Color: Nickel plate, Rating: 9.00, Sold (ID# 01741)
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"An Extremely Rare model, With Only Two, Possibly Three, In Existence All With Wooden Square Necks" (Bob Brozman).


1937 National Style 97 Hawaiian Triple Resonator 'Exploding Palm Tree'.


Nickel-plated, 14 1/4 inch wide and 2 3/8 inch deep, brass body "Style 97 Hawaiian" Triple Resonator with 'Exploding Palms' and 'stitched border' etched onto the body. Three resonator cones, with two cones on the bass side and one cone on the treble side. T-shaped bridge cover and handrest. Grid-pattern soundholes on the upper body. Hawaiian (square neck) style with mahogany neck (finished in a muted charcoal grey metallic lacquer, reminiscent of fine mid-1930’s auto finishes) and single-bound ebony fretboard with a nut width of just under 1 15/16 inches, 19 original thin frets (12 clear of body) and inlaid pearl dot position markers. Headstock with overlay of silver-grey pearloid with a dense “grain” and arched "National" engraved in white, a type seen on no other National instruments. Original open-back strip tuners with oval white plastic buttons. Serial number "A 3675" stamped onto the top edge of the headstock. Wooden bridge and specific National nickel plated tailpiece. Apart from some minor edge wear on the back of the neck, this wonderful 'Hawaiian' guitar is in exceptionally fine (9.00) condition. Housed in the original five-latch, two-tone brown leather-cloth hardshell case with brown padded velvet lining (8.75).

The rare style 97 was made in small quantities from 1936 to 1940. It was offered as the first tricone guitar priced at under $100. This was made possible by the lower cost of brass, and, with all the color ornamentation, this guitar was a real bargain compared to the Style #1 (plain) at $125. This design was also used for guitar-shaped single-cone tenor and plectrum guitars and mandolins. These smaller instruments were not as much of a bargain as the guitars.
Keeping in mind that by 1936-1940 National’s business was declining as players switched from resonator to electrics, these are very rare guitars today, and the tenors, plectrums, and mandolins are rarer still. Very few examples exist. Interestingly, this unique use of brass in a tricone body yielded a different tone than the German silver bodies, not as many overtones, and very even response across the range of notes. These tonal characteristics make the round neck model 97 a great jazz guitar. The Hawaiian models are not quite as resonant as the Hawaiian tricones of German silver, but they still have a great warm tone.

This particular etched tricone shows a highly abstract “exploding palm tree” design. Three or four examples of this guitar have been mentioned by collectors, but it appears never to have been designated with a model name. No mention of this model is made in any printed catalog or advertising. It could be another experimental version of a budget-priced tricone. The wooden square neck is finished in a muted charcoal grey metallic lacquer, reminiscent of fine mid-1930’s auto finishes. While production of the model 97 spans the years 1936-1940, the solid headstock, arched National logo and the serial number of this strange guitar place it in 1937. The headstock overlay is a silver-grey pearloid with a dense “grain”, a type seen on no other National instruments.

"Another strange model never catalogued. This tri-cones serial number, A 2950, and its solid headstock would place it around 1937. An extremely rare model, with only two, possibly three, in existence, all with wooden square necks." (Bob Brozman. The History & Artistry of National Resonator Instruments (page 80 with photograph).

Together with a letter of authenticity signed by George Gruhn and dated June 4, 2001 "I have personally examined the instrument described below. We certify that the guitar described below is, in our opinion, a National "Exploding Palm Tree" model tricone made circa 1937. Description: Serial number A3675. This instrument is in excellent condition. It conforms to the typical specifications of the model for the period in which it was made with nickel plated body with etched "Expolding Palm Tree" ornamentation, square wood neck with metallic paint finish, and an original hard shell case. This is an extremely rare model which is greatly sought by collectors as well as musicians. Current market value: $4,500 (four thousand five hundred dollars)"

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