Welcome to the gallery of Silvertone guitars from the VintageSilvertones.com collection! The instruments are listed in chronological order from left (oldest) to right (more recent). The gallery will continue to grow as we get more Silvertones. The purpose of this gallery is to help identify all the Vintage Silvertone guitars from the 1950's through the early 1970's. We're major fan of Silvertones and have discovered that there's a lot of misinformation out there.
Let's state first that we're only interested in and writing about electric guitars manufactured from the 1950's through the very early 1970's. We consider this period to be the most significant in the history of vintage electric guitar collecting for these low-end beauties.
Silvertones were guitars sold by Sears but manufactured by five main companies: Danelectro, Harmony, National-Dobro (Supro/Valco), Kay, and Teisco. These companies were called "jobbers" because they were contracted (jobbed out) to make guitars for Sears. They also produced guitars under their own brand names. In almost all cases the guitars manufactured for Sears were identical to models sold directly by the manufacturers with only a logo or color change.
The early Silvertone electric guitars were made by Harmony and Danelectro, with a few exceptions. Danelectro had been making amplifiers since the 1940's for Sears, Epiphone and it's own brand. Their manufacturing facility was in Neptune New Jersey. The Dano's started mainly with the infamous "U" series which had the Lipstick pickups and "Coke-bottle" headstocks. Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and many other rock stars got started and continue to play the Dano's. Aside from the very first Danelectros for Sears they all had the Lipstick pickups. That's how you can tell a Dano from the other manufacturers. Danelectro also manufactured the infamous "amp-in-case" models of which I have two examples: a 1964 and a 1968. If you want more info on Dano's go here.
The other US-based manufacturers were from Chicago Harmony (formerly owned by Sears), National-Dobro (Supro/Valco) and Kay. Chicago was the largest guitar manufacturing area of the US at the time. The only other manufacturer of Silvertones during this period was the Japanese-based company, Teisco (or Teisco Del Ray as it was formerly called). Teisco created some of the wildest designs for Silvertones, in our opinion. The earliest model was the TG1. This was the first guitar to incorporate an amplifier and speaker into the body of the guitar. Although some people look down on the Japanese guitars we think they've got some really interesting sounds and innovations not found on American made guitars.
One other thing to note is during the 1960's there was a lot of consolidation in the Chicago guitar manufacturers. In the 1940's National and Dobro merged to form Valco. One of Valco's sub-brand's was Supro which sold guitars under the Sears moniker Silvertone but they also manufactured guitars for Montgomery Wards as the "Airline" brand (Jack White of the White Stripes plays an Airline "Layfayette" reso-glas guitar) and there were a few other house brands too. In 1968 the conglomerate Valco closed it's doors. Also in 1968 Danelectro was shut down by MCA which had purchased it in 1966. Kay also went out of business and the remains were bought by Teisco. The only major brand that survived the 1960's to continue making these amazing guitars through the early 1970's was Harmony. We believe that's because they were the largest of all guitar manufacturers in the 1960's.
One final thought, although we're selling guitars here this is clearly a labor of love. If VintageSilvertones.com works out and can sustain itself we will be expanding the site. If you're not into buying a guitar now you can pick up a cool T-Shirt with a Rockin' Silvertone Guitar on it!. We will be adding new designs shortly to the t-shirt offerings. So stay tuned for more information or not!
- cb cooke