Tuesday, 15 January 2013

1940 Penetro-branded lap-style resonator guitar from John Dopyera

Although the name "Dobro" is often applied generically to resonator guitars, the name should of course more accurately only be used when referring to specific resonator instruments bearing the Dobro brandname (the trademark currently being owned by Gibson Guitar Corporation). The name "Dobro" originated in 1928 when the the Dobro Manufacturing Company was formed by the Dopyera brothers, being a contraction of "Dopyera brothers" and, conveniently, also meaning "goodness" in the brothers' native Slovak tongue. The history of the resonator guitar, the Dobro, National and Regal brands is all quite complicated and convoluted, but if you'd like to know more there are plenty of sources elsewhere on the web and in print.

One fact that seems clear is that John Dopyera was the bright spark who came up with the idea of the resonator guitar in the first place. Pictured above we see perhaps one of his rarer instruments. It's a lap-style resonator (hence the non-traditional guitar shape) with a square neck and with fret position markers instead of actual frets on the fingerboard (numbered up to 26). The eBay seller of the guitar in question tells us that:
John Dopyera [..] claims to have built nine of these guitars with the "Penetro" label on the headstock before they were licensed to "Regal" to market under that name. So this appears to be one of the nine Penetros, and it may well be the last one on the planet. I pulled the resonator long ago and inside, scrawled in pencil it says "made by John Dopyera, March 1, 1940, The Guitar House, 3201 W. Florence Ave., Los Angeles, Ca.".
and goes on to say:
I took this guitar to the Antiques Roadshow in Pittsburgh last year. Although the appraiser appreciated my story, and in fact was pretty knowledgeable regarding the Dopyera resonator guitar legacy, he told me exactly what I thought he was going to. The guitar is so rare, nobody even knows what they are and thus has little value except to a resonator guitar afficianado whose collection has everything Dopyera except for this. So I am not going to give this guy away...
Indeed! The guitar is currently listed on eBay with a Buy It Now price of $5,000. That's a lot of money but you can't argue with his logic. This is a rare, possibly unique, guitar and an important part of the history of the guitar - and the resonator guitar in particular. It really is a museum piece.

G L Wilson

© 2013, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - the blog that goes all the way to 11!


  1. Could go either way on this one. Generally any time 'I' have been the seller of something less than, mainstream, you're bound to hear "there isn't much of a market for these!" Followed almost immediately by;

    "But to spare you a lot of aggravation ( and just between me & you.., ) I'm willing to take it off your hands for ___." Assuming the objective IS Return On Investment ( which of Gavin's own appraisal is suspect incentive, and I agree ) then wouldn't it make more sense to d-i-v-e-r-s-i-f-y?

    LP collectors have enjoyed their moment in the sun for years now.., but I've seen other conventional wisdoms fall. Sometimes when you're constructing a portfolio, you have to consider additions that aren't your fist blush. It's for your own good!

  2. "Penetro". Uh huh, huh huh huh.

    (Couldn't resist!)

  3. Is $5000 a lot for a guitar with such esteemable history considering the mighty prices some makers of modern guitars like that harp guitar you featured a while back. I think it's possibly worth more, but then as always, it's only worth what someone is willing to pay for it! And yes it's definately a museum piece.

  4. Old, But nice guitar

  5. I found an old marco resonator guitar , does anyone know anything about it? thanks- billy



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