The Double-Branded Hallmark/Standel

I like a good guitar mystery—one where all you have is the evidence before you to figure out what happened—and such is the case with this month’s featured guitar. In the insulated world of sickos like myself who care about such things, this model has come to be known as the “Double-Branded Hallmark/Standel guitar.” What’s unique about these is that there are several of these guitars out there, but nobody seems to have a clue as to why they exist. These guitars are labeled “double-branded” because the headstocks say Hallmark, and the pickguards bear the trademark “S” Standel medallion. They also tend to sport flashy colors such as root beer sparkle and the tangerine sparkle seen here.
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The Standel Company made amplifiers, primarily, but they did make a few different guitars along the way (such as the Standel Custom featured in this column in December ’06). When the company closed its Bakersfield factory sometime around 1966, the resulting liquidation auction kept local luthiers in parts for years. In fact, brands such as Hallmark, Gruggett, Epcor, Buck-A-Roo and others sported surplus Standel hardware well into the 1970s.

So one might naturally deduce that when a number of these “Standel” guitars showed up with the Hallmark brand on them, that the Hallmark factory had simply used up spare Standel parts to make some aftermarket guitars.

The only problem with this theory is that the masterminds of Hallmark Guitars—Joe Hall and Bill Gruggett—say they didn’t make these instruments— and they don’t know who did! The only explanation for these instruments is a thieving ex-employee who may have assembled these on the side. But if that were the case, why would he brand them as Hallmark—a name that could be easily traced back to the owners?

The guitar itself is a real Bakersfield twang machine, perfect for playing some Ventures or Buck Owens, for those who like that sort of thing.
Until next time, keep watching the skies for more odd masterpieces such as this beauty.

Special thanks to Marc Lipco, Bob Shade, Joe Hall, Bill Gruggett and Johnny Simonetta