A 92-year-old Iowa man recently realized the guitar he bought for $35 when he was 19 and never played is now an extremely rare collector's item worth "more than a lot of cars."
Mark Stutman, who owns Folkway Music in Waterloo, Ont., said the man's kids found it when they were helping their father clean out his home. When they realized what they had their hands on, they took to Google and found Stutman's shop, globally renowned for trading and refurbishing vintage instruments.
Stutman flew to Iowa to pick up the mint-condition cherry edgeburst J-35 Gibson, which he estimates is worth some $30,000.
Stutman said he has come across a handful of these Depression-era instruments before, but nothing of this calibre.
Back when it was first sold, it was cheap and run-of-the-mill.
"It was a guitar for the masses. So they weren't really treated with the reverence that something valuable would have been treated with. This one was an under-the-bed special," he said. "He played it a little tiny bit and then got dragged off to the war. He never played it again."
What's more, he said, its cherry edgeburst finish is extremely hard to find. In 15 years of working with vintage guitars, he's only seen one other like it — and that was just in a photograph.
"This particular kind of sunburst that's on this guitar, from a collector's point of view, is absurdly rare. So the combo of absurdly rare and absurdly perfect makes it a really prized instrument."
Stutman has already received inquiries about the guitar and said it's "essentially sold."
Despite its value, he doubts it will be locked away for another seven decades.
"It will get played, albeit exceptionally carefully. It's not a guitar the buyer is going to take out to a campfire," he said. "It does sound great and it plays perfectly."