Monday, October 3, 2011

Magnatone Mark III - Paul Bigsby designed & built electric on eBay

This refinished Maggie Mark III sold for $689 + Shipping. Wow! What a deal on an important early guitar in the hstory of the solid body electric. - JC


These are just really interesting guitars. The Paul Bigsby designed Magnatones of the 1950's are unique, cool, funky, and extremely rare and hard to find. Ive never seen one sold anywhere for less than a grand so if this clearly refinished goes for under $750 that will still be a steal - check it out:

BTW - I like these neat little Mark III's much better than the larger uglier Mark IV.


MAGNATONE 1950s MARK III Paul Bigsby Vintage Stratotone 1957 neck-thru guitar NR

Original 1957 Magnatone Mark III guitar, the first of two guitars designed by Magnatone’s LA Basin neighbor, electric guitar pioneer Paul Bigsby. Magnatone was banging out amps—used by the likes of Buddy Holly and Lonnie Mack—when they thought it would be nice to have some guitars to go along with them. Down in Downey, motorcycle machinist Bigsby had been making some of the earliest and most fabulous solid-body electric guitars ever for Merle Travis and others, along with designing the first useful vibrato unit (sorry Doc), so Bigsby seemed like a good guy to approach.
The result was Magnatone’s Mark series guitars. The first on the market was the Mark III, introduced in 1956. There is not a ton of information on these, but evidently the neck-thru models like this one are the earlier models. Production of the whole Mark series halted around 1958. These are rare guitars, and probably the closest most of us will come to ever owning a Paul Bigsby guitar.

It’s sort of a West Coast version of a Harmony H-44 Stratotone, sharing a neck-thru-body construction, with the neck shaped from the same continuous piece of wood as the center of the body, which then had two solid wings glued to it. That’s also the approach Gibson took a few years later with its admittedly more stylish Firebird guitars. This Magnatone, I should note, is a good deal more rare than Firebirds and Stratotones. That’s not to say that it’s a better guitar or worth more, just that you see more than 20 solid-body Stratotones turn up for every Mark III that does.

This one, as is obvious, has been refinished. The refin is old, and I’ve seen better. It’s certainly not a Gord Miller job, but it looks better than a garage door. There is a touched-up area under the strings near the bridge where some genius had begun cutting the outline of a second pickup and then thought the better of it.

The plastic nameplate is missing from the headstock. The original truss rod cover is present (the truss rod’s working fine, too). The original Kluson single-line tuners are there and doing the job. A metal serial number tag—similar to Magnatone lap steels—is on the back of the headstock, reading “52900.” I don’t know if the knobs are original; I’ve seen cooler ones on other Magnatones.

I believe the nut and frets are original. The 20 frets, and the rosewood fingerboard, exhibit very little wear. The scale length is 25”. The action is low and very playable.

The body is 11” wide at the lower bout. It is 1 ¾” deep. The entire guitar is just under 36” long. It weighs 6 pounds, 2 ounces.

The black pickguard is very thin plastic, don’t know if it’s original or not. The pickup is certainly original, and it’s a great, sweet-sounding one. The pots are dated 137-721 and 137-724 making them CTS ones made in the 21st and 24th weeks of 1957. The tone pot is a non-original Russian .022. It may not be wired in right; it does next to nothing.

The bridge/tailpiece is a unique and slightly infuriating design. It intonates well and has plenty of sustain, but if this is your only guitar at a gig, and you break a string, make sure you have a long story to tell while you thread the new string into this thing.

I’m not sure why, but I’m nuts about primitive little guitars: the Stratotone Newport and H44, some of the early set-neck Teisco and Guyatone models, etc. This Magnatone has been one of my favorites over the years, but I’m mostly playing archtops these days, so someone else can adore it and rock it to sleep now.

It comes with a non-original hardshell case of no repute.


  1. lol... i bought that guitar.
    i cannot believe the price i paid for it either. i honestly never thought i'd have a Paul Bigsby design.

  2. I have one for sale in Boise right Now


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