Tuesday, 17 July 2012

What's that guitar? Unknown "phases of the moon" semi-hollowbody

Hi Gavin,

Just ran across your website and thought I'd see if you and your team had any idea what this guitar is.

First, the background.  I'm not a guitar player nor musician.  30+ years ago I used to be a roadie and had my own sound system for a while so I'm not a total moron on the subject.  But the reason I'm contacting you is that my girlfriend's brother died two weeks ago and left five guitars to the family.  Since no one in the family plays, they've asked me to dispose of them.  Three were fairly easily identified while two are problematic.  The one I'm asking about now is the most interesting.

One local (Madison, WI, USA) guitar shop owner with 30+ years experience with acoustic guitars was unable to identify it.  Other people around the world are also flummoxed which is my reason for contacting you.

This is what we do know about the guitar.  The tuning heads appear to have been made prior to the fall of the USSR as they are imprinted with "Made in W Germany".  The pickup covers have "USA DiMarzio" on them (or DiMarzio USA).  The numbers on the back of the pickups are "59N-M and JB-D".  No other identifying marks have been found.  And finally, the workmanship seems to be pretty good.

Speculation about the guitar is fairly narrow but includes:

One person believes this is an older guitar because of the natural degeneration of the patina on the guitars brass (putting this guitar's origination somewhere in the 50s or 60s).

Most everyone thinks its Japanese because of the logo but, to everyone's knowledge so far, that logo has only appeared on the Kawai MoonSault.  I've personally looked at photos of hundreds of Kawai guitars and this is the only one with the moon and stars logo and the progression of the moon on the neck (other than the MoonSault).

Most people seem to think that this may be a one off guitar made either by an amateur (who sold it to Kawai or had it stolen by Kawai) or maybe Kawai which never made it to production for one reason or another.

Any consideration would be appreciated. And please let me know if you have any questions or comments.


OK, I have to confess that I am unable to conclusively identify this guitar. I thought - briefly - because of the crescent moon headstock inlay that it might be one of Jimmy Moon's earlier efforts; however the crescent moon on his guitars is quite a different shape, and the name "Moon" is missing from the headstock, so I think we can rule out Moon Guitars.

Maybe it IS a Kawai. It might have been a "non export" model, not intended to be sold outside of Japan (inevitably one or two models escape to the outside world), or perhaps it's a prototype.

The "Made in W Germany" machine heads are probably Schallers; I doubt the whole guitar is German made. Besides, the presence of USA-made DiMarzio pickups would suggest otherwise. These were favourites amongst Japanese manufacturers, which again points us in the direction of Kawai.

As to the guitar dating back to the 50s or 60s, I'd say that the 50s dating was very optimistic thinking indeed. If the pickups are original to the guitar, that would date it firmly in the 1970s, because the first DiMarzio pickups did not appear until 1972.

Do any of our readers have any other theories to offer concerning the identity of this guitar? Answers in the comments, please! Thanks!

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!


  1. The wooden neckbinding is intriguing. Extending all the way up thru the headstock, but not visible from the back. This tends to lead me to believe it's a one-off.

    The nut has the appearance of being rather ham-fisted and a bit overblown. More material than would be necessary. Again perhaps another one-off telltale trait? I'm leaning much more to the 70's era but that's only a guess. Decent workmanship.

  2. Could be a very early Moonstone - they have been making guitars for over 35 years, and their range includes some nice looking semis, although the current headstock shape and the f-holes are different.

  3. Wood binding, less-than-traditional f-slot design, bizarre pointy-horn 335 design, exposed wiring, no name? Gotta be a one-off. What factories have ever offered wood binding?

    1. Good catch on the exposed wiring. Although f-holes have been squared off in prod. models, they don't seem consistent w/ the era here, leading back to one-off.

      None of which is to say this isn't a quality build! Caught the "History Detectives" special on the Dylan Goes Electric Strat and it was compelling. As we suspected, the expert on Dylan lyrics, writing etc. said 95% of what he is shown is a forgery! But the handwritten notes contained within the "Ashes & Sand" guitar case WERE in fact authentic.

      The final conclusion was this is the authentic article. An amateur photographer ( 17 at the time ) took (1) decent picture, of the guitar in question at least and it amply displayed that woodgrain markings on the body AND neck made for a perfect match! Grain being like "finger prints". So the estimate was in the neighborhood of $300k to $500k (US ) Bit of rough handling of the instrument in the inspection phase though I'm afraid! The photos taken were from a private collection and not available to the public. Had they been avail. no doubt 'several' DGE Strats would have been circulating about!

  4. Those pickups aren't Dimarzios. These pickups don't have covers, so I'm not sure where he got the Dimarrzio label from. They are Seymour Duncans made in the custom shop. The last letter of each pickup's label refers to who in the shop made the pickup. There is a letter code that lets you know who built them somewhere out the on the internet, but I couldn't find it right away. I'm sure if you contacted Seymour Duncan, they could easily tell you, and possibly give you the age of them too. The 59N-M is a Seymour Duncan 59 for the neck and the JB-D is a a SD JB for the bridge. This a very popular combination for so many guitarists. But those model numbers match Duncans, and Dimarrzio never made anything with those numbers. Perhaps the guy means that the mounting rings say Dimarzzio somewhere?

    1. I have to agree with you. That was exactly the first thought I had when I read it. The names sounded far too much like seymour duncan rather than dimarzio

  5. It looks similar to the guitar used on Be-Bop Deluxe's "Axe Victim" album cover - minus the skull.

  6. the way the f-holes are cut tells me 'one-off'.

  7. The f holes do look quite crude but the design is not uncommon. gretsch

    1. Sorry trying to do this on an iPad . Not really the best tool for creating content. More. Like an expensive reader with clumsy input capabilities. Anyway, Gretsch use this flattened F hole design on several models and it's a standard on many violin family instruments including the Gretsch upright bass. I've seen wooden binding before but on a very cheap instrument. The body, at least, seems quite well made so maybe this is a mod. That would go with the SD's. Binding does come away sometimes so it could get replaced with something as an experiment. Lots's of speculation!
      David in Barcelona (the bit in Lanzarote).

  8. the guitar looks like an early 80's Jay but I would also say the Moonphase inlays are later than the guitar they are a direct copy of the Moonsault by Kawai but I can see some earlier dot inlays
    Also the finish to the front of the headstock is not in keeping with the quality of the rest of the guitar. The binding to the neck and headstock f=differs a lot from that of the body (Completely different material as well) My best guess would one of the Matsumoku Guitars modified



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