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1930s Ward/Gibson Archtop


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I recently picked up a vintage archtop at a yard sale that I'm trying to learn as much as possible about. It is a Ward made by Gibson for Montgomery Ward back in the 30s. It very much resembles the Kalamazoo models made during the same period. I know, from reading posts on here and what little info I can find elsewhere, that the Ward/Wards guitars were called Recording Kings but those I've found were all marked as such. I've only found one with a WARDS logo and one with WARD like mine. Could this possibly be an earlier model of the Recording King? I also read that only aprox. 125 archtops were made for Ward with the Ward logo but there wasn't much more info than that. Also, that these were the very first guitars Gibson ever had listed in a catalog. No idea if that is true. Inside, on the wood, is stamped in ink 72 followed by a capital A. I'm guessing that might be an order number? I read that Gibson used an A as a prefix starting around 1935. The bracing is parallel not x. There is also a WARDS label that has what appears to be FE6, FEB or FE8 not sure as it is hard to read. Might even be F88. It is stamped on it twice in ink. I'm not interested in money value, I know these were budget end guitars at the time, as much as I am the history of this old gem, mainly because I'm old myself and like old things! lol Any info at all would be dearly appreciated. I'm very much considering sending it to Gibson to have the few cracks repaired. I want them repaired but done right, and with the Gibson history, feel it only right it be done by Gibson. Just hoping I can afford it! lol I practically stole this guitar, as I only gave $40 for it, and feel it well worth getting the cracks repaired but, again, any advice would be greatly appreciated.


I think I may have just answered part of my questions. I believe this to be an L30 or possibly an L37. It is 14 3/4" across the bell. The article I read said that not many of the L30s were made and even fewer with the sunburst finish. Also that the only difference in an L30 and an L37 was that the L37s pick guard was bound. As you can see, mine is un-bound so I'm guessing that makes mine an L30. One more piece of the puzzle is that mine has no truss rod. I've read that was due to a shortage of metal because of the war. I see some L30s do have truss rods. Is mine just an early model? I'm a bit confused as to an exact id of this guitar! ROFL

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Edited by Spirithawk
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Ok, I guess some obvious questions would be; 1) Are there any records of what early arch tops were made by Gibson for Montgomery Ward? 2) Of those, what model would have the brand name WARD, not WARDS with the s added, inlaid in the headstock and is the fact that the logo is inlaid, not stenciled, significant? 3)Was there another model besides the L30 and L37 that measured 14 3/4" across the bell or was it those models Wards received with their name on them as that is what this guitar measures? 4) Given the info I've posted is there any way to pin down the date this guitar was made? 5) Does the fact it has the WARD brand on the headstock, rather than Gibson, have any effect on value?


So far I know that Gibson sold the Kalamazoo KG-21 to Montgomery Ward. I believe it is basically an L-30. Other than WARD on the headstock mine is identical to the 1935 Kalamazoo KG-21 in that the back is un-bound.

Edited by Spirithawk
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  • 2 years later...

I have a WARD archtop, probably the same model as the one you describe. As far as I can tell, it is identical to the Kalamazoo KG-21, which had an arched maple back, just like the WARD. However, the L-30 had a flat back. I had one many years ago, and I think the WARD sounds better. All three instruments are 14 3/4 wide at the lower bout. They were apparently made with solid (pressed, not carved) red spruce tops, but when I poke around with my little finger, I could swear I feel the rough texture of a carved top. Who knows? The main thing is it plays great and sounds great. Looks pretty good, too, despite three repaired cracks. Just played "Autumn Leaves" on it yesterday. It sounds pretty jazzy, even in my clumsy hands

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