified and refinished example. Before 1933 the Broadway sported a fingerboard with 4-point star inlays. 

Broadway 5009

The guitar in its perfectly fitting hardshell case ... 

Broadway 5009

... which however is not from the early 1930s either: The embossed "E" logo in the lining of the lid is not seen before the late '30s. Note the sticker of "Fife & Nichols" which was a legendary Hollywood musical instrument store. 

Broadway 5009

Regarding the serious modifications this early Broadway obviously went through over the years – the question remains: Where these done at the Epiphone factory? Possibly a new top with cello f-holes, yes – but the rest? I don't know, but rather doubt it.

(Nov 5, 2016 – with later additions)