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    National Tri-Cone Steel Guitars, ca. 1934

    Appraised Value:

    $10,000 - $12,000

    Appraised on: July 26, 2003

    Appraised in: Chicago, Illinois

    Appraised by: David Bonsey

    Category: Musical Instruments

    Episode Info: Chicago, Hour 1 (#801)

    Originally Aired: January 5, 2004

    slideshow IMAGE: 1 of 2 Next 

    More Like This:

    Form: Steel Guitar
    Material: Silver, Brass
    Period / Style: 20th Century, 1930s
    Value Range: $10,000 - $12,000

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    Appraisal Video: (2:58)


    Appraised By:

    David Bonsey
    Musical Instruments
    Director, Fine Musical Instruments
    Skinner, Inc.

    Appraisal Transcript:
    APPRAISER: You've brought us an extra special treat today. We get a look at your identical twins.

    GUEST: They are my twins.

    APPRAISER: These are National steel guitars from about 1934 and these are special in that they are resonator guitars and they have a very unique design where instead of being a regular wooden box, we have these wonderful resonator cones which actually are quite a bit louder than the usual acoustic guitar. And these are affectionately known as National steel guitars, but they're not really steel. They're actually made of brass and they're covered with a nickel silver. The engraving that we find on these is identical in the two guitars. This was their lily of the valley engraving. It's what they called their style three and it's a pretty fancy engraving also. It's beautiful. Up at the top, we have the National nameplate and that's engraved into a faceplate of pearloid, which is like an artificial mother-of-pearl, very popular at the time. And we have our high nut here which lifts the strings very high off the finger board so that it can be played with a metal slide. Beautiful ebony fingerboard with diamond inlays. And we come down into the sound chamber where we have this beautiful lattice work done in metal and that's a very distinctive design. You won't find that in any other instrument. Down here behind this screen, we have the three resonator cones that actually vibrate and give it almost a sound that's more electric than acoustic. Here we see more exquisite engraving on the sides and also on the back. And here we see the square neck which is the signature of the lap style guitar and not the round neck of a Spanish guitar. Now, we're going to lay it down. Now, what is so special about these was that they're actually consecutive serial numbers. Here we have number 2601 and this is actually number 2600, which happened to you completely by coincidence.

    GUEST: It did. Oh, when I opened up the box from shipping it here and I first saw that, I... my eyes just got huge. I said, "Oh, I have a pair." And that's all I thought of.

    APPRAISER: These are in wonderful condition. I would estimate their value each at about $5,000. But because you have a pair that are consecutive serial numbers, this might be very meaningful to a particular collector who specializes in this sort of thing. So I'd probably add another 20%.

    GUEST: Really?

    APPRAISER: Thank you for bringing them in today. It was a treat to get a look at your twins. ( plays country-western melody ) Beautiful sound.

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