I’ve been on a Link Wray kick lately and started looking at Danelectros. Now I’ve got a late 90s made in Korea ’59 DC reissue. It was a fine guitar until the neck snapped sometime in the early 2000s. I picked up non-finished replacement neck sometime in the early 2000s, refinished it, and stuck it on the body. I’m certainly the furthest thing from a luthier and it would be safe to say the guitar has never been the same. My Link Wray kick led me to looking for Danelectro Guitarlins. The originals are very rare so that’s out of the question. It appears that they were reissued under the Danelectro name sometime in the 2000s. But those don’t look right(modern bridges etc.) and I believe they were made in China. There seems to be many a heated discussions online regarding the Chinese made Danelectros compared to the earlier Korean ones. I can’t comment on that as to I’ve never played one of the Chinese models. I believe the made in China models are mostly the Hodads and models with incorrect headstocks and modern styled hardware. In other words guitars that have little incommon with the guitars original designed by Nathan I. Daniel.
Through searching online I came across the newest Danelectro DC-59. For 2013 it’s called the Danelectro ’59 Original and production on these models has been moved back to Korea. A local shop (Chicago Music Exchange) had one on the wall so I stopped in and took it home. Now it’s certainly not the Guitarlin I was looking for to cop Link’s tone but it’s certainly different than my late 90s DC ’59 reissue.
Starting with some of the cosmetic differences between these two reissues. The 2013 has smaller white fretboard dot inlays whereas the older reissues have larger pearloid dot inlays. The 2013’s dots are closer to the ones seen on the original 50s and 60s Danelectros.
The 2013 has small ball bearings as markers on the volume and tone knobs. Whereas the late 90s reissue has indentations in the knobs where ball bearings should be. The original models would have had the ball bearings.
More cosmetic differences. The pickguards are slightly different. The late 90s reissue’s guard is smooth across the top whereas the 2013’s is slightly textured.
The taping around the body is different on these two models as well. The late 90s reissue has a thin, smooth, not well attached tape. I’ve seen examples of this model where the tape is coming off in places. Mine’s is still attached fairly well. The 2013 model has a textured, more yellow, and studier feeling tape around the body. I’m not sure as to how close it is to the original tape Danelectro used but it sure looks better.
Up next is a difference that may have more effect on the tone. The headstock is angled on the late 90s reissue. The 2013 has little to no angle to it. Most of the originals I’ve seen don’t have the angled headstocks. While we are looking at the necks I should point out the 2013 model’s neck is VERY slim. Not that the late 90s is a thick neck compared to a 50s Fender or Gibson but its got a bit more chunk to it than the 2013. In Doug Tulloch’s, Neptune Bound: the ultimate danelectro guitar guide, there are many photos of original brochures that refer to the necks as “slim, never-warp” and terms like, “unusual slimness” are used in describing these necks in the original 1950s brochures.
Here’s a shot of the back of the headstocks of these two guitars. The tuners on the 2013 are more period correct for a ’59 reissue. The 2013 also has a light volute. In looking at pictures of the original guitars those appear to have a similar volute.
Both of these guitars have adjustable truss rods. The original Danelectros had two steel non-adjustable bars. The late 90s adjustment is located at the butt of the neck heel(like a vintage Fender). For 2013 the truss rod adjustment is at the headstock. It’s a rather unattractive spot but I guess it’s more functional there.