1970s Ovation Breadwinner 1251

CRAVE Guitars says…

Thumbs up: Ergonomics, innovative design, versatility, finish, build quality, neck, OHSC

Thumbs down: Weight, off‑beat design, toroidal pickups, active electronics

Decree: It may well be too ‘out there’ for some but they are missing out on a great instrument

Model Description:

Ovation has a long and well‑deserved reputation for its innovative bowlback electro‑acoustics. Over the years, the American company, based in in Connecticut, has occasionally dabbled in electric guitar designs including the Breadwinner, Deacon (an upmarket Breadwinner), Viper and Preacher. The Breadwinner is probably the most recognisable and Ovations first foray into electric guitars. There is no doubting that the unique design, only made between 1972 and 1979, is unconventional. The distinctive and radical body shape was supposedly inspired by a medieval battle axe. Ergonomically, however, the shape is very well thought through. The early models up to 1975 had unusual humbucker‑sized toroidal single‑coil pickups and the body had an unusual textured finish, similar to that on the bowlbacks of their acoustics. From around 1975/1976, Breadwinners came with humbuckers and a normal gloss finish. The Breadwinner was one of the first, if not the first, production guitars to feature active electronics powered by two 9 volt batteries. The pickup switch is unusually wired in that it selects neck, bridge, and both pickups out of phase.  Other distinctive features include a midrange notch filter (‘band rejection’ switch) and a 24‑fret ebony fingerboard. Standard colours were black, white, tan, red, blue and grey. Later models had a normal gloss finish and 2 standard mini‑humbucking pickups. Fender bought Ovation in 2007 and American production ceased in May 2014, moving to Korea.

Guitar Description:

I was determined to get this particular guitar. Unfortunately for me, so was someone else, so I ended up paying way over value for it. Fortunately, there is no profit motive here. Some guitar designs can certainly be a bit divisive. At one end of the spectrum, there are the classic, conservative looks and at the other, there are the oddballs that crop up every now and then. The Breadwinner definitely falls into the latter category – adventurously whacky, leftfield and sadly short‑lived due to a lack of commercial or artistic success. In my view, this absurd kookiness fits the CRAVE Guitars’ philosophy perfectly, i.e. Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric. This particular guitar is an early model with the toroidal single coil pickups and textured finish, more favoured by collectors, compared with the later ones. Ovations from this era can be difficult to date accurately. After a bit of research, the features and serial number narrow it down to between January 1973 and February 1975. It’s not the earliest ones with plain neck and cover plates, so I’ve played safe and opted for 1974(‑ish). It has been well looked after and is in exceptional condition, including its original hard shell case. While remaining a niche item, original Ovation Breadwinners will undoubtedly become increasingly collectable over time. The radical instrument is certainly very different… in a good way.


  • White textured Kaman Industries ‘lyrachord’ finish
  • Solid one‑piece Honduras mahogany contoured body
  • White 2‑piece Honduras mahogany bolt‑on neck
  • Unbound ebony fingerboard with 24 nickel‑silver alloy frets and pearl dot markers
  • 10” fingerboard radius
  • Original Ovation‑branded Schaller tuners with 12‑1 gear ratio
  • Unbound headstock with printed black ‘Ovation’ logo
  • Nut width 111/16
  • Scale length 24¾” (629mm)
  • Original chrome plated hardware
  • Original two-ply scratchplate white/black
  • Original twin toroidal single coil pickups
  • Active tri‑mount pickups with FET preamplifier powered by 2x 9V batteries
  • Original scratchplate‑mounted 3‑way pickup selector switch, 2‑way midrange notch filer switch, master volume and tone knobs, strap buttons (x2) and ¼” jack socket
  • Original tri-mounted brass integrated bridge and tailpiece with injection moulded cover and plastic bridge saddles
  • Weight: 8lbs
  • Original brown Ovation hard shell case


  • Glen Campbell
  • David Cassidy
  • Robert Smith (The Cure)
  • Peter Tosh (The Wailers)
  • Ace Frehley and Paul Stanley (KISS)
  • Steve Marriot (Faces/The Small Faces)
  • Dave Lambert (The Strawbs)
  • Bjorn Ulvaeus (ABBA)


This actual Ovation Breadwinner is featured in the impressive Phaidon Press book, ‘Guitar: The Shape Of Sound – 100 Iconic Designs’ by Ultan Guilfoyle (ISBN: 978 183866 558 6)

Detail Gallery:

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