Swedish musical instrument company Hagstrom produced guitars from the late 1950s and for the best part of three decades. Like so many other classic guitar makers, the current Hagstrom guitar line is very much based on the vintage Hagstrom guitar designs the company first developed in the 1960s and 1970s. Guitars like the Swede, Viking bass, and solid body H-series, though clearly influenced by better known American designs, were great guitars in themselves, and did much to earn the brand the reputation for high-quality, highly playable instruments. One important innovation by Hagstrom, and arguably one of the key reasons for their sucess, was the low-action "fastest playing neck in the world" produced by their patented H-shaped "expander-stretcher" truss rod (rail).
Hagstrom was founded by Albin Hagström in 1925, largely dealing in imported accordions. By 1932 he had expanded into their manufacture, at a plant in a Swedish town, Älvdalen. In the second half of the 20th century, however, accordion sales were declining; but Hagstrom were there at the beginning of the new guitar boom, producing their first electric, the Hagstrom De Luxe in 1958. By this time, Albin had died (later to be replaced by his son Karl-Erik), but the company's many years experience of accordion manufacture massively influenced the early guitars, with the use of pearloid sparkle finishes and a preference for push-switches over potentiometers more widely used in American guitars. Over the next two decades, Hagstrom produced a number of interesting and commercially sucessful guitars, many with a nod towards, Gibson and Fender, but some quite unique designs of their own.
In the early sixties, Hagstrom produced a number of solid bodies that were distributed by different companies worldwide, often given alternate model names and even different brands; for example Hershman in the US labelled some Hagstrom guitars as Goya, whilst Selmer in the UK used the marque Futurama. Guitars like the Corvette and Impala helped cemment Hagstrom's reputation as a quality builder, and by 1965 alternate branding was no longer necessary.
In the latter half of the decade solid bodies were selling well, particularly the Hagstrom II and III, as were the semi-acoustic Viking, finally appearing in the hands of Elvis Presley in 1968. Other famous users included Frank Zappa who appeared in Hagstrom advertisements with a 12 string guitar, David Bowie, and Jimi Hendrix, with the legendary Eight-stringed bass. But the Les Paul-style Swede debuting in 1970 was the guitar that really grabbed guitar players attention, selling well right through the seventies and into the eighties.
Hagstrom pickups and tailpieces were, at times, also used by other manufacturers, most notably Guild, who widely fitted their mid/late 1960s guitars and basses with Hagstrom parts.
Hagstrom guitars of the 1970s did conform somewhat to an establishing consensus (admittedly Gibson's) of what a guitar should be.. i.e. potentiometers controlling tone and volume, a three-way pickup selector switch and humbucking pickups. But this was largely beneficial, the Les Paul-style Swede was, and still is, a very highly regarded guitar, perhaps the pinnacle of vintage Hagstrom guitars. But in true late seventies style, Hagstrom fused a guitar with the growing electronic innovation of the time to create the Patch 2000. But of course fashions change, and in many ways it was this electronic innovation that dealt the death blow to much of the guitar industry worldwide in the early 1980s. Hagstrom stopped producing guitars in 1983.
It is estimated that Hagstrom produced 130,000 guitars in the period 1958-1983. They were by no means the biggest guitar manufacturer of the 20th century, but still very significant. Hagstrom is by far the best known of all Swedish guitar brands, and one of the most respected across Europe. In the year 1965, Hagstrom produced between 10 and 11 thousand guitars and basses compared to almost 84 thousand produced by Gibson.
Hagstrom serial numbers are usually located on the neckplate or sometimes output jack plate. The first digits of the serial number are the production batch number. Helpfully, Hagstrom have released a booklet of batch numbers which gives shipping data (model, number of instruments and shipping year).
Vintage Hagstrom electric guitar models are certainly collectable, but are also pretty popular with players, in part due to their low action and easy playing necks. Mid-late period models, with potentiometer controls and humbucking pickups make outstanding guitars and are typically snapped up as soon as they become available. Swedes and HIINs play superbly and are Vintage Hagstrom at its best. Even earlier bolt-on neck solid bodies, whilst more primitive, are quite playable compared to contemporaneous instruments. A vintage Hagstrom electric guitar typically had an individually intonatable bridge (but not always), an effective vibrato tailpiece, quality Van Ghent tuning keys, and height adjustable pickups. Vintage guitars that increase in value the most are (usually) rare, distinctive, but with strong inherent value as musical instruments. Many Vintage Hagstrom guitars certainly fit this criteria, having the playability and adjustability of vintage American ones, somewhat limited production totals, and pretty distinct styling.
After a 20 year gap, Hagstrom once again started producing guitars. Some models were direct reissues of older designs, others altogether new. Most of these guitars were manufactured in Asia rather than Sweden, however the new Northern series instruments are produced in Europe. Some rather good reissues of the classic Hagstrom models are now available
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