“This has been in my family since it was new,” Geissman said of this ’65 Stella. “My grandfather played banjo, so, when I started learning guitar, he went to Sears and bought it so we could play together at his house. I’ve used it on a bunch of stuff.” It was also the inspiration for his song, “$25 Stella.”more
I got mine at an antique shop in Northern Minnesota for $18. It sat for a couple of years with a set of electric guitar strings on it for just messing around. But I finally started taking it seriously and strung it up with some medium-gauge acoustic strings, and after a little bit of fiddling with the bridge to get the intonation right, I was really knocked out at how good it sounded. Mine doesn't have the date stamp on it, but it does have the white plastic pickguard, so that means it was made between 1961 and 1970. The back is cracked in a couple of places, and the finish is pretty beat, but man...that guitar.
It's ladder-braced, and the whole body is made of birch, which I'd never even heard in guitar building until I looked up this model. So the result is you get that really boxy, bluesy, folky tone that almost sounds like a resonator, but not as tinny. It's a great guitar to use if you're into slide guitar. One could very easily install a higher nut and raise the bridge a little to make a fun little lap steel. If you want to get that Bon Iver "For Emma, Forever Ago" tone, this is the guitar to get (he reportedly used an old Sears Silvertone acoustic, but it was probably made by the same company in the same factory, just with a different label).
I'm surprised to see some of these selling on Reverb for well over $150, considering that mine was less than $20 (granted, it only had two strings on it when I got it, and I don't think the antique shop knew anything about it, or they thought, "Stella? I remember those. They were super cheap. Not worth much."). So if you happen to see one in a junk shop somewhere, it's worth your while to pick up, even if you just use it for a great campfire guitar.