Gibson vintage guitars have their roots in Kalamazoo, Michigan where, in 1894, an eccentric, self-taught luthier named Orville H. Gibson began making stringed instruments using the archtop design of violins as his guide. Although he began by making both guitars and mandolins, his first and only patent was granted in 1898 for a mandolin design.

Orville Gibson sold his company in 1902 and died in 1918, but his early affinity for mandolins presaged the first major success for the company that bore his name. In 1922, a Gibson engineer named Lloyd Loar designed the F5 mandolin, which featured an elevated fretboard over the instrument’s body and decorative f-holes.

Banjos would dominate the mid-1920s to mid-1930s for Gibson, but all along the company continued to make guitars. It was not recognized as a leader in this field until the 1930s when the guitar enjoyed a rise in popularity.

As with the Loar mandolin, these new 1930s Gibson guitars were archtops, usually with a trapeze tailpiece below the bridge to secure the strings and pickguards that seemed to float above the instrument’s body. The L4s of this period, which are not especially collectible despite their age, had round soundholes. The L5s, which are far more collectible, had f-holes. Other models of the day are the L7, L10, and L12, none of which were as desirable then — or as collectible today — as the L5.

The 1930s was also the decade when Gibson introduced its first electric guitars. Jazz guitarist Charlie Christian made the 1936 ES-150 famous — today, that guitar’s pickup is actually known as a Charlie Christian. After World War II, during which the company halted production due to a lack of supplies, Gibson introduced its first solid body electric guitar, the Les Paul.

There is some debate about who actually designed the Les Paul, which was introduced as a Goldtop in 1952. To hear guitarist Les Paul tell it, he is the man responsible for his namesake, but guitar author and collector George Gruhn believes the great musician may have had little do to with its design, and historians generally give Gibson president Ted McCarty most of the credit.

The collectibility of Les Pauls varies greatly depending on their vintage. Of the original, Standard models, the first Sunbursts are considered the Mother Lode of Les Pauls and e...

Another Gibson line that has proved very collectible are semi-hollow body ES 335s from 1958-1964, although the presence of a Bigsy vibrato on the guitar (a so-called whammy bar) makes it less valuable.

Key terms for Gibson Vintage Guitars:

Archtop: A stringed musical instrument whose top is rounded, either by carving a solid piece of wood or subjecting a laminated sheet to heat so it can be molded into the desired shape.

Sunburst: A finish for musical instruments that is light in the center and darker around the edges. Two of the most common sunbursts are cherry (yellow in the center fading to reddish on the outside) and three-color (yellow in the center, then reddish, then black at the edges).

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Les Paul Forum

The Les Paul Forum

If you're into Gibson's Les Paul models, or even curious, this is your site. Chock full of useful reference data, p… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Guitars Info

