In Praise of Sears Silvertone Guitars

Possibly no other single event inspired the creation of more garage bands than the first Ed Sullivan show featuring the Beatles. And likewise, probably no single company furnished more of the guitars and amps for young musicians than the Sears & Roebuck Company. While most of us would rather have started out with the Gretsch, Rickenbacker, Hofner, Vox and Ludwig gear we saw the Fab Four using, due to price and availability, it was the Sears catalog that supplied our first six-string.

Sears Catalog: Silvertone Guitars from Sears

Sears Catalog: Silvertone Guitars from Sears

Sears began selling a selection of electric guitars and amps in the fifties, but it is the 1960s that the company sold most of its more popular models. Silvertone was the house name used by Sears for their instruments but these were actually made for Sears by several manufactures including Danelectro, Harmony and Kay. Of course, Sears had their low end and their high end instruments but for the most part they sold some really great guitars and amps at comparatively budget prices. A Fender Strat in 1964 cost $275 compared to the most expensive Silvertone guitar of that time at $199 including case. Putting things in perspective with inflation though, even a guitar costing $100 in the mid 60s would run you a bit over $600 today.

We were all very happy to have our first guitar but play in a band with a Silvertone wasn’t always considered “cool” and most of us got rid of our Sears gear in favor of something else has soon has we had enough money. And, most of us now really regret doing so. In the last several years Silvertones have enjoyed a boom in popularity among both collectors and performers. There are whole web communities devoted to Silvertone instruments. And, as it goes, availability for these instruments is declining while prices for them are escalating.

Sears Silvertone Guitars 1963 Catalog

Opening the pages that feature guitars and amps from a Sears 1963 Fall & Winter catalog reveal a virtual vintage wonderland. The top of the page shows the two infamous Danelectro made guitars with “Amp-In-Case” models 1448 (single pickup) and 1449 (double pickup). These Mosrite shaped guitars had the chambered bodies, lipstick pickups, stacked tone & volume controls and were constructed of masonite. The tube powered amps built into the case were 3 and 5 watts with 5 inch and 8 inch speakers respectively. The larger amp even had tremolo and both shipped with a “How To Play” 45 rpm record. These sold for $67.95 and $99.95 in 1963. Today, a single pickup model in rough but working condition can run around $300. The double pickup model if near mint can cost well over a grand.

Several other guitars are below the Danelectro models including the popular Harmony made “Jupiter” model #1423 at $79.95 and the two Harmony “Rocket” like semi hollowbody models. The double pickup model # 1446 with black finish sold for $149.95 and the Silvertone flagship model # 1454 in red sunburst sold for $189.95 including case and featured 3 DeArmond pickups with separate on/off toggles for each. Both of these models were also equipped with a genuine Bigsby vibrato. One of the 1454 models in good condition recently sold on EBAY for over $800, still a good buy!

In addition to the Danelectro U1 bass guitar model #1444 at $79.95 with case, the page opposite the guitars features the wonderful tube powered Danelectro amps. These run from the little 3 watt “Meteor” amp #1430 at $22.95 to the monster 120 watt half stack with 6 -10 inch Jensen speakers, tremolo and an unusable reverb selling for $239.95. This model #1485 is the one made popular by Jack White of the White Stripes. Also on this page is the 15 watt combo with a 12 inch speaker # 1482 at $68.95 and the bass amp #1483 with 23 watts and a 15 inch Jensen. And then there is the most popular model, the piggy-back 1484 at $149.95 with 60 watts, two channels and two 12 inch Jensens. One of these in good condition can be had today for between $450 and $700.

