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    

Untouched 1930's Gibson Made Kalamazoo Oriole Accoustic Guitar As Found VintageVintage Mid 1930s Kalamazoo Usa Kg-11 Acoustic Guitar Gibson No ReserveGibson Les Paul StandardVintage Gibson Archtop Player Guitar Sunburst As Is ProjectGibson Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar, 2013, Made In UsaGibson Eb-2d Eb2d Bass Guitar Rare Walnut Finish 69-73. W. Fender Jazz StringsGibson Es-350-t Electric Guitar - Right Handed - Used 6 StringGibson Sg Standard2014 Gibson Usa Custom Les Paul Axcess Alex Lifeson Electric Guitar W/ohsc & Coa1996 Gibson Les Paul Custom Electric Guitar Made In Usa W/hard CaseGibson Les Paul Standard Goldtop 1957 Relic R-7 2004 Brazilian No Reserve!!Gibson Usa Slash Signature Les Paul Tobacco Sunburst 1966 Gibson Eb-3 Eb3 Vintage Player Electric Bass Guitar W Hard Shell CaseGibson Sg Special 1967 Guitar Vintage Who Vintage 1974 Gibson L6-s Midnight Special Signed Kiss Cheap Trick Ozzy MegadeathGibson Es-355 Custom Shop*stunning Top*2010*bigsby*semi-hollowbody*no Reserve* 1930's Gibson Kalamazoo Kg-22 Archtop*** Clean All Original***Gibson Byrdland 1991 Master Model Custom Shop Jim Triggs Near Mint! No Reserve1969 Gibson Eb 0 Electric Bass Guitar, 1960s Vintage Gibson Bass, Made In UsaGibson Es-120t Project Electric Guitar 1966-1969? With Case!2001 Epiphone Gibson Les Paul Standard Rh Rosewood W/custom Molded Case Gibson Blues Hawk Electric Guitar - Made In Usa Gibson Cs-356 Custom Shop*stunning Top*2002*bigsby*semi-hollowbody*no Reserve* 1970s Gibson Les Paul Custom Guitar Natural Body -- Rare Fretboard!Gibson Songwriter Standard Ec Acoustic Guitar - Mint Condition1974 Gibson Les Paul Special 74/55 P90 Guitar**project**1985 Gibson Explorer Bass W/ohsc ***please Read Description***20 Year Old Vintage Gibson Les Paul Honey BurstGibson 1965 Melody Maker Guitar - With Vintage Vox Hard Shell CaseGibson Usa J-185-ec J185 Acoustic Electric Guitar J-185ecGibson Les Paul Traditional 2014 Electric Guitar With CaseGibson L-00 1930 Luthier ProjectGibson Es-137 Electric Guitar1957 Gibson J 45 Vintage Slope Shoulder With Sitka Spruce And Mahogany1977 Gibson Les Paul Custom - Tobacco Burst - Vintage 77Gibson Black Les Paul Special Dc Double Cut 2000 P100Gibson Les Paul Traditional Pro 20122008 Gibson Les Paul Studio Cherry Wood Made In Usa Electric Guitar2005 Gibson Usa J-185-ec J185 Acoustic Electric Guitar W/ohsc Gorgeous Figuring2 Vintage Original 1958-1960 Gibson Paf Guitar PickupsGibson Factory 1985 Heritage 170 Double Cutaway Cherryburst Maple Flame OhscGibson Sg 1979 "the Sg" Guitar * Walnut Finish In Good Condition!Gibson Lg-o Lgo2012 Gibson Custom Shop L-00 Keb Mo Signature Bluesmaster Sunbrst Fin Ohsc XlntGibson Hummingbird Artist Acoustic Guitar Faded Cherry Burst With OhscBeautiful Gibson Les Paul Standard Double Cutaway (dc) Quilted Maple1952 Gibson Es125 And Br-6 Amp. Beautiful Condition One Owner Since '52Gibson Midtown Standard P90 2012 Electric Guitar2012 Gibson Les Paul Studio Black W/chrome Hardware W/case Usa MadeGibson? 12 String Vintage Acoustic Guitar Awesome Find2007 Gibson Les Paul Standard (tobacco Burst ??) Electric Guitar W/hard Case Gibson Lp Studio 2014 Electric GuitarGibson Memphis Es Les Paul Light Burst Unplayed Semi-hollow GuitarGibson Falcon Tube Guitar AmplifierGibson Les Paul Custom "black Beauty" 70-72Gibson Les Paul Custom Pro 1 Of 50 Made - True Gibson Custom Shop1967 Gibson Sg Spcl Heritage Cherry Modded Out!! Kahler Bridge. Case & Strap.Vintage Gibson Century Lap Steel Guitar Gibson J-200*jumbo*1991*acoustic/electric*bozeman, Montana*j200*no Reserve*Gibson Les Paul Standard Faded, 2006 With Faber Hardware

Recent News: Gibson Guitars

Source: Google News

#Guitar – The 2015 #Gibson lineup causes heartburn
Cherry Creek News, March 3rd

What happens when you open the catalog of your favorite guitar company and you don't like what you see? This was the gut reaction of many players when news broke of the Gibson 2015 line-up. As musicians, we're a fickle bunch: we love trying new things, ...Read more

Gibson guitar tour bus stops in Bluefield
WVVA TV (registration), March 3rd

"They've never seen a tour bus like this before because there are pictures hanging up of artists and you can play guitar on the bus they have all of these modular systems where you can pick your favorite guitar and play something. You see things you...Read more

Famous Gibson Guitar sells for $335000
WNWN-FM, February 21st

NEW YORK (WKZO) -- Some referred to it as the “Holy Grail”, and while the Gibson Les Paul prototype that sold at Auction this weekend was not the first electric guitar, the solid body they called “Black Beauty” was the first of its kind. Inventor and...Read more

Kalamazoo-made Gibson Les Paul guitar prototype auctioned for $335500, well ...
MLive.com, February 20th

The "Black Beauty," the prototype of Gibson Guitar Co.'s Les Paul guitar sold for sold for $335,500 at Guernsey's auction house Thursday February, 19, 2015. The guitar was acquired for the collection of Jim Irsay, the owner and chief executive office...Read more

Gibson Guitar HQ sold, again
Nashville Business Journal, February 20th

Gibson Guitar Corp.'s U.S. headquarters has changed hands, netting a tidy profit for the investors who bought the building less than a year ago. The Tennessean reports that the buyers are California investors who paid $5.2 million for the property...Read more

Gibson Guitar headquarters sold again
The Tennessean, February 19th

Gibson Guitar Corp.'s corporate headquarters off Murfreesboro Pike has changed hands again, but the guitar maker is still the tenant. Less than a year after buying 309 Plus Park Blvd. plus an adjacent multitenant office building at 311 Plus Park...Read more

The original 1954 Gibson Les Paul 'Black Beauty' goes up for auction
Engadget, February 11th

On February 19th, the original 1954 Gibson Les Paul Custom -- better known as "Black Beauty" --(left) will be auctioned off, giving someone with deep pockets the chance to own the prototype that became perhaps the most iconic guitar ever made. For the ...Read more

Les Paul's Groundbreaking Guitar Prototype Is Headed for Auction
New York Times, February 9th

None of them would have achieved their fame, Mr. Ettinger said, without Les Paul — and without the guitar that Gibson Guitar began manufacturing in the 1950s to Mr. Paul's specifications. Bob Marley not only owned one, he was buried with it. (Not to...Read more