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).
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Fake Gibson Guitars Hit Music City MarketNewsChannel5.com, March 4th
The fakes often go for between $600 and $1,000. Gibson Guitars' world headquarters is in Nashville and the company released a statement urging anyone buying a Gibson to first have it checked by a licensed dealer to be certain what they are getting is real...Read more
Meet the 2014 Gibson Bass Guitar LineGibson, March 2nd
Nothing beats a booming and emotionally-charged bass tone that moves the music to the next level. Gibson has revealed six new bass guitars for its 2014 lineup, and the new models deliver the kind of sound that fuels the most passionate low-end playing...Read more
Gibson J-29 Acoustic-Electric GuitarAmerican Songwriter, February 26th
New for 2014 is Gibson's J-29 acoustic-electric, a guitar that combines the attributes of some of the company's best-sellers and is definitely a winner. Part of the J-45 family, this round-shoulder dreadnought is an appealing new axe for someone...Read more
Gibson Introduces the Billy F. Gibbons GoldtopPremier Guitar, February 20th
Sonically and visually, the guitar blows the doors off the venue with a neck profile measured precisely from the Rev's own Les Paul, ultra-light construction, custom electronics, and a pair of Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates pickups. 150 Billy F. Gibbons...Read more
Demo Video: Gibson 2014 Les Paul Traditional Model GuitarGuitar World Magazine, February 18th
Guitar Center recently started creating "product spotlight" demo videos for gear that happens to be available at their stores. Case in point, this new demo video for Gibson's 2014 Les Paul Traditional model guitar. The video provides a wealth of...Read more
Gibson guitars made with government-seized wood are sold outLos Angeles Times, February 15th
produced 750 instruments for that first batch, which quickly sold out. Responding to continued demand, Gibson this year released about 1,000 more Government Series guitars, which sold out "in minutes," according to Chief Executive Henry Juszkiewicz...Read more
Video: Gibson Pulls Broken-Guitar Prank at 2014 Winter NAMM ShowGuitar World Magazine, February 14th
For this latest prank video, which was posted February 10, Gibson built a Double Diamond replica guitar that easily falls apart. Prank victims include Christopher Lloyd (as in Christopher Lloyd the actor from Taxi, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock...Read more
TN's Gibson Guitar creates “Government Series” with disputed woodTennessee Watchdog, February 10th
NASHVILLE — Anybody who plays Gibson Guitar's newest product will need all four of their fingers to play it — but they might extend that remaining finger, specifically that third digit, toward the federal government. This, at least, is the gesture...Read more