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    

Vintage 1930-31 Gibson L-1 W/original Case "one Owner" Luthier Special No Res!1947 Gibson Sj Southern Jumbo J-45 Vintage Flat Top Acoustic Guitar1959 Gibson Es-330 Vintage Semi Hollowbody Acoustic Electric Guitar Es330 Es-3351957 Gibson Es-175d Vintage Player Archtop Jazz Guitar Es175d Bigsby W Hsc E641979 Gibson Hummingbird Acoustic Guitar1960s Gibson Lg-1 Vintage Player Acoustic Lg1 Guitar Nice Shape No Case E641940s? Gibson Lg-1 Vintage Player Acoustic Guitar Lg1 No Case E64Original 1959/1960 Gibson Ga-18 Tube Amp Amplifier Jensen SpeakerGibson Songwriter Deluxe Studio Ec - Made In The UsaGibson Usa Sg Junior 2011Beautiful Rare Vintage Original 1957 Gibson Es-225 Tn Natural Es-330 Type + OhscGibson Acoustic J-45 Rosewood Acoustic Electric Guitar J451953 Gibson Es-125 Vintage Player Archtop Guitar Es125 W Hsc Case E65Gibson Les Paul Standard Double Cut Plus*mint*2006*translucent Amber*no Reserve*---1974 Gibson Les Paul Custom Vintage Sunburst Standard Electric Special Guitar1961 Gibson Melody Maker Vintage Player Electric Guitar W Faux Alligator Case1900s Gibson L-4 Vintage Player Archtop Guitar As Is No Case L4Vintage Gibson Les Paul Deluxe Electric Guitar Cherry Sunburst W/ Case 10934#9Ultra Rare Factory Black Vintage Original 1968 Gibson Es-335 Tdv +ohsc Stunning!Gibson Les Paul Standard 2005 Light Burst W/case 1978 Gibson Les Paul Custom (black Beauty)1996 Gibson Standard J-200 No Reserve!!!Vintage 1930's Gibson L-0 Acoustic Guitar L O Lo L00 Players GuitarGibson Sg Old Vintage 1970's Guitar W/ Relic Case & Extra Bridge Fender Stuff Lefty Gibson Frankenstein Sg! Vintage '80s Gibson Sonex Neck W / Custom Body!!!!Look!! Absolutely Mint 2012 Gibson Les Paul Signature T - Unplayed!!! Gibson Gsm Acoustic Guitar, Made In Canada1962 Gibson Country Western Model Acoustic Guitar 6 String Gibson Vintage GuitarVintage 1973 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe Sunburst Guitar1946-47 Gibson J-45 Acoustic Guitar2013 Gibson Memphis Es-330 Beale Street Blue W Case Custom Shop No ReserveVintage Gibson Es-125 Electric Guitar Rare Vintage Les PaulGibson Les Paul Standard Goldtop - 2013 Electric Guitar1960 Gibson Es 345 Td/ Original CaseGibson Sg Right Handed Electric Guitar, 2011, Made In UsaVintage Gibson Les Paul Deluxe 1973 Needs Patent# Pickups & Parts Ez Project 2014 Gibson Usa Les Paul Classic Project American Wine Red FlameCirca 1927 Gibson Tb-1 Vintage Player Tenor Banjo Tb1 Pre-war W Case E641967 Gibson Trini Lopez Signature Standard Es335 Red Wine Vintage Classic GuitarLes Paul Junior-genuine Gibson Double Cutaway Les Paul, Gorgeous Wine Red FinishVintage 1926 Gibson Mastertone 5 String Banjo W Hardshell Case E59Gibson Les Paul Studio Guitar 1998 Fubar1959 Gibson Les Paul Electric GuitarGibson Es-les Paul Custom Shop Gold Top One Of A Kind Appointments + Extras!2000 Gibson Les Paul Standard2011 Gibson Non Reverse Firebird Gibson Les Paul Studio WhiteGibson Les Paul Studio*1993*wine Red*no Reserve*1946 Gibson Lg-2, Old Logo, X-braced, Fanatastic Sound, World Free, No ReserveStunning Vintage 1950 Gibson L-48 Archtop Acoustic Guitar2014 Gibson Memphis 1963 Es-335 Block Inlays Cherry Red W Case No ReserveVintage 1920s Gibson Acoustic Guitar Parts Body Cracked Wall Hanger Neck Parlor1975-1977 Gibson Flying V Electric Guitar Super Rare Alpine White - No Reserve!!Gibson Flying V Faded Electric Guitar With Gig BagVintage Gibson 6 String Acoustic Guitar Serial # 13754 Lgo N/rGibson Gothic Explorer Electric Guitar Flat Black W/ Fitted Hard Case - 2000 UsaGibson Les Paul Special Double Cut Faded Worn Cherry W/hardshell Case2010 Gibson Custom Shop Limited 1959 Commemorative Les Paul Standard #4 Of 30Gibson Eh-500 Skylark Lap Steel W / Orig Case Korina Wood Vintge 1957! No ReservGibson Chet Atkins Sst Guitar - Excellent, Ebony Finish

