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Retrofret's wonder emporium of guitars, basses and banjos

The Audiophiliac visits a vintage fretted instrument shop in Brooklyn.

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Steve Guttenberg

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So many guitars!

I recently visited Retrofret's Brooklyn showroom and felt right at home. The shop's friendly staff encourages browsing their wide and unusual selection of vintage guitars, basses, banjos, mandolins, ukuleles and amps.Most of the instruments aren't locked up in cases; they're there to play.

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1930 National Style 4 Tricone Resphonic guitar

That's Retrofret's Peter Kohman playing this magnificent instrument, and it was my favorite of the guitars he played that night. The sound spoke to me.


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Three Telecasters

Right to left: a 1969 Fender Telecaster, 1956 Fender Telecaster and a 1975 Fender Telecaster.

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1934 Gibson F-10 mandolin

That's CNET's Ty Pendlebury enjoying a 1934 Gibson mandolin -- it's one of the rarest Gibson instruments ever made.

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It’s a guitar harp!

Peter Kohman digging the sound of a 1915 Dyer Harp guitar.


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1937 Gibson ES-150 guitar

This hollow-body electric guitar was made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and has a sunburst top, laminated maple body, mahogany neck with a rosewood fingerboard and an original tweed hardshell case.

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Ogle those banjos

A selection of 1920s and 1930s tenor and plectrum banjos.

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1937 Gibson advanced jumbo guitar

This one is considered by aficionados to be the Holy Grail of Gibson flattop guitars.

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1958 Rickenbacker Model 335 Capri guitar

Peter again, this time with a prime example of a 1958 Rickenbacker Model 335 Capri guitar.


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Vintage lap steel guitars

Here's a collection of Retrofret's lap steel guitars. I loved the look of the 1953 National Dynamic lap steel electric guitar (bottom row, third from the left), that was made in Chicago. Check out the wild two-tone lacquer finish!

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1938 Theremin made by Leon Theremin

This "Soloist Custom" Model Theremin, circa 1938, is one of the few instruments that Leon Theremin personally made or had built under his direction in his New York workshop. The Theremin was one of the very first electronic instruments.

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1956 Fender Telecaster guitar

That's my friend Gene with a Fender 1956 Telecaster at Retrofret. It was made in Fullerton, California; it has a blond lacquer finish, ash body and maple neck, and it comes with the original tweed hardshell case.

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1943 Martin 000-28 guitar

Peter Kohman playing a 1943 Martin 000-28 that was made in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. It has a natural lacquer finish, Brazilian rosewood back and sides, spruce top; a mahogany neck with an ebony fingerboard, and it comes with the original black tolex hardshell case.

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1952 Gibson SJ-200 guitar

This 1952 Gibson SJ-200 guitar was owned by Dave Dudley, famous for his tune "Six Days on the Road." This guitar was Dudley's stage instrument for many years, and was probably used for recording sessions as well.

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1934 Gibson L-5 guitar

Retrofret's Peter Kohman demoing a 1934 Gibson L-5 guitar for me. It was the preeminent orchestra guitar of its era.

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1938 Gibson EPB-150 Electric Plectrum banjo

This Gibson banjo was made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and has a tobacco sunburst finish, maple body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, and comes with the original tweed hardshell case.

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1940 Gibson Super 400N guitar

Peter Kohman looking good with this 1940 Gibson Super 400N guitar.


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1960 Gibson Les Paul Junior electric guitar

This Gibson Les Paul Junior solid-body electric guitar was made in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It has a cherry lacquer finish, a mahogany body and neck and a rosewood fingerboard.

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And still more guitars

In this photo, Martin guitars are up front, Gibsons are along the back wall, and everything else is in the middle.

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