Vintage Guitars Info

This great reference site features detailed sections on vintage guitar makers, including Gibson, Fender, Martin, Gr… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Want to see all the old brochures and ads for your favorite vintage axe? Check out this great site, which showcases… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1968 Gibson Es-330td Sunburst ~~no Reserve!~~ Vintage Guitar 1960's Es330/3351983 Gibson Les Paul Custom Black Beauty ~heavily Aged~ Vintage 1969 Mojo 1970'sStunning Gibson "les Paul" 120th Anniversary Guitar With Original Case1979 Gibson Les Paul Custom Electric Guitar2006 Gibson Usa Les Paul Studio Premium Plus Aaa Collector Owned - Never Played!1993 Gibson Chet Atkins Tennessean- Burgundy, Righthanded - Electric GuitarVintage 1966 Gibson Es-335 12 String Project Guitar - Husk Only, Great Condition2013 Gibson Sg Electric Guitar Ebony P-90 Pickups Excellent Condition!Gibson L-00 Red Spruce 12 Fret Acoustic - Limited Edition - Only 3 Months Old!!!Gibson Custom Shop Celebrity Es 335 Warren Haynes Low Price Gibson 2014 Sg Standard Electric GuitarGibson Les Paul Special Double CutawayGibson Les Paul 120th Anniversary Studio Electric Guitar Usa 2014Original 1930 Gibson L-5 Vintage Acoustic Archtop Jazz Guitar L5Gibson Les Paul Custom Electric Guitar Made In Usa Vintage Rare BlackGibson Acoustic Advanced Jumbo Acoustic Guitar1966 Gretsch 6119 Chet Atkins Tennessean ~project~ Vintage Gibson Sg Bag 1960Gibson Les Paul Melody Maker 2014 P90 Relic Locking Bridge Sweet! .98 No ReserveVintage 1950s Gibson Ga-20 Guitar Amp / Amplifier W/original 12” SpeakerGibson Les Paul StudioOrville By Gibson Les Paul Custom (no Reserve!!)Gibson Memphis Es-335 Block Semi-hollowbody Electric Guitar - Cherry2006 Gibson Usa Les Paul Standard Ice Tea Flame Top Electric GuitarGibson Les Paul Studio Electric Guitar2006 Gibson Flying V Faded Cherry - No Reserve !!!Gibson J-185 Acoustic/electric Guitar 2011 Made In Bozeman Mt Usa1998 Gibson Les Paul Standard Dc Trans AmberGibson Es 335Gibson Acoustic Guitar ( J45)Gibson Les Paul Junior 2005Gibson Les Paul Special 2001 Gibson Lg1 Acoustic GuitarGibson Les Paul Junior Jr. Ga-5 Ga5 Handwired Tube Guitar Amplifier Amp L@@kGibson Nighthawk Special High Gloss Black W / Gold H'ware Vintage 1995! 1959 Gibson Epiphone Century Archtop Guitar ProjectGibson Les Paul Custom Axcess Standard EbonyGibson Es-150, Pre-ww2, Sunburst, Deep Rich Tone, Low Action, CaseEarly 70's Gibson Hummingbird CherryVintage 1950s Gibson Ga-5 “skylark” Guitar Tube Amp / Amplifier - Needs Repair Gibson Nighthawk 20th Anniversary GuitarGibson Sg Jr. '60s ~ Sg JuniorGibson Epiphone Series Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar Cherry Sunburst RightyGibson Chet Atkins Sst With Case, No Reserve1960-1962 Gibson Sg Les Paul Vintage Electric Guitar Case 1962 Special CustomVintage Harmony Silvertone Espanada Ez Project 1958 Needs 2 P-13 Gibson Pickups1981 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe Guitar ~nice!~ Gibson 335 Left Handed2004 Gibson Explorer Ebony Black Guitar With Hardshell CaseGibson 57 Classic Humbucker Pickup SetGibson Es-335 Natural Finish 1982 - Nashville PlantGibson Usa 2016 Les Paul Traditional Plaintop Limited Edition Electric GuitarZakk Wylde Gibson Epiphone Les Paul Bulls-eye Guitar Slash Not Made AnymoreVintage Gibson Eb-0 Bass 1962 Needs Humbucking Pickup Parts Ez Project Gibson Les Paul Classic CustomGibson Les Paul Standard 1981 VintageGibson Grabber Bass 2012 Gibson Les Paul Studio Tobacco Sunburst - Mint!Gibson 5-string Eb Electric Bass Tobacco Burst Great Condition!Vintage 1963 Dogear Gibson P90 P-90 Full Harness+knobs Es-125 Free Ship UsaGibson Lucille

Recent News: Gibson Guitars

Source: Google News

Cryogenically Treated Frets: Not Heavy Metal—Stronger Metal
Gibson, February 12th

So while Gibson was the first company to apply cryogenic treatment to guitar frets, the technology has been proven effective for decades. Cryogenic treatment is neither simple nor inexpensive. The frets are subjected to temperatures below -300 degrees ...Read more

Vintage Vault: 1962 Gibson ES-175D
Premier Guitar, February 9th

The amp behind the guitar is a 1962 Fender Vibrasonic. It was introduced in the summer of 1959 as the first of Fender's new brown Tolex amp series. These amps replaced the previous tweed covered models and had some practical modifications including a ...Read more

Peter Doherty Talks Art, Blues and Gibson Guitars
Gibson, February 8th

It would be something of an understatement to say Peter Doherty has so-far lived a “colorful” life. Award-winning teenage poetry, forming fabled indie-rockers The Libertines, well-documented brushes with the law - prison and rehab - kicked out of The ...Read more

Gibson Guitar Greats #2: Jimmy Page
Gibson, February 2nd

The sessions paid well, though: it was this era that Page acquired his famous Gibson Les Paul “Black Beauty” Custom. Growing tired of incessant sessions, Page joined The Yardbirds — first playing bass, then guitar alongside Jeff Beck. The Yardbirds...Read more

Gibson Guitars Unveils 'One-of-a-Kind' Monarch Crown Jewel at NAMM 2016
Acoustic Guitar, January 29th

At Winter NAMM 2016, Gibson Guitars' Don Ruffatto took AG's Whitney Phaneuf behind the velvet rope for a demo of two very rare instruments — the Monarch Crown Jewel Edition, which Ruffatoo calls “a true, one-of-a-kind masterpiece,” featuring a ...Read more

Gibson Guitar Greats: BB King
Gibson, January 29th

In a new series, Gibson.com examines the work of some Gibson guitar greats. We'll start with the legend that will always be B.B. King. If you don't adore this man's music you a) probably don't have a pulse b) you don't like guitar. Hands down, one of...Read more

Each NHL All-Star to receive a Gibson guitar
FOXSports.com, January 27th

The NHL All-Star Game will be deep in the heart of Music City this weekend, so perhaps it comes as no surprise that each player and coach in attendance will receive a personalized Gibson Les Paul guitar. The beautiful musical instrument will feature...Read more

Gibson Takes AG Behind the Velvet Rope at NAMM 2016
Acoustic Guitar, January 22nd

Don Ruffatto, product manager at Gibson Guitars, got some AG editors behind the velvet rope Friday at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, California. And what they saw blew their minds. In this gallery, Ruffatto, shrouded in a purple glow much like Prince in ...Read more