Reader Guitar of the Month: A National Treasure

A reader strikes gold when his mom finds a rare 1955 Town and Country for $40 at a garage sale.


Name: Rob Hayes

Location: Detroit, Michigan
Guitar: 1955 National Town and Country

About 10 years ago, I awoke to three missed calls from my mom. No emergency, thankfully. She was just calling to tell me about another “cool” guitar she saw at a garage sale.

I love my mother dearly, but I’ve driven to more than a few locations only to find the usual Squier, Epi, First Act, etc. Nothing against these brands—I’ve bought more than a few of each over the years and modded them to my liking—but they’re nothing special. I tried to fall back asleep but I had a feeling. I called my mom back.

“It looked old, Robert,” she said. “Very different with lots of knobs. Yellow-ish wood finish. It looked like it said ‘National’ lightly printed where you tune it. The pickguard had ‘Town and Country’ etched on it.” I was intrigued. Could it really be a National? I asked her how much? “$40,” she said.

The garage sale was less than a mile from where I lived. I grabbed some cash and was there in record time. (Driving sensibly, of course.) I saw an open guitar case, and in that case was truly something to behold, a “National treasure” of sorts. The name badge on the headstock was missing but the glue residue spelled out all I needed to know. It was a real National.

The woman who was selling it asked if I played music. I said yes, then picked up the guitar and played a little unamplified jazz vamp on the rusty strings. She seemed impressed. Apparently, her brother used to play in wedding bands. He passed away and nobody wanted the guitar.

As we were chatting, my mom arrived back on the scene. The seller recognized my mom from earlier and thought the situation was amusing. I wanted the guitar badly but I didn’t feel right about the deal. I told the lady that it was worth way more than $40. Her answer: “Not to me it isn’t.” Sold.

Because of the laws of karma, I gave the woman all of the money I had on me: $112. At first she wouldn’t accept it, but finally she relented and told my mom, “You raised him well.”

After replacing the strings, cleaning the pots, output jack, and pickup-selector switch, the National came to life. The only other adjustment I made was moving the bridge so the intonation was better. Everything is stock. According to online serial-number sources, the guitar is a ’55, which, coincidentally, is also my mom’s birth year.

I’ve been studying guitar for 30 years now and have my sights on 30 more (years … and guitars).

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