Sunday, January 27, 2013

1939 Gibson J-35, 3 tone bars of blues.

The model designation "J-35" showed up in the ledgers in late 1936.  It was a no frills jumbo featuring a Spruce top and Mahogany back and sides.  It was originally named the "Trojan" but not for very long.  It is my understanding that the word Trojan only shows up one time.  The Trojan guitar differs very little from the J-35, if at all.

-Edit-  As our friend mentioned in the comments section, the "Trojan" model appears 39 times in the surviving shipping ledgers from 1936.  Only one had an attached FON: 960-12 which shipped to Ridders Music Store in Atlanta.  This guitar still lives in Atlanta and while I do not know the owner personally I have interacted with him on the Gibson forum.  He is a well respected collector and I hope to one day be able check out the collection in person.  I live only 2 hours west of Atlanta!  There is a lot of TVG material there.  Thanks, Anonymous!

The J-35 was produced up until 1942 when Gibson introduced the next and more common J-45.  This J-35 was made in 1939 which was the first year that the natural finish was offered.  It was also the last year of the 3 tone bar bracing.  That makes this one a bit easier to date since Spann's Guide to Gibson does not have very many factory order numbers from 1939.

This guitar was being sold locally and was described as a "1939 Gibson L-00."  I am still trying to figure out how they nailed the year perfectly but were terribly mistaken on the model.  I tried to tell the seller what it actually was but, as is common with sellers, they don't want you to tell them what they should already know.

When I opened the case for the first time I was very surprised at how good of condition it was in.  This guitar survived in a chipboard case in someone's basement for many, many years.  The seller told me it had some water damage but he repaired it.  That was not what I wanted to hear but upon inspection, he did a pretty good job.  I was expecting sloppy glue work and half-assed overspray but was pleasantly surprised to find neither.  There was plenty of evidence of water damage but it was on the bottom near the end pin.  It wasn't a perfect repair but it was done well.  I wouldn't have expected much better from my own luthier.  He then told me he was a wood worker so it made a little more sense.

I bought this guitar 5 days before the Orlando Guitar Expo and had already bought a booth to show some guitars.  I took this one because I just couldn't resist.  It sold the morning of the first day to a very happy buyer.  I was sad, yes, but it had to be done.  I had spent the last bit of our savings including my wife's last couple of paychecks!  Not a great way to buy a guitar but I had a pretty good feeling about this one.  It seemed to work out but now there is a big J-35 shaped hole in my heart.  I guess that is one of the things that keep me going.



  1. The name Trojan actually was mentioned 39 times in the shipping ledgers. Only one had a noted fon -- 960-12. It was shipped to Ridders Music Store in Atlanta.

    1. Thanks Anonymous! I updated the post to reflect this information. I appreciate you leaving a comment! -John

  2. I have a guitar my mom left me..and after doing some research, I found that, not only is it a Trojan, but is the only Trojan or J-35 I have seen with an ebony nut. It has no FON , just a number in red pencil on the neck block. Could it possibly be a very early model? Or maybe a prototype? Of course it has no back binding, a 3 3/4" sound hole and the original Grover tuning pegs. I have been told that my guitar is unique because no Trojan or period J-35 had scalloped bracing like this guitar, which apparently came out later. Of course being in Canada, it has the "Made in the U.S.A." stamped on the back of the head stock above the Grovers. So you can see the confusion I am in, trying to figure out exactly what guitar I have! Any help would be appreciated.

    1. Sounds like a cool guitar. Send me an email with pictures so we can talk about it: