1905/1906 Gibson 12-sub-bass, long-scale Harp Guitar

SOLD 5/6/07

This instrument is intended for the serious Gibson or harp guitar aficionado.  Although it is fully restored and a fantastic player's instrument, it is also an exceedingly rare and important collector's piece. 

The good:  It is an original 12-sub-bass model with the original longer scale length of 27-1/4" in very sound condition.  These specimens are incredibly rare, and almost never come up for sale.  The Style U with 12 sub-basses appeared for only a short time between the end of 1902 and about 1906, when they standardized sub-basses to 10.  Only the very first specimens had the sub-bass tuners arranged in two rows of six (as seen in the 1902/1903 catalog).  The more typical configuration is 3 X 4, as is seen here.  Gibson harp guitars were designed for extremely heavy gut string tension (though steel was optional) and the first models had an extra long scale length which beefed up the tension even further.  This is definitely one of the largest, most impressive harp guitars ever created!  The back is carved from a single, solid piece of mahogany.  It has the fancier mother-of-pearl inlays on the fingerboard.  It has the typical thick, wedge-shaped Gibson neck, but plays well with decent action (~ 5/32"-3/16" on the 6th string at the 12th fret) and sounds, according to the current owner, "like a grand piano."  It comes with a custom-made fabric-covered closed-cell foam case that measures 52"X 44".

The bad:  Not specifically "bad," but, in this case, necessary.  The instrument was originally acquired from Mandolin Brothers and believed to be all-original.  Both headstocks had some splitting and separation, and the current owner's decision was to rebuild them to original specifications.  The main headstock was replicated and replaced, then painted black as was the original; it does not appear to have ever had any inlay or silk-screen logo.  The tuners are believed to be original.  The sub-bass head was carefully rebuilt, the cedar laminations (which were coming apart) removed and replaced with mahogany (it may have been a factory error or shortcut not to use all mahogany originally). The fingerboard was carefully removed, and a strengthening rod was placed in the neck.  It has several cracks on the back and front, but none are open or serious.  All repair work was contracted through luthier Dennis Lake.  Please inspect full-size photos carefully to determine overall cosmetic condition.

The serial # is illegible, but was originally read as a four-digit number in the 4000 series.  Early Gibson dating is still imprecise, but this coincides - according to the Mandolin Archives (the only up-to-date list) - with instruments believed to be from from 1905-1906.

Please refer to The Gibson Harp Guitar, Chapter 2 for additional historical information on this rare instrument.

This is a rare chance to own one of the earliest Gibson harp guitars in fantastic playing condition.  If this instrument was in 100% original condition and in this shape, we would be asking closer to $15,000 rather than the list price of $7,800. 


  • Carved spruce top, original black finish with touch up, bound in ivoroid
  • Single piece mahogany carved back
  • Mahogany neck
  • Ebony fretboard, with fancy m-o-p fret markers
  • 21" wide body
  • 27-1/4" scale
  • Custom padded case
  • Price: $7,732 Sold (cash or check discount price $7500), on consignment.  Email to place a hold or obtain payment terms and conditions.

Click images for full-size, high resolution files.

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