A VERY RARE historical guitar made between 1880-1885.  Yes.  This guitar is between 134 and 139 years old. 

Serial Number 2404

The Imperial Guitar Company was a division of the John Church Company of Cincinnati, Ohio (Founded in 1871). 

Imperial made parlor guitars from 1880 to 1900.  They are most noted historically for having the first patent for the design of a metal bridge designed to accommodate metal strings on an acoustic guitar (1891, No. 454,905 - C.F. Geiger).

The financial backer of the John Church & Imperial Guitar company was Oliver Ditson (founder of Oliver Ditson & Company, one of the 19th Century's largest music publishers).  Ditson also funded Lyon & Healy in Chicago.  Lyon & Healy still make musical instruments to this day.  And the Lyon in Lyon and Healy was none other than George Washburn Lyon, who also founded Washburn Guitars (est. 1883).


The Imperial Guitar design changed around 1890 - this change moved the hand-printed medallion from the back of the headstock to the front. 

The serial number 2404 dates it before the patent for the steel strings/bridge (1885). Those guitars have 4,000 serials and up.

It is an outstanding example of the craftsmanship and quality exhibited by Imperial Guitars.   This guitar is still completely playable.  The neck and body are stable.  The frets are in good condition.  There are scratches and chips in the finish, but much more on par with a 30 year old guitar - not one that is over 130!

There is significant checking of the finish.  I've included photos.

The hand-printed "The Imperial Co" medallion is the best example I've ever seen.  Many of these little discs have had the printing rubbed off.  This one is near flawless.

All original hardware. 

The body looks to have been tapped for a strap button at some point, then filled back in.

I cannot tell you if it has been refinished.  It has been, it was a very long time ago.  The finish is covered in an ultra-fine checking that honestly has to be several decades in the making.  These ultra-fine cracks (checking) are much more reminiscent of what you'd find on 17th and 18th century violin finishes (a varnish or shellac and not a lacquer). 

Regardless, this is a beautiful guitar. 

Please contact me if you have any questions.

It will be shipped in a modern acoustic guitar hard case.


This instrument will be shipped in it's custom fitted/padded hard case.
ConUS ONLY! No overseas or out of country shipping.
Shipping includes insurance, Signature Required.

You can arrange to pick this guitar up from our location in Santa Barbara, CA.

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Listed4 years ago
ConditionFair (Used)
Fair condition gear should function but will show noticeable cosmetic damage or other issues.learn more
  • Parlor
  • Natural
  • 1880-1885
Made In
  • United States
Body Shape
  • Parlor

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Santa Barbara Rare Musical Instruments

Santa Barbara, CA, United States
Joined Reverb:2019

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