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).
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
The Les Paul Forum
Vintage Guitars Info
Vintage Guitar and Bass
Clubs & Associations
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Gibson Guitars
Source: Google News
John Lennon's 1962 Gibson Acoustic Guitar Could Break a World Record at AuctionRobb Report, September 2nd
Dealers and auctioneers usually speak in careful, measured language when talking about their wares, but the wealth of evidence proving that John Lennon not only owned but favored this 1962 Gibson J-160E has loosed Darren Julien's tongue. “If you're ...Read more
10 Years After Katrina: How The Edge, Guitar Center & Gibson Helped Restore ...Billboard, August 28th
Ezrin and The Edge received the Humanitarian Award for Music Rising at the 2005 Billboard Touring Awards. On Aug. 29, 10 years ago, in different rooms in different cities, The Edge from U2, Marty Albertson of Guitar Center, Henry Juszkiewicz of Gibson...Read more
Ex-girlfriend arrested in burglary that left 1968 Gibson guitar missingThe Daily Times, August 27th
Knowing Bowers had no cause to be at his residence, Woods returned home and discovered that the back door had been kicked in. Missing from his house was a 1968 Gibson guitar, valued at $15,000, and a Western-style .22-caliber revolver, valued at $450 ...Read more
Kathleen Edwards' Gibson guitar stolen from her home near OttawaCTV News, August 27th
TORONTO -- Kathleen Edwards says a valuable Gibson guitar was stolen from her home near Ottawa. The 37-year-old posted on Facebook that her 1957 Les Paul Junior was swiped from her house in Stittsville, Ont. She presumes "someone came in through ...Read more
Gibson Guitar building sells to out-of-state investorNashville Business Journal (blog), August 25th
An out-of-state investor paid $3.3 million to own the Nashville building where Gibson Guitar Corp. produces high-end custom guitars and mandolins. Holladay Properties had renovated the building for Gibson, and decided that now — amid Nashville's real ...Read more
Billy Gibbons Shows Custom Gibson and John Bolin Guitars from His Collection ...Guitar World Magazine, August 14th
Included are a John Bolin guitar with a chambered body, neck and headstock, a Gibson recreation of Billy's famous “Pearly Gates” Les Paul, and one of his furry Gretsch guitars in the rectangular Bo Diddley shape, among several others. Gibbons recently ...Read more
Gibson changes tune: Electronics before guitarsThe Tennessean, August 8th
Gibson has been the subject of scathing posts on pop culture website Gawker, which has used anonymous sources to criticize design changes to Gibson's new guitar models, the company's workplace environment and especially long-time Chairman and ...Read more
Marketing Concepts, American Musical Supply, Electro-Voice and Gibson Guitars ...Benzinga, August 7th
On Saturday, August 8th, 2015, local company Marketing Concepts and their national client, American Musical Supply, teamed up to bring Gibson Guitar Corporation and Electro-Voice to the Willmar Stingers Game for a Rockin' Good Time event...Read more