Hagstrom Super Swede
With a design reminiscent of a Gibson Les Paul, the Swedish-made Hagstrom Super Swede was introduced circa 1977 and had a production run of just about five years.
Located at the guitar’s output jack, the serial number indicates that this particular Super Swede could be one of the last built in Älvdalen, Sweden.
I own a vintage Hagstrom Super Swede with a serial number of 53 078140. I’ve played and displayed this guitar in my home ever since I bought it back in the mid-’80s. I read that these models were available in mahogany and maple, and I think mine has a maple top, but I’m not sure. It has a beautiful sunburst finish and I love this guitar—I’m just hoping to get more information on it and the company. There are sites for Hagstrom information out there, but the Super Swede is not mentioned as much as the company’s surf-style guitars that were produced earlier.
Leonard in Vancouver, British Columbia
Let’s begin with a little history. Albin Hagström of Älvdalen, Sweden, began his career selling German accordions, founding Hagstrom in 1921 and incorporating in 1926. By 1932, the company had established its own production facility, and in 1936, the first of many attempts to set up distribution in America with a sales office in New York was made. Because of World War II, however, a U.S. sales office wasn’t actually in place until 1946, and it only lasted until 1949. Hagstrom began producing electric guitars in 1958, and at first, these guitars were imported into the U.S. by the Hershman Musical Instrument Company in New York, and labeled under the Goya brand name.
Hagstrom-branded instruments started appearing in the U.S. around 1962, with a fully expanded lineup of guitars and basses showing up by the mid-1960s. Initially, Hagstrom guitars were visibly influenced by the pearloid finish of the accordions the company produced for so many years, but their guitars became more traditional-looking as time progressed. A good example is the James D’Aquisto-designed Hagstrom Jimmy, released in 1969.
With the introduction of their pioneering “H” Expander-Stretcher truss rod, Hagstrom was also known for innovation. This was further evidenced with the Swede Patch 2000—the first guitar with a built-in synthesizer—and the Hagstrom H8, an 8-string bass with four sets of string pairs.
Unlike the many other guitar manufacturers that moved production to Asia in the 1970s, Hagstrom continued to produce their guitars in Sweden. By 1983, however, they could no longer compete with all the Asian-made guitars on the market, so Hagstrom experimented with having a few prototype instruments built in Japan. The quality of the prototypes was not on par with their Swedish-made counterparts, so instead of compromising the Hagstrom brand, the company discontinued guitar operation altogether. Hagstrom continued to build accordions, and still does today. In 2005, the Hagstrom trademark for guitars was revived for a line of guitars built in China, styled mostly after the popular Hagstroms of the 1960s and 1970s. Today, Hagstrom is distributed in the states by U.S. Music Corporation in Buffalo Grove, Illinois.
The Les Paul-influenced Swede was first introduced in 1970, while the higher-end Super Swede (originally called the Swede DeLuxe) was introduced circa 1977. Hagstrom catalogs are quite vague regarding specifications, but the main difference between the two is that the Super Swede boasts a set neck, while the regular Swede has a bolt-on. Another difference between the two is that the Swede has two 3-way switches. Separated by the neck and located in the upper bouts, one is a traditional pickup switch while the other is a 3-way tone switch. The Super Swede is absent of this tone switch, but does have a coil tap mini-switch near the knobs. It also appears that the Super Swedes featured maple tops for select finishes, including golden sunburst, wine red, and tobacco brown. Keep in mind that there are a few different variations of the Swede and Super Swede with different body sizes and pickups/electronics.
According to the serial number, your guitar was the 140th guitar built from batch 078. The “53” appeared before all Hagstrom serial numbers beginning in the early 1970s, simply to help with bookkeeping. I found out that batch 076 was produced around 1980, so it’s possible that your Super Swede could be one of the last produced in Älvdalen. Hagstrom manufactured a total of about 1,500 Super Swedes before the company shut down.
Other nice features of your Super Swede include the ebony fretboard with pearl-block inlays and the pair of humbuckers with individual volume and tone knobs. In excellent condition, your Super Swede is worth between $1,400 and $1,750. According to sources, some Super Swedes were custom finished and have become very collectible. Since the Super Swede was only produced for about five years, it is certainly one of the more rare Hagstrom guitars out there. Definitely a treasure!
Zachary R. Fjestad is author of Blue Book of Acoustic Guitars, Blue Book of Electric Guitars, and Blue Book of Guitar Amplifiers. For more information, visit bluebookinc.com or email Zach at firstname.lastname@example.org.