Premier Guitar features affiliate links to help support our content. We may earn a commission on any affiliated purchases.

Rickenbacker Model 4001 Bass

A history of Rickenbacker basses, and the value of this ''70s example.

Hey Zach,

I’d like you to take a look at my baby, a

1970s Ricky bass. I bought it used in the late

’70s and have played it ever since. The serial

number is NK706XX. Can you tell me a little

more about the guitar and if it is trash or

treasure? Thanks!


Phoenix, Arizona

Hi Timothy,

Cool bass, man, and it’s awesome you’ve been

using it for over 30 years now! One look at a

Rickenbacker really catches your eye, doesn’t

it? However, not many people know much

about Rickenbacker basses, despite how

important they have been to the bass market.

I’ll give a little Rickenbacker history, explain

why their basses are important, and discuss the

specs and value of your bass.

Adolf Rickenbacker, along with two other men,

started a metal stamping shop in 1925 called

the Rickenbacker Manufacturing Company.

Adolf invested in the original National (Dobro)

guitar company during the late 1920s and

began supplying them with metal bodies for

their Dobros. In the early 1930s, Rickenbacker

and National employees George Beauchamp

and Paul Barth formed a new company, called

Ro-Pat-In, to begin developing Beauchamp’s

electric guitar design—a design that National

was not interested in. The first electrics by

Ro-Pat-In were introduced in 1932 under the

Electro String Instruments trademark, which

later became the Electro String Instrument

Corporation. By 1934, the brand name on the

guitars changed to Rickenbacker.

In 1953, Rickenbacker sold his company to

Francis C. Hall, who founded the Radio and

Television Equipment Company that was

the exclusive distributor for Fender in the

late 1940s and early 1950s. Rickenbacker

has been a family-run business ever since,

as his son, John C. Hall, took control of

Rickenbacker in 1984, and John’s son, Bill,

works there as well. It is important to note

that Hall worked very closely with Fender, as

the two have been competitors ever since.

There is a lot of debate and general confusion

over who introduced or created or invented

the first electric guitar, but many consider

Rickenbacker to be the first. George Gruhn is

probably the most accurate when he describes

Rickenbacker as the first guitar company to

successfully market electric guitars. Regardless,

they’ve been producing electric guitars since

the beginning, and because of the high quality

of their instruments, many players took notice.

Rickenbacker had a long list of big names playing

their instruments in the 1950s and ’60s, including Roger McGuinn, Pete Townshend, Glenn

Frey, and of course, John Lennon and George

Harrison of the Beatles. Tom Petty and the

Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs are more recent artists

who have had signature Rickenbacker models.

While Rickenbacker was experiencing signifi-

cant success with their guitars, F.C. Hall knew

they needed an electric bass in their line, too.

In 1957, Rickenbacker introduced its first electric bass, which had many revolutionary new

features. Most notably, its neck-through-body

design used one long piece of wood that ran

the entire length of the bass. Rickenbacker’s

rival, Fender, only used bolt-on necks, which

started the ongoing debate over which design

is better. Rickenbacker's neck-through design

really set the standard for many modern bass

builders regarding tone and sustain, as the

tuners, fretboard, pickups, and bridge are all

mounted on the same piece of wood.

Your model 4001 bass was built in November

1974 according to the serial number (almost

all Rickenbackers can be dated through

serialization). It features Rickenbacker’s eye

popping "cresting wave" body with a maple

neck-through-body and maple body wings,

cream body binding, a bound 20-fret rosewood fretboard with pearl triangle inlays,

two-per-side tuners, two pickups, a white

pickguard, four knobs (two volume, two

tone), a three-way switch, and chrome hardware. Note that on the headstock there are

small wood pieces glued to the body-long

neck piece, and the large chrome surround

on the bridge pickup is missing its cover.

Regarding your instrument’s condition, the

chrome is pretty rusted and oxidized, the back

of the neck is slightly worn, and the body has

significant nicks and scuffs on both the front

and back. All of this is to be expected on a

guitar that’s over 35 years old. Based on this,

the overall condition of your guitar is 80 percent (Very Good +), and in this condition is

currently valued between $1500 and $1800.

Comparatively, excellent condition models are

valued between $2200 and $2500. Based on

how well these basses play and today’s value,

your Ricky 4001 bass is definitely a treasure!

A quick clarification: I mistakenly stated in

my June 2010 article on the Guild JF-55 that

Campbell American Guitars were building instru-

ments in the old Guild factory in Westerly, Rhode

Island. Actually, Campbell American Guitars hired

several employees from the Guild factory, but

builds guitars in a factory located in Westwood,

Massachusetts. Sorry for any confusion.

Sources: 12th Edition Blue Book of Electric

Guitars by Zachary R. Fjestad, The Complete

History of Rickenbacker Guitars by Richard R.

Smith, and Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars

by George Gruhn and Walter Carter.

Zachary R. Fjestad

Zachary R. Fjestad is the author of the Blue Book of Acoustic

Guitars, Blue Book of Electric Guitars, and the Blue

Book of Guitar Amplifiers.

Questions can be submitted to:

Blue Book Publications

Attn: Guitar Trash or Treasure

8009 34th Ave. S. Ste #175

Minneapolis, MN 55425