Recent News: Gibson Guitars

Source: Google News

Iconic Les Paul 'Black Beauty' guitar to hit auction block
Reuters, January 30th

The electric instrument, which is the original prototype for the Les Paul Custom guitars made the Gibson Guitar Company, will be sold by Guernsey's Auctions at the Arader Galleries on Feb. 19th. No pre-auction estimate, or reserve price, has been put...Read more

Gibson Guitar factory smokestack found structurally sound after second inspection
WKZO, January 23rd

KALAMAZOO (WKZO) -- The smokestack on the site of the former Gibson Guitar factory on Parsons Street in Kalamazoo will not be destroyed. An initial inspection of the aging structure suggested that the collapse of the smokestack was imminent and that it ...Read more

Gibson Guitars smokestack seen up close by Kalamazoo Gazette photographer ..., January 21st

KALAMAZOO, MI — I got a phone call Tuesday morning from a friend who works at the Heritage Guitar Company letting me know that a "boom" was parked alongside the railroad tracks behind the old Gibson Guitar factory. A crew was going up to the boiler ...Read more

Gibson Unveils Les Paul Reference Monitors
Premier Guitar, January 20th

Nashville, TN (January 20, 2015) -- Gibson Brands, Inc. continues to honor the roots of Les Paul, who first pioneered the solid body electric guitar and later introduced multitrack recording with the release of the Gibson Les Paul Reference Monitors...Read more

Alternative fixes have been considered for old Gibson Guitar factory ..., January 19th

Heritage Guitar Inc. is utilizing about 13,000 square feet of space at 225 Parsons St. in Kalamazoo, the original home of Gibson Guitars. Heritage Guitar employee Willard Fenton-Miller buffs the finish on an electric guitar at the Kalamazoo factory in...Read more

Smokestack bricks from Gibson Guitar factory in Kalamazoo are likely to be ..., January 14th

KALAMAZOO, MI -- PlazaCorp Realty Advisors says consideration has been given to saving the bricks from the former Gibson Guitar Company smokestack and possibly using them if the Kalamazoo Enterprise Center building is redeveloped. But the decision ...Read more

Former Gibson Guitar smokestack in line for demolition pending permit review, January 12th

KALAMAZOO, MI – Demolition of the old Gibson Guitar factory smokestack on Kalamazoo's North Side is being planned, but will not start immediately. The new owner of the Kalamazoo Enterprise Center building, 225 Parsons St., needs to properly complete a ...Read more

Gibson's Les Paul headphones take design cues from the iconic guitar
Engadget, January 8th

Gibson's fitness-minded headphones may get most of the attention here at CES, but venture inside the company's tent, and you'll discover yet another line of cans. And these are much more in line with what I'd expect from the guitar maker. In fact, the ...Read more