We all know that regardless of how much you spend on a new guitar, it is not going to sound quite like a 40 year old instrument. If you want a good vintage guitar and don’t want to take out a second mortgage to get one, Silvertones are a good choice. Collectors looking for s Silvertone in near mint condition should be ready to get deep into their pockets. However, if you are actually looking for a guitar to play and/or record with and you are not to concerned with cosmetic issues, about $200 will land you any number of nice Silvertone models. Just keep an eye on the late night auctions and frequently check out the pawn shops and garage sales. If you are a serious musician you should plan on possible replacing the tuning gears and maybe the bridge as these usually were sub-standard on even the most expensive models. If you going to gig with your vintage Silvertone, at least buy a descent case. The stock cases for Silvertone were made of chipboard. If you are one of us that owned a Silvertone and sold or gave it away just remember the words of Joni Mitchell, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got till its gone”.

Post by: Tom Bergey

Comments

  1. says

    HI,
    I HAVE A WHAT THEY MIGHT CALL A LAW SUITE MODEL LES PAUL WITH THE GOLD PLATED KEYS BRIDGE AND BACK PLATE IS EVEN GOLD PLATED . THIS IS SUCH A SWEET PLAYING GUITAR AND IT LOOKS JUST LIKE THE GIBSON GOLD BLACK BEAUTY MODEL .
    THE ONLY INFORMATION I CAN FIND ON IT IS THE WORD JAPAN ENGRACED ON THE GOLD PLATE ON THE BACK AT THE NECK PLATE .
    CAN YOU PLEASE SEND ME ANY INFORMATION ABOUT THIS ONEE AND IF YOU WOULD A VALUE. IT’S IN GREAT PLAYING SHAPE AND LOOKS GOOD TOO .
    I ALSO HAVE A KENT KE3B I BELIEVE IT IS AND IT’S A LES PAUL MODEL ALSO AND LOOKS LIKE THE GIBSON BLACK BEAUTY TOO EXCEPT IT’S NOT GOT THE GOLD PLATED ON IT BUT IT DOES HAVE KENT ON THE VERY TOP OF THE NECK AND THE NUMBER/LETTERS KE3B.
    ANY IDEAL OF THE YEAR OR VALUE. IT PLAYS GOOD TOO AND HAS THE ORGINAL CASE TOO.
    BOTH LOOK LIKE THEY COULD BE AROUND THE 1968 TO ABOUT 1970 .
    I CAN SEND YOU PICTURES IS YOU WOULD LIKE AT MY EMAIL BELOW .
    DAVESBIZZ@AOL.COM
    OR
    ARMYVET313@AOL.COM

    THANKS IN ADVANCE . LOVE YOUR SITE !!!
    DAVE BROWN

  2. D Palmer says

    I have #3 from the photo on a stand in my bedroom right now. My dad bought it in the late 70’s.

  3. Draper says

    when i was 14 i had a old silvertone guitar amp in the ’80s that was like from the ’60s. A friend of mine brought his bass over to my house and plugged it in to my amp. After my friend thumped a few bass lines at 7 on the volume, my silvertone amp popped! The 8 inch speaker buzzed wickedly as did my bedroom window and then the speaker made this screechy hiss and blew up. We both learned something that day never to plug a bass into a guitar amp at way high volume.

  4. jyrki mattila says

    I was lucky today. I bought a Silvertone 78H 1429 mid. 60`s. A beauty. Blues is waiting.

  5. mike Lynch says

    I played a piggyback twin 12 silvertone amp all through the late 60s. I picked up a 212 sears amp in the well i want to say 70 but not sure. it was not a tube amp and a bit bigger than the silvertone. It says LA 45 on the face I can’t seem to find anything on this amp. do you have any idea of what it would be worth now?

  6. Shrim popen says

    I just finished restoring a Silvertone Artist Guitar made by Valco ( Supro)
    I’ve been a big fan od Valco made gear for years and mY dad worked for Sears until he retired. So Silvertone was a household brand for us.
    So you can imagine my surprize/excitment when I discovered that Valco had made a Silvertone guitar.
    but by the time I learned of them they were priced outta site.
    but throught time diligence and eBay, I found a basket case for 102.00 case and all in just terrible shape.
    But now, 7 years later it looks like new. and the tone is just fabulous!
    Thanks for making this informational site about Silvertones and for bringing back all the Valco style products as well.

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