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 for 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    

1954 Gibson Les Paul Junior Jr Tv Sunburst P-90 Special Vintage Electric GuitarVintage 1946 Gibson Usa Br-4 Electric Guitar Tube Amplifier Amp Project1996 Gibson Sg Standard Usa Ohsc CherryGibson Les Paul Model Studio Usa1963 Gibson Es-355 Tdcsv Stereo Guitar - No Reserve1974 Gibson Les Paul Custom White Guitar With Original Case - Nice & No Reserve!Gibson Es-175d--1970-1972--excellent Condition And Tone!!!Superb Original 1954 Vintage Gibson Les Paul Junior Ga-5 Amp No Reserve1946 Gibson J-45 Vintage Flat Top J-50 Pre War Script Jumbo Acoustic Guitar 1945Vintage Gibson L6s Deluxe Six String Electric Guitar P381Vintage 1968 Gibson Es-335 Red, Orange Label No Reserve!!Gibson Les Paul Standard Dc Double Cut Guitar 2004 Amber1974 Gibson Les Paul Custom 20th Anniversary Guitar W/ Original Case No Reserve!Gibson Flying V Cmt The V Cherry Sunburst Rare Vintage 1982Gibson Les Paul Classic Custom Guitar 2011 GoldtopGibson Usa Les Paul Faded Standard - Mods - W/custom Shop Case Xtras1915-1920 Gibson L-1 L-2 Acoustic L1 L3 L4 Rare!! Pre War Archtop Original L6 L7Gibson Bass Explorer 1985Vintage Korea Gibson Explorer Copy Electric Guitar Lawsuit Era W/ Case Project2006 Gibson Les Paul Standard Faded Series W/ohscNice! 2010 Gibson Les Paul Traditional Pro ~ Rare Goldtop! ~ W/ Ohsc ~ No Res!1991 White Gibson Flying V With CaseGibson Epiphone Flying V 6 String Guitar W/ Hard Case ~ Fully TestedGibson Acoustic Guitar1994“orville By Gibson” Les Paul Standard Cs Nitro Finish, Deep Joint-fujigenVintage Gibson Les Paul Junior 56 57 58 Modified Custom Humbuckers Road WarriorGibson Es-345 Vintage 1969Vintage Guitar-acoustic-six String-gibson-b25n-1964-original Gibson Case-Gibson L7 1947 Archtop1991 Gibson Es-studio Semi-hollow Es-335 Guitar Oxblood Ebony Fingerboard HscGibson Custom Shop Midtown Custom With Hardcase And Coa! Pristine Condition! Gibson 2005 Natural Les Paul Humbucker Special Body & Neck2004 Ebony Gibson Es-335 Dot Neck With Ohsc -- Factory Grover Tuners Barely Used 2012 Gibson Les Paul Junior Special Electric Guitar2005 Epiphone Gibson Firebird Vii Sunburst Gold Hardware No Reserve W Case1965 Epiphone Olympic Batwing Headstock Cherry Red Original Gibson No ReserveGibson Les Paul Wood Body Electric Guitar, Right Handed, Yellow, With Gig Bag*Vintage 1940s Gibson Es-125 Acoustic Electric Guitar Sunburst Original Case1994 Orville By Gibson Thunderbird Tb Bass Alpine White Rev. Tuners Neck IssueVintage Gibson Maestro Ga-16 Viscout Tube Amp Project Amplifier Guitar Harp Vintage 1955 Gibson Es175d Electric Guitar Es175 Nice No Reserve2002 Gibson Voodoo Flying V Electric GuitarGibson Kalamazoo Kg11 Acoustic Guitar ~ Project ~ Needs Restoration2013 Gibson Sg Standard ***natural Burst & Gorgeous***Early 70's Gibson Es 335Gibson Les Paul Custom1972 Gibson Sg Standard Usa With Bigsby Dimarzios Faded Cherry Gibson Usa Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar2010 Gibson Les Paul Studio - Natural Finish - Electric Guitar W/ Gator CaseGibson Usa Les Paul Supreme Guitar W/hard Case, Hert. Cherry Sunburst 4-a MapleVintage Gibson Les Paul Jr 1963'03 Gibson Epiphone Les Paul Custom Electric Guitar White Fantastic No Reserve!!Gibson J-100 Jumbo Black Autographed Acoustical GuitarGibson Custom Es 339 Guitar 2012 Antique RedGibson Limited Edition Robot Guitar, Right Handed, Made In U.s.a.1979 Gibson The Paul Lp Type Guitar - Vintage T-top Pickups - Great Guitar. NrGibson 2013 Fireburst Les Paul Lpj Body & Neck1959 Gibson J-200 All Original Guitar J200 Excellent ConditioinGibson Usa Custom Shop 1959 Les Paul Vos ***mint***Gibson Acoustic J-45 Deluxe 1973 With Original Case

Recent News: Gibson Guitars

Source: Google News

Snapshots: Geology talk, young musicians, nonprofit roundtable, suicide ...
Montana Standard, August 31st

Students entering fourth grade through adult are invited to participate with specialized instructors. The club offers beginning, intermediate, and advanced instruction for violin, viola and cello, flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, low brass...Read more

Harper solo at Weill Hall
Santa Rosa Press Democrat, August 30th

Known for his plaintive voice and remarkable range, Harper leaps from gospel to guitar-heavy rock without missing a beat. Before he was born, his ... Harper's parents encouraged young Ben to try out the guitars, banjos and ukuleles in the store during...Read more

Increasingly, Retirees Dump Their Possessions and Hit the Road
New York Times, August 29th

They got rid of nearly everything they owned — the exceptions being two suitcases, clothing and a pair of guitars (Mr. Gill's prized Gibson ES-335 electric guitar is stowed at a friend's house, but he totes around a travel guitar) — and do not even...Read more

Vintage Vault: 1965 Gibson Firebird III
Premier Guitar, August 25th

In 1962 Gibson president Ted McCarty decided that a bold new guitar was needed to compete with Fender's popular Jazzmaster. For a fresh, all-new concept, McCarty sought outside help and hired well-known automobile designer Ray Dietrich. After 50 ...Read more

Gibson Guitar Sculptures Unveiled on West Hollywood's Sunset Strip
WEHOville, August 21st

The Gibson Guitartown on the Sunset Strip public art project was launched in 2010. The 10-foot, one-of-a-kind guitars were created by L.A. and nationally acclaimed artists to celebrate musicians who have influenced the Sunset Strip, according to the...Read more

Gibson : 120th Anniversary SG Standard 2014 Min-ETune
Ultimate-Guitar.Com, August 14th

This guitar is a very good match because when I was in the guitar shop I was originally going to buy an Epi SG (didn't like that particular SG didn't feel right, tried a few other Gibson guitars, I liked this one the most especially considering Gibson...Read more

Value in Old Guitars
Barron's (blog), August 11th

Among the hottest names for collectors are C.F. Martin, Fender, and Gibson, guitars that are made in materials ranging from Brazilian Rosewood to Alaskan Spruce and priced from $2,500 to $250,000. Three years ago, Eric Clapton's 1948 Gibson L-5P sold ...Read more

Heritage Guitars and the old Gibson Guitar Factory survive and prosper in ...
Detroit Metro Times, August 8th

Along with Fender, Gibson is probably the most recognizable name in guitar manufacturing today. Everyone from Jimmy Page to