The original manufacturer's model number, where known, is written below the manufacturer's name. They may not always be an exact match.
Note, slso, that it is sometimes hard to tell if a guitar has had parts replaced. Moreover, it's possible that parts are changed at the factory for a variety of reasons (costs, supply, improvement, or a customer asks for it). So if you are looking to match your guitar to one of my pictures, you may not find a match.
The guitars in this first set of tables don't all fit well into any of the other model series'. The photos are either internet findings or photos that have been sent to me. Most of the information comes from what is purported to be a 1963 catalogue. That would date these guitars to 1963-1964, I guess. The model numbers seem to indicate later, but who knows? Some of the model numbers are duplicated in the regular 500-series but, except for the 540 and 545, the bodies are slightly different. The 560 Copa and the 595 Videocaster are older, but way cooler. Perhaps this set was a hurried series of imports trying to get in on the sudden boom in popularity of electric guitars. I won't be tracking prices on these and will only add information and photos if I stumble across something. Stumbling is what I do best.
The "color groups" will be explained at the end.
|500 series||600 series||700-800|
Kent headstock logos changed between the series as shown above. I believe the 700 and 800-series guitars were sold at the same time while the 500 and 600 may have been during different time periods.
If you click on the photos at the right side of the table, another page will come up with a larger photo and exactly the same information in a slightly different table.
The solid bodies of the 500-series guitars were true solid bodies, not plywood. Most of them were made of mahogany and were finished in either "Shaded Mahogany Finish" (sunburst) or "Century Red Lacquer". The necks were usually maple or some other unspecified hardwood with a rosewood fretboard featuring "heavy nickel-silver frets". The necks were reinforced with a double steel T-bar and some were truss rod adjustable. I don't believe the low-end 540 and 545 Polaris's had adjustable truss rods. From what I can tell, none of the Polaris's had serial numbers, either.
|Verified By||Retail Price||Photo|
(also advertised as
|1964-65||Las Vegas||2 pickups|
|534||Bass||Solid||Guyatone||1964-65||Basin Street||1 pickup|
|535||Bass||Solid||Guyatone||1964-65||Basin Street||2 pickups||1||Catalog||$152.50|
|540||Standard||Solid||Guyatone||1964-65||Polaris I||1 pickup||1||Label||$55.90|
|545||Standard||Solid||Guyatone||1964-65||Polaris II||2 pickups||1||Label||$69.90|
|549||Standard||Solid||Guyatone||1964-65||Polaris III||2 pickups||1||Label||UNK|
|Name||Comment||Verified By||Retail Price||Photo|
The model numbers for the Americana series seem to indicate the color scheme used:
1. 546 - "Golden red shaded to amber" with white binding
2. 550 - "Golden red shaded to amber"
3. 551 - "Dark Brown shaded to amber"
4. 552, 562 (not shown) - "Shaded mahogany back and sides, white spruce top"
5. 553 - "Natural blonde maple back and sides, white spruce top"
6. 554, 564 (not shown) - "All mahogany body and top"
7. 561 - "Dark Brown shaded to amber, Maple body, spruce top"
Although it appears from the catalogs of the time that model numbers derive from the colors used, I find it hard to believe that color is the only criterion. I would think that the number of pickups would have made a difference. It's also possible that the type of tailpiece (fixed vs vibrato) could get a different model designation. The presence of binding may be a factor, also.
The catalog page for the 550, 551, and 552 show three guitars with fixed tailpiece that differ only in woods used in their construction. However the photo on this page of the 552 show a model with vibrato tailpiece. I also have a photo of the model number on the back of the headstock.
There was a Lafayette-branded guitar that was almost identical to the Kent 530 Vegas except that it was equipped with the rounded pickups that the Polaris models had. It was probably sold by Lafayette Radio Electronics.
Some of the Americana series sported the K-logo that the other 500-series guitars had, while others had the script logo that the 600-series guitars had.
They were part of the Guyatone SG- and MG- series of hollowbodies.
