Whack Job: 1967 Teisco/Silvertone ET-460 K4L

“Merry Christmas, Terry.”
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“Merry Christmas, Terry.”

“Gee, Mom and Dad, it’s a Sears Silvertone. Um, you shouldn’t have. Really. You shouldn’t have.”

“Well, Merry Frickin’ Christmas, you little ingrate!”

If you were a guitar-obsessed youngster during the musical British Invasion of the early ’60s, you’d consider yourself lucky to get any electric guitar for the holidays—no matter what the brand, or whether it came from Sears, JC Penny, or Montgomery Ward. But, really, you could have done way worse than opening a gift box and seeing this Teisco ET-460 K4L back in the wild, experimental days of the 1960’s guitar boom.

The 1967 ET-460 (a.k.a. “Model 1437”) was manufactured in Japan by Teisco and sold through Sears department stores wearing the Silvertone brand. Also known as the “Sharkfin,” this model was a more serious instrument than most of Teisco’s offerings, which were often cheap and junky—but affordable—guitars that typified the negative aspects of the phrase, “Made in Japan.”

WEIRDO FACTOR

The shape is a bit unorthodox, but no crazier than, say, a Vox Phantom or a Gibson Explorer. And yet, the Sharkfin’s four sharply rectangular pickups, along with its flank of buttons and knobs, showcases a guitar that might be trying a bit too hard. And then, there’s the striped aluminum pickguard that may or may not be echoing the striped shirts of the early Beach Boys. Perhaps the Japanese designers were dreaming of Southern California, and wanted to produce the perfect guitar for a ’60s B-movie about clean-cut surfers and pool parties?

PLAYABILITY & SOUND

My holiday duo—red metal flake and green-burst (still with a lustrous shine after almost 50 years)—have beautiful, German-style carved tops and conform quite comfortably to your body, as well as rosewood fretboards with 22 skinny frets that make the guitars very easy to play. The tremolo bars are stiff, and they only travel about a half-step, but they do come back to pitch accurately.

There are on/off switches for each of the four pickups that, unfortunately, produce electronic clunks when you use them. A Rhythm and Solo control makes the sound brighter and louder. The bridge pickup is fairly hot and surf-y, but the other three pickups sound just so-so. Still, you can find some unique sounds by mixing and matching them. The pickups are also seriously microphonic, making them a blast to use if you love Link Wray-inspired noise and feedback.

VALUE

In the ’60s, Teiscos sold for between $80 and $150 dollars, which was about half of what Fenders were selling for. Today, the Sharkfin is considered collectible, and I’ve seen them sell online for between $600 and $1,200.

WHY IT RULES

This is not a great guitar, but it’s a good guitar that you can use to make a lot of meaningful music. With a good setup, guitars like these Teiscos can provide you with some attention- getting sounds while making a very cool fashion statement. And when you have holiday parties to play, think of the giddy joy you’d spread around by carrying these red and green beauties onstage like some rockin’ Santa Claus!

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