Guitarists had a lot to be excited about in 1981.  There were several new models, as well as new options and features for all models.  A totally new high-end instrument would be added, as would a basic guitar for the player on a budget.

Click each picture to see the entire catalog page.

1981 Carvin History

1981 Carvin Catalog Cover
1981 Carvin Guitars

There were two profound and significant changes in 1981.  First of all, the introduction of the "pointy" DC200 body shape.  This extraordinarily popular shape would define Carvin of the 80's, and would still be in production 25 years later.  Additionally, Carvin began offering Hawaiian koa wood on most models.  Although reasonably common today, this was way ahead of what most other manufacturers were doing in the early 80's.

The DC200 Koa was a revolutionary instrument.  Many of the appointments were taken from the DC160, including stereo wiring, phase switching and coil splitters, as well as gold hardware and MOP block inlays.  The koa wood is what really set this model apart from the rest, however.  The scale length of the DC200 was 24.75", which was the same as a Les Paul.

1981 Basses

1981 Guitar Amps

1981 Bass Amps





The DC200K with block inlays and chrome hardware was $510.00.  With dot inlays and chrome hardware, it was $460.00.  Gold hardware could be added to either variant for $50.00.  The HC11 hardshell case was an additional $60.00.1981 Carvin DC200 Koa

1981 Carvin DC200 Guitar

The new DC200 was also offered in Carvin's standard finishes, which at the time were either black or natural.  The body was constructed of maple, and the standard fingerboard was ebony, like most other Carvin guitars and basses in 1981.  Maple fingerboards and left-handed models were not offered.

The DC200B, with black finish and dot inlays, was $440.00.  The DC200C, with clear finish and dot inlays, was also $440.00.  The DC200BI (black with block inlays) and DC200CI (clear with block inlays) were $490.00.  The DC120 12-string was $490 in black or clear, with dot inlays.  Gold hardware was available for $50.00.

1981 DC160 Stereo Guitar

The DC160 (above) was still the flagship instrument, even though it was now sharing that title with the DC200 Koa.  This model was made from eith curly or birdseye maple, with ebony fingerboard, standard gold hardware, standard block inlays, and phase switching and coil splitters on M22 pickups with dual volume and dual tone controls.  The DC160, in curly or birdseye maple, was $685.00, and the left-handed model was $715.  The HC10 hardshell case was $60.00.

1981 Carvin CM130 Guitar

Carvin's singlecut models, the CM130 (left) and CM140 (right) continued to be strong sellers.  Body construction, materials and electronics were the same, but the CM140 offered stereo wiring and block inlays (but no maple fingerboards).  The base price of the CM130 was $395.00 (with an ebony fingerboard) and the base price of the CM140 was $485.00.  The CM140 was available in a left-handed model; the CM130 was not.  Gold-plated hardware was offered on either.

1981 Carvin CM140 Guitar

1981 Carvin DC150 Guitar

The DC150 (left) was 5 years old in 1981, but showed no signs of fading in popularity.  Like the DC200, it was available in black or natural, with ebony or maple fingerboard.  Stereo wiring and phase/coil switches were standard.  The DC150CM (clear finish/maple fingerboard) was $415.00, and the DC150BE (black/ebony) or DC150CE (clear/ebony) were $435.00.  A left-handed model was offered for $30.00 more, and gold hardware was offered for $50.00.

The DC100 (right) was a no-frills guitar, and was a great value at only $298.00 in black or clear finishes.  This is one of the few modern Carvins to have a rosewood fingerboard, and it sported no-frills electronics (but still used the M22 pickups used in other models).  This is the only year the DC100 with a rosewood fingerboard was produced; in 1982, ebony would be used.

1981 Carvin DC100 Rosewood

In the 1950's, 1960's and early 1970's, Carvin bought necks from Höfner, and used them on their own guitars and basses.  Carvin's relationship with Höfner began in the mid-1950's, and would last until the late 1980's. 

Above is a late 60's Höfner Verithin, which in turn was called the model 4574 in the US.  Although there were some differences, such as the bridge/tailpiece assembly and pickups, the body was unmistakably identical to the SH225.

1981 Carvin SH225 Archtop Guitar



Also new for 1981 was the SH225.  Although it's somewhat common knowledge today, it was not widely known in 1981 that Höfner made the bodies and necks for these instruments (see sidebar, right), and Carvin finished and assembled them.  This semi-hollow Venetian (rounded) cutaway archtop was constructed with a maple neck, and light curly maple top, back and side, with ebony fingerboard and body binding.  The electronics were the same as other Carvin models, and could be had with or without stereo wiring, phase and coil switches.  Interestingly, a black plastic pickguard was optional.  The basic SH225 was $585, and the SH225 Stereo was $635.  Gold hardware was an additional $50.00, and the HC18 form-fit hardshell case was $75.00.


1981 Carvin DN612 & DN640 DoublenecksAlso available in 1981 was the DN612 and DN640, which were basically the same as the 1980 model, with the exception of the control layout on the top neck.  Take a look at the knobs on the '80 model - the guitar and bass volume/tone controls were a mirror image of each other, whereas the '81 (and later) used the same layout.  This was the design that would remain for these models until neck-thru design was introduced in 1988.

The DN640, in black or clear finish, sold for $765.  The DN612, also available in black or clear finish, was $795.  Gold hardware was an additional $100, and the HC15 case was $75.  Left-handed models or maple fingerboards were not available.