I suspect that the features of the 600-series are about the same as the 500s. I haven't found much good literature on them yet. The catalogs that I have seen cover all the years of the 500 through 7-800 series guitars, yet none of them show any 600-series instruments.
|Model #||Type||Body Type||Mfr||Year mfr||Name||Comment||Verified By||Photo|
|628||Bass||Solid||Guyatone||1966||New Port*||1 pickup||Label|
|630||Standard||Solid||Guyatone||1966||Las Vegas||2 pickups||Label|
|635||Bass||Solid||Guyatone||1966||Jet Star||2 pickups||Label|
|640||Standard||Solid||Guyatone||1966||Polaris I||1 pickup||Label<|
|641||Standard||Solid||Guyatone||1966||Polaris II||1 pickup||Label<|
|645||Standard||Solid||Guyatone||1966||Polaris II||2 pickup||Label|
|649||Standard||Solid||Guyatone||1966||Polaris III||2 pickup||Label|
* The model name for the 628 is listed as "New Port" because that's how it is on the label.
There were apparently two Polaris IIs during the 600-series period. This was verified through headstock labels.
Many of the 500-series solid-bodied model names carried over into the 600 series where the K-badge logo of the 500-series gave way to glued-on "Kent" in script letters in the 600-series. I haven't seen one in person yet, so I don't know exactly how that branding is accomplished.
Recently I ran across a catalog page with Kent 640, 641, and 649 models. It's the first printed literature I have seen for the 600-series guitars. It explains the presence of the 641 but opens the question of why there are two Polaris IIs.
And in early October 2015, another Polaris curve-ball appeared. This one has two pickups with the rounded ends typical of the Polaris series. It should be a model 545 Polaris II, however, the sticker on the back of the headstock clearly identifies the guitar as a "Model 540 Polaris I". The mysteries just keep comin'.
Recently a visitor to this site sent me photos of his Kent 632 Copa. Those are the only photos of that model I've seen. I deeply appreciate stuff like that.
Thanks also to visitor Glenn for sending me the photos of a Kent 628 bass that were posted on Craigslist. I suspect the guitar has been refinished, but it really looks nice.
The 635 Jet Star bass is a fairly recent addition to this table. The catalog pages for the 500-series show a 534 Basin Street bass and a 2-pickup 535 model that they don't show a name for. It seems likely now that the 535 was also a Jet Star.
The Kent 636 12-string was very similar to the Guyatone SG-12, which was a six-string guitar. Both guitars have distinct "scooped" headstocks, dot fretboard markers and similar pickups. The Kent Americana series guitars had rectangular fretboard markers, Fender-style headstock shapes, and different pickup covers, although they might be identical internally. It might be better if placed in the Americana section above but I have yet to see an Americana with a 6xx model number.
The Polaris guitars were low-end beginners guitars. The can be readily identified by the rounded ends of the pickups. The 549 and 649 models had vibrato tailpieces. Given the fact that the model numbers don't fit the numbering sequence, they may have been added to plug a competitive hole in the market. Either that, or there are even more guitars that I don't know about.
The 700-series might be thought of as solid-body equivalents of the 800-series. Many of the same parts and design elements are used. Available colors were white,blonde, yellow sunburst, and cherry-red. They were available for left-handers for $10.00 more. No Bigsby-equipped models for lefties, however.
I describe the 700 and 800-series guitars as made by Kawai, but the only thing I have to go on is a photo of a couple of Kawai guitars with headstocks identical to the Kents. Given the lack of information on these, I'm going to go with that until I find out better.
|Model #||Type||Body Type||Mfr||Year mfr||Price||Comment||Verified by||Photo|
The Kent 800-series guitars are true hollowbodies. There is no center-block running through the body. The advertisements of the time refer to the bodies as "semi-acoustic". I believe they describe them that way because they are thin bodied, compared to acoustic guitars. Available colors were white,blonde,burgundy, yellow sunburst, and cherry-red. They were available for left-handers for $10.00 more. No Bigsby-equipped models for lefties, however.
