1955 Catalog Cover


Because the electric guitar was a relatively new innovation in the mid-fifties, Carvin's focus was on steel guitars, but they did offer a few "Spanish" electric guitars (as they were called then) in 1955.  The catalog didn't specify who made the components, but they were not manufactured from scratch by Carvin (except the pickups).  It's possible the bodies and necks were made by Höfner, as in the sixties and early seventies, but the catalog didn't specify.

1955 Basses

1955 Guitar Amps

1955 Bass Amps

The catalog cover showed a #8806A steel guitar, and Lowell Kiesel's wife, Agnes, playing a Fender Telecaster.

1955 also marked Carvin's last year at Baldwin Park, California.  In 1956, the headstock decals and the catalog would list Covina, California as Carvin's home base.

Click each picture for a larger version.

Carvin Model 6 Guitar

This is the Model 140 Spanish electric.  It was a single-pickup arch-top model, with a spruce top, and rosewood fingerboard and bridge.  It had white binding on the front and back, and a white pickguard, and a single AP6 with volume and tone controls.  The finish was antique brown.  It was also available as the Model 1744, which was a non-electric version.  The Model 140 sold for $49.90, and the Model 1744 sold for $36.90.  The case for either was an additional $9.90.

The Model 6 was the big brother to the Model 140.  Like the Model 140, it was an arch-top design, with spruce top and curly maple back.  It also had a rosewood fingerboard and bridge, and had body binding as well as neck binding and a bone nut.  Electronics consisted of a pair of AP6 pickups, with pickup selector switch and volume and tone controls.  The price on the Model 6 was $99.90, or $65.90 for the Model 90 non-electric version.  Case for either was $15.00.

Carvin Model 140 Guitar
Carvin Model 1515 Guitar

This was an unusual model - the Model 44 (right) Spanish electric flattop.  This was essentially an acoustic guitar with a pickup and controls added.  The top was spruce, with mahogany neck,  back and sides and body binding.  The fingerboard was rosewood, as was the bridge, which had bone saddles.  Price on the Model 44 was $59.90, or $36.90 for the Model 65 acoustic version.  Also offered was the Model 12 tenor guitar and it's acoustic version, the Model 17.  No details were given on either tenor model, but presumably, they were shorter-scale instruments tuned to a higher pitch.  Both tenor models sold for the same price as their standard counterparts, and a case for any of these was $9.90.


Equally unusual was Carvin's only solid-body electric for 1955, the Model 1515 (left).  This guitar was made from "hardwood" (possibly maple) with a 25.25" scale rosewood fingerboard and bridge, and a pair of pickups with volume and tone controls and a slide-selector switch.  The finish was considered "copper-bronze".  This model sold for $59.90, plus $7.90 for the case.

Carvin Model 44 Guitar
Carvin Model 504T Banjo

Carvin also sold mandolins throughout the fifties and sixties.  On the right is the Model 6512 electric mandolin, which had a single pickup, with volume and tone controls.  This instrument sold for $59.90, and the Model 1735 non-electric mandolin sold for $35.00.  Case for either was $7.00.

A Carvin banjo?  Yes, in 1955 if you wanted a banjo, Carvin could help you out.  On the left is the Model 504T tenor banjo, which had a curly maple body with resonator and rosewood fingerboard with inlaid position markers.  It sold for $49.90, and was also available in a non-tenor model, the Model 504, for the same price.

Carvin Model 6512 Mandolin
Martin & Fender Guitars

Interestingly, you could also order guitars from Martin and Fender directly from Carvin.  In all, 9 different Martin acoustics were offered, as well as the Fender Stratocaster, Telecaster, and Precision Bass.

The Model 606 (near right) and Model 608 (far right) were Carvin's entry-level lap steel guitars for 1955.  These were made from maple, with a Lucite fingerboard, ivory tuners, single AP pickup with volume and tone controls.  The Model 606 sold for $49.90, and the Model 608 sold for $69.90.

Carvin Model 606 & 608 Steel Guitars
Carvin Student Deluxe Model 1 Steel Guitar

On the left is the Student Deluxe Model 1 steel guitar.  This was a no-frills 6-string, with a plastic-covered hardwood body, single pickup with volume and tone controls, and basic tuners, and bridge/tailpiece.  It sold for $26.90.

On the right is the Model D88801 triple-neck, which was discontinued and being closed out in the catalog.  It sold for $129.90.

Carvin Model D88801 Steel Guitar
Carvin Model 607 & 807 Steel Guitars

On the far left is the Model 607 lap steel, on the near left is the Model 807 lap steel, and on the right is the Model 608 lap steel with changer.  These had a maple neck with walnut body, ivory tuners, AP-series pickups, single volume and bass and treble controls.  The Model 607 six-string sold for $79.90, the Model 807 8-string sold for $99.90, and the Model 608 sold for $119.90.

Carvin Model 608 Steel Guitar

Above are Carvin's main line of steel guitars from 1955.  From left to right: the Model 6606A double six; the Model 8806A double eight; the Model 88806A triple eight; and the Model 888806A quadruple eight.  All these were constructed from Eastern hard rock maple with Lucite fingerboard, and all had single volume and tone controls.  The 6606A sold for $79.90, the 8806A sold for $99.90, the 88806A sold for $149.90, and the 888806A sold for $209.90.

1955 Carvin Accordions

If a guitar, steel guitar or bass wasn't your thing, you could also order a Carvin accordion.  These were evidently sold under the Carvin name, but the catalog stated that they were actually made by a famous Italian manufacturer, although it didn't say who that was.  In later years, Carvin sold accordions made by Sonola, so it's possible that is who made these models as well.

As had been the case since the beginning of Carvin's mail order business (and ever since), the first page of the catalog was reserved for an introductory letter, which served to primarily address Carvin's direct versus retail pricing advantages.

1955 Carvin Intro Letter