CARVED TOP M SERIES
We'd heard rumors about these instruments floating around, but most of us had never seen one before 2001 - when the one pictured above came up for auction on eBay. Most people's first thoughts are "it obviously must be a fake." Not so. Here's the 4-1-1:
When Gibson bought the company they began the process of moving some of the operations "in-house". One of these was the manufacture of the bodies. During most of it's existence Steinberger Sound never made their own bodies - they were made to spec by outside vendors, usually several at a time. This insured no production holdups if any one vendor was having troubles getting product to them.
When Gibson announced it was going to make the bodies themselves (not at the 'berger factory itself, but through Gibson's other enterprises) one of the old body suppliers decided to show Gibson "what it could do", obviously as a bid to keep the business. They made a number of custom bodies, including a small run of these birdseye maple carved top GM's and a handful of other fancy topped items. Gibson assembled the bodies on guitars but went forward with their plans to go in-house anyway.
This history was relayed to us from a Yahoo! Group member who saw two of these for sale in a Connecticut store in the late 80's. When he inquired about them the dealer relayed the story. This member snagged the tobacco burst one seen below (the other was cherry burst), and these pictures are of that very guitar he bought new in 1989. He remembers about 6 "custom" Steinbergers in the store total. The others were translucent figured tops, including one he termed "a frightening shade of trans pink" (hey this was the 80's!). He recalled all sold within a few weeks.
There are obviously only a handful of these in existence. Being rare, they command top dollar on the used market if/when they come up.
6/1/03 UPDATE! - We've gotten an email that Godin Guitars (technically it was Guitabec - their parent company) as the firm that actually made these bodies. The first year Godin catalog includes a pic of one of their techs buffing a Steinberger body. Also the carve is very similar to the early Godin solid bodies, as is the use of bird's-eye maple and the "frightening shade of trans pink". Turns out that was a actually a standard factory color, was termed "trans-purple" and, was a supposed to be pink/purple combo. Here's a pic of an early Godin solid body in that hue: