This is an incredibly rare vintage 1957 Magnatone Mark III Deluxe electric guitar. This particular example, serial number 52023, is in 100% all original condition! Admirers of the Magnatone MKIII with a single pickup will appreciate the appeal of this dual-pickup neck-through MKIII Deluxe.
Serial Number: 52023
Potentiometer Codes: 137 735 (CTS, mid-’57)
Pickup Resistance: 4.23Ω (neck), 4.29Ω (bridge)
Weight: 5 lbs. 13 oz.
The Magnatone MKIII, MKIII Deluxe, MKIV, and MKV are importantly known for having been deigned by mechanical genius and electric guitar pioneer Paul Bigsby who was contracted by Magnatone to create an affordable professional line of solid body instruments. Interestingly, very few were actually produced implementing Bigsby’s verbatim design specifications, and sometime soon thereafter production began Magnatone cut some corners, used Bigsby’s general design approach, and reinterpreted the construction to accommodate a more cost effective approach.
The original neck-through Bigsby versions of the MKIII and MKIII Deluxe, whereby the mahogany neck continues all the way through to the bottom of the body, are very scarce and highly desirable. Interestingly, this second variety with a set-neck construction is equally rare, though perhaps less desirable. Of all the MKIII Magnatones documented, it is estimated that approximately 80% are of the ladder single-pickup production, as the single pickup MKIIIs are far more available. This simple addition of a single pickup in the treble/bridge position converted a plain MKIII into this MKIII Deluxe, and had a substantial impact upon functionality and versatility.
Compound initial limited production with the MKIII Deluxe being the rarest of the Bigsby-designed Magnatone Mark series, and you have a very rare, almost undocumented instrument. I’ve personally owned 5 first-generation Magnatone MKIIIs (non Deluxe, single-pickup, variants), however, the Magnatone MKIII Deluxe is apparently so rare, even the catalog description for the MKIII includes an illustration of the first version Deluxe that is not known to exist (with a MKIV control plate), possibly mocked up for the advertisement, which means the first-variety with a small bakelite pick guard and the completely neck-through construction was possibly produced in a single batch between 1956-1957, numbering less than 50 total. So, considering it’s historical relevance and it’s utter rarity, plus the astronomical value of original Bigsby solid body guitars, it has retained the very pirnicpal that birthed it into existence, and is considered the affordable option for Bigsby-guitar aficionados and enthusiasts.
The first generation Magnatone MKIII Deluxe features a maple set neck, a dark Cherry/Walnut sunburst over a maple body, a bound Rosewood fingerboard and a large pearloid pattern Formica scratch plate in the style of Paul Bigsby’s bakelite guards. It also features (2) matching high-output single-coil Alnico VI pickups, black button single-line Kluson Deluxe tuning machines, an aluminum nut, a Bigsby-designed compensated tailpiece with X/Y axis adjustment and DakaWare bakelite cupcake knobs.
With regard to sound, nothing matches the flamboyant personality of a Magnatone Mark III. It’s naturally microphonic, and innately resonant. Boisterous with articulated clarity, while incredibly well-balanced, it delivers the best of everything. Not overly aggressive, yet with plenty of forceful dynamics, this guitar converts whatever you do with it, into an event that is 10x more interesting.