Documenting history as well as my experiences with repairing and restoring vintage guitars.

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Image Credit:  Reverb - Rock n Roll Vintage Masterson guitars were built by Ernest Leroy Masterson (1915-2006) out of Nappanee, Indiana...

Masterson Nappanee, Ind. Guitars

Image Credit: Reverb - Rock n Roll Vintage
Masterson guitars were built by Ernest Leroy Masterson (1915-2006) out of Nappanee, Indiana in the 70s [2]. His main job was as a spray painter for kitchen cabinets while employed at Coppes Inc but he also taught guitar and built instruments for extra income [1][3]. 

Image Credit: Reverb - Rock n Roll Vintage

Estate Auction Finds

I stumbled across a 2017 auction in Nappanee, Indiana from the estate of a Mr Robert R Hall through Schrader Real Estate Auctions. These instruments were in his collection and were auctioned off for unknown prices. I found a pdf of a flier advertising this auction where they list the instruments that are for sale in no particular order. 

Masterson (Nappanee) Indian 6 string electric guitar 
• Electric Wood guitar 6 string
• Encore 6 string child’s Acoustic guitar
• Wood 6 string Acoustic guitar, no brand
• Blueridge 6 string guitar with case
• Electric wood guitar with case
• Rival Hondo Electric 6 string guitar with case
Standard Masterson (Nappanee) 6 string Electric guitar 
• Hondo 2 Electric guitar with case
Masterson (Nappanee) Base guitar with case (Blue) 

Schrader Auction Flier [4]

  • The light blue Fender P-bass copy is the only bass guitar in the flier and is mentioned by color so we can confirm it is a Masterson build.
  • The middle instrument is a Hondo II semi-hollow Gibson copy which can be distinguished by the headstock and tailpiece and matches the flier's mention of a Hondo II.
  • The naturally finished Gibson Les Paul copy has a brand but is unreadable. Possibly a Masterson build

Image Credit: Schrader Real Estate Auctions

There are now two more instruments:

  • A Fender Stratocaster copy in natural. It has a brand but it is unreadable.
  • A homebuilt body with a Stratocaster-styled neck.
The Stratocaster copy looks most like something that Ernest Masterson would build since his body designs closely followed contemporary instruments.

Image Credit: Schrader Real Estate Auctions

Next we have three acoustics and an electric guitar.

  • The leftmost instrument is the Blueridge acoustic as it looks professionally built and like a typical generic acoustic.
  • The second from left appears to be a homebuilt instrument but looks too sloppy to have been built by Masterson. 
  • The second from the right is a Japanese guitar which I can identify by the "steel reinforced neck" sticker where the truss rod cover should be and matches the flier for an "Encore childs guitar"
  • The guitar on the far right is an Electra which were made for St Louis Music out of Japan. I can recognize the headstock logo and the body shape.
  • Image Credit: Schrader Real Estate Auctions

Finally the flier mentioned a "Rival Hondo" and there was a picture of a Gibson ES-335 copy, I dug and discovered the Hondo "Revival" line of instruments including that instrument so I won't include the photo here. Not a Masterson build.

Other Examples

On the internet, I've seen a few references to his instruments and that he used to teach guitar lessons [3]. All the information has been from locals of the town which implies that he didn't ship his instruments out across the US but that he kept them local.


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