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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Gibson's Les Paul High Performance is a modern take on an old iconMashable, November 19th
Unlike your smartphone, guitars don't really go obsolete. Where an iPhone 4S is sluggish with the latest apps compared with a 6S, there isn't a substantial difference between a guitar from 2015 and one from 1965. There are differences between a 1965...Read more
Video: Man Casually Steals $4650 Custom Gibson From LIC Guitar CenterGothamist, November 13th
The guitar grand larceny occurred on October 18 th at 3:50 p.m. at the Long Island City location at 34-17 48 Street. Police say "an unknown male suspect removed a custom Gibson guitar valued at $4,650 from a display stand, secreted the guitar under his...Read more
What Makes the 2016 Gibson USA HP Neck Unique?Gibson, November 11th
The neck found on Gibson USA 2016 HP model guitars is designed for players who are seeking a high-performance guitar for modern playing styles and who might have felt a little cramped on traditionally-shaped Gibson necks, or are simply looking for ...Read more
How John Lennon's Long-Lost $2.4 Million Gibson J-160E Guitar Was FoundGuitar World Magazine, November 10th
As was widely reported yesterday, John Lennon's long-lost acoustic Gibson J-160E acoustic-electric guitar, which he used while recording the Beatles' Please Please Me and With the Beatles albums, sold for a record-shattering $2.41 million Saturday...Read more
John Lennon's guitar sells for $2.4 million at auctionEntertainment Weekly, November 8th
A mystery buyer with money to burn just gained a piece of music history. Juliens Auctions announced Saturday that the acoustic Gibson guitar stolen from John Lennon in the '60s was sold for $2.4 million to an undisclosed recipient. Lennon and fellow...Read more
Noel Gallagher: 20 Years of Gibson GuitarsGibson, November 6th
The first time I met Noel Gallagher was actually 21 years ago, at my magazine's photo-shoot. I had a wavering view to make him cover star even though Oasis had released just one single and I'd only seen them live once. But that was enough. I, with many ...Read more
Gibson USA Announces 2016 ModelsPremier Guitar, November 6th
Nashville, TN (November 6, 2015) -- Gibson USA, producer of the world's most iconic guitars including the Les Paul, SG, Flying V, Explorer and Firebird, proudly announces its highly-anticipated new 2016 Model Year. With all guitars now available in two ...Read more
How Gibson Guitars Helped the Eagles to the TopGibson, October 29th
Former Eagles guitarist Don Felder is closely associated with two Gibson guitars in particular, his 1959 Les Paul Standard, and his EDS-1275 - the “Hotel California” guitar. Both instruments have been recreated by Gibson as signature Don Felder guitars...Read more