Gibson’s first electric Spanish guitar, the ES-150 of 1936, was essentially an acoustic L-50 set up with a new wire coil and magnetic pickup. So new was the market for amplified instruments that Gibson hedged a bit, as did other manufacturers, waiting to gauge demand. They introduced electronics first on mid and lower-line arch-tops, rather than the upper-line expensive models, but the instruments caught on with the public and working musicians. When this happened Gibson was ready with upscale models and the Gibson ES-250 came to market in 1938. This electric arch-top was built on the wider 17″ “Advanced” body, with fancier trim. The ES-250 was short-lived, however, and was discontinued in 1940 with the introduction of the ES-300.
This hollowbody guitar made its debut in 1939. The following year the Gibson catalog made the proclamation, “Gibson has created the best electric guitar possible to make.” It became a favorite of bluesman T-Bone Walker, who turned to it extensively during the ’40s and ’50s. Charlie Christian, Alvino Rey and Tony Mottola also fell for the instrument. Based on the ES-150 but with several bold upgrades, the ES-250 featured a larger body, refined fingerboard and snazzier accoutrements like deluxe headstock, tuners and tailpiece. Perhaps its defining characteristic is its bar pickup with six mini blades that performed as separate polepieces for each string (now known as the “Charlie Christian pickup”). “This was a short-lived model,” Carter says. “Jazz guitar pioneer Charlie Christian owned two of the 70 that Gibson made. It featured the bar pickup that many jazz players still think is the best jazz pickup Gibson ever made. It was superseded by the ES-300, which featured Gibson’s first adjustable-pole pickup.”
The Gibson ES-250 Guitar was actually introduced in late 1938 and it was an upgrade of the Gibson ES-150 models in the late ‘30s which had the “Charlie Christian” pickups.
The Gibson ES-250 was just a little bigger, the guitar was 17" unlike the ES-150 which was 16 1/4" wide.
In late 1938 the Gibson ES-250 had carved maple back, special “Charlie Christian” pickups with 6 individual mini blades for every guitar string which gave a maximum tonal response.
It had a double parallelogram fingerboard inlays or rectangular, multi bound and made in sunburst finishes. In 1939 natural finishes were available. In 1940 they were discontinued.
The Gibson ES-250 was one of the most advanced electric guitars of its time and list price was only $175 .
The Gibson ES-250 was played by many Blues and jazz-masters such as Charlie Christian, T-Bone Walker and Oscar Moore amongst many others.
This is a rare second variant of the short-lived ES-250 model, featuring a natural blonde finish, “window frame” fretboard inlays, and an L-10-style elongated diamond and curlicues headstock inlay. This 1940 Gibson ES-250, with the exception of the L-10-style elongated diamond and curlicue inlays, is almost identical to the 1940 ES-250 and the L-7-style double-handed vase and curlicue headstock inlays featured on page 82 of Guitars – The Tsumura Collection. The Gibson ES-250 was a short lived model - only 70 were made in total. Gibson made only 58 ES-250 guitars in 1940 and another four in 1941 when production ceased.
The “Charlie Christian” single-coil pickup is the later version constructed using 10.000 turns of 42-gauge wire instead of the previous 4,000 turns of 38-gauge wire. These pickups are hotter and more dynamic than the earlier version, delivering tone comparable to modern electric guitars.