Sighted: A Trujo guitar

My curiosity was piqued when I sighted an obviously antique guitar resting in the corner of my friend’s living room. Stashed in a case of thin, unsubstantive material was a Trujo guitar that had been in the family for some decades. This rare instrument will soon be handed to one of his sons.

As a collector of rare things — typewriters (see here) and antiquarian Bibles — I vaguely sensed that this Trujo was likely a rare instrument. A quick search on the internet confirmed the notion.

The Trujo guitar first came available in 1929 and seems to have been sold at least through the early 1930s. Manufactured by Gibson for the Trujo Banjo Company in San Francisco, few of these guitars are extant, so few having been made. This parlor-style instrument appears well-made, though perhaps inexpensively constructed.

Writes a researcher at “An extremely rare guitar, of which most dealers have seen no more than one or two in their lifetimes, as Trujo sold mostly banjos, and very few guitars. Conforms to description of the Trujo Style A in Gruhn and Carter: “Similar to Kel Kroydon KK-1, S.S. Stewart and Gibson L-2 of the period, single bound spruce top with x pattern bracing, mahogany back and sides, 3 ply soundhole ring, mahogany neck, 12 frets clear of body, unbound rosewood fingerboard, dot inlay, squared off peghead painted black, inlaid perloid rectangle approx 1 1/2″ x 5/8″ with Trujo stenciled in black, small painted and carved leaf designs in upper corners of peghead, open back tuners with white buttons, natural finish. Available 1929.”

I tuned the Trujo, but the strings were ancient and dull. Nevertheless, the sound was pleasing. The prior owner used a combination of steel and nylon strings. I note that the inlays are particularly charming.

Additional sources: – images of another Trujo
• A discussion thread here
• Vintage Guitars Info’s Gibson Flattop Model Descriptions – press here

Not sure of this instrument’s value, so if you know, please comment.


© 2018, Mark R. Adams. All rights reserved.

5 Replies to “Sighted: A Trujo guitar”

  1. What you have is the style B. 1930, you do have the banjo style tuners which was found on most Trujos and all of the style B’s. Your guitar looks like if had so work done to it and it appears that the binding is missing. Do you have the original case? It would have a bubble top and the binding on the case should have a red line.i have a style A in excellent condition and my appraisal came back between 5 and 6k. I am sure yours is worth at least 2000.00 to 3000.00 depending on the condition. Original guitars are worth more money so if there is no major damage get the binding fixed and that will bring the value up significantly. The guitar market is flat right now so I think when it comes back the price will definitely go up! By the way what did you get it for? It is a beauty! I just had the silky steel strings put on mine they are very light gauge sounds amazing.

  2. Mark –
    That’s one heck of a rare guitar. I’d be happy to help you know more about it, but would need to see more photos of it and learn what its Factory Order Number is. That number is stamped on the guitar’s neck block, visible through the soundhole of the guitar.

    The bridge suggests the guitar was assembled in 1932. The back and sides appear to be rosewood, and the fingerboard inlays are similar to those Gibson used on their Nick Lucas models. I’d be curious if the body is extra-deep as the Nick Lucas models were as well.

    According to a few published references Trujo went bankrupt in 1932. I’ve have not personally seen reference to a Trujo-branded guitar built this late, and I’ve also not ever encountered a Trujo with ornamentation like this. Every Trujo-branded guitar I’ve encountered is very simply appointed.

    As a historian of Gibson’s early flat-tops I am quite interested in learning more of this guitar. Please be in touch with me at Folkway Music is the Vintage guitar store that I own; the phone number here is 855-772-0424.

    Many thanks,

  3. Hey Mark ~ This is actually my guitar, given to me by my step-dad c.1958. I attempted to learn to play it a couple times but never did as it hurt my fingers and I (wimp) didn’t have the drive to push on through. I’m probably the one who put it away with the strings under tension, and then forgot about it. That caused (I presume) the bottom area under the pins to bow out and crack the face next to the hole. In the mid-1970’s, a friend asked to borrow it for a couple years,and he had it repaired. I just took the guitar down to my youngest son last weekend. He had asked about it and if I would bring it down and let him restring it and play it awhile. We discussed the possibility of it’s being valuable (which I hadn’t thought of and probably learned when you were here taking photos of it), but he considers the inherent value of the guitar itself, as an old and rare instrument, of greater import than a monetary value. I would like to have it appraised, though.

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