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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Author Says Toyota Stole His BB King StoryCourthouse News Service, October 22nd
Dahl says he researched the origin of the guitar from the pawn shop and "established that the Gibson Lucille ... was the original 'Prototype 1' 80th birthday Gibson Lucille which had been presented to B.B. King on the occasion of his 80th birthday in...Read more
5 things to do today: auction for classic Gibson guitarsThe National, October 21st
Bid at the Vision of Sound art guitar auction. Following their unveiling at the Gibson Vision of Sound event, the guitars will be sold at a silent auction, with proceeds going to the Peace One Day Foundation and a local charity. October 22, 4-7pm, free...Read more
Gibson Guitar Facing 15 Trademark OpposersJD Supra (press release), October 20th
The opposers contend that the shape of the guitar is either generic or lacking in distinctiveness as a result of the “rampant” use of identical or substantially similar designs by a multitude of third parties over the past half a century. They name...Read more
Brand Battles: Gibson Guitar, NFL v. XFL, AppleLaw360 (subscription), October 17th
Law360, New York (October 17, 2014, 8:16 PM ET) -- In Law360's latest roundup of new actions at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, rival guitar makers accuse Gibson of trying to monopolize electric guitars with a dubious trademark registration, the...Read more
Rock out! Liberty Science Center to feature 43-foot Gibson, traveling guitar ...The Jersey Journal - NJ.com, October 3rd
Starting tomorrow, Liberty Science Center will be rocking. And not the geological kind of rocking. No, the LSC will be Eddie-Van-Halen/Les-Paul rocking with its newest exhibit -- "Guitar: The Instrument that Rocked the World." "Were really excited to...Read more
Gibson Pickups 101Gibson, October 3rd
But ultimately there is only one component that makes a guitar an “electric” guitar. A pickup. Or two. Or three... Pickups are arguably the most complicated (and debated) component of any electric guitar. But don't worry: Gibson has pioneered electric...Read more
Unique Gibson guitars to go on sale in DubaiDigitalProductionME.com, September 29th
Currently celebrating 120 years of innovation, Gibson held a special event in Dubai on September 20th, 2014, commemorating their 120th anniversary and in support of Peace One Day by bringing two first-of-their-kind art exhibitions to the Middle East...Read more
Gibson USA 2015 new electric guitar line-up announcedMusicRadar.com, September 25th
Once again, we've arrived at one of the most exciting days in the guitar gear calendar: the announcement of Gibson USA's new electric guitar models. For 2015, the company has revamped its entire line, with gloss finishes, one-piece rosewood...Read more