|Model #||Type||Body Type||Mfr||Year mfr||Name||Comment||Verified by||Retail Price||Photo|
|820||Standard||Hollow||Kawai||1967-68||None||2 pickups||Own One||$110.00, with Bigsby: $165.00|
|833||Bass||Hollow||Kawai||1967-68||None||2 pickups, violin-shaped body||Label||$135.00|
|834||Standard||Hollow||Kawai||1967-68||None||2 pickups, violin-shaped body||Own One||$125.00|
|835||12-string||Hollow||Kawai||Unknown||Unknown||2 pickups, violin-shaped body||Label||$135.00|
|836||Mandolin||Hollow||Kawai||1967-68||None||1 pickup, violin-shaped body||Photo||$100.00|
I try not to put anything here unless I am reasonably sure it is correctly identified. Usually if there is a photo of the back of the headstock with an intact label, or printed material (advertisement or catalog page), I consider it valid.
I included mandolins just to fill in the number series.
After the initial batch of Kent guitars arrived at J&B, it appears that they settled on the script-style "Kent" logo, similar to the "brush script" font found on most computers. That style of the "Kent" logo remained the same for the 600, 700, and 800-series of guitars, (I don't know why I included the 500s in this list before) although the method of attaching it to the headstock evolved. There are some Kents that retained the logo and little headstock curlicue of the 700 and 800 guitars that don't appear to be part of any series.
I think they may have come after the 700 and 800s and may have not been made in Japan, although many of them were and are clearly marked as such. The necks on the electrics appear identical to those found on the 700 and 800s and may be leftovers. It seems likely that after the market for electric guitars softened in the late 1960s manufacturing was moved to a country with lower labor costs like Korea.
Here is a small sampling of some of those "other Kents":
The guitar in the upper-left of the table above is a full-thickness jazz-style guitar, very similar to a Gibson ES-175T. It looks pretty nice. I have been looking at another version of it with only three knobs (a volume for each pickup and a single tone knob) mounted to a curved plate on the lower-right bout. I don't have any other information on them. The 12-string below it has a rectangular neck plate with "Japan" stamped on it and what appear to be a pair of humbucking pickups. In the center of the bottom row is an ES-335 style guitar with a sturdy-looking Bigsby-style vibrato. The pickups look like humbuckers with black covers and the neck plate is shaped like a shield, like the Kent 700-800s. It has "Made in Japan" stamped across the bottom of it. I have a photo of the same guitar in white or creme.
I also have a photo of a white or creme guitar shaped like a Rickenbacker. The fret markers on the neck are rounded on the end (sort of like looking down at a capsule of medicine), a headstock like the Guyatone LG-170T (there aren't many shaped like that) with the little curly thing in the middle of it. An unusual ax.
I'm not tracking these guitars.
I have also come across a photo of another Kent guitar oddity. The body appears to be the same as the Kent 820 but does not have the Kent Logo on the body, pickups, or tailpiece. As you can see, the peghead is shaped a little bit differently (maybe) and has a truss-rod cover, indicating that you adjust the rod there instead of at the body-end of the neck. Of course, the cover could be just for looks. The neck has a zero-fret like many other Kents. The vibrato tailpiece is similar to most of the ones coming out of Japan at that time, but the bridge is different from all the others I have seen. Moreover, the pickups appear to be black humbuckers. In many ways it is similar to the 335-style guitar in the table above.
|Kent oddity||Kent 700-800 series|
Most Kent guitars up to around 1967 are equipped with single-coil pickups, however some of the bass guitars have pickups that look like humbuckers.
Dates are educated guesses, at best. There is a catalog page online with a 1965 copyright that shows an Americana with a K-logo, a short-scale bass (possibly a 534), and a couple of 4-pickup guitars that look like the 533 Videocaster. Likewise, there is another catalog page online, copyright 1967 showing a model 741 and an older bass, not visible enough to identify.
Vintaxe.com has a great collection of guitar catalogs that have been invaluable in figuring a lot of this stuff out.
It looks like they stopped giving the guitars model names after the 600-series.
Edits/Addenda - August 2015 - Expanded section on Americana colors and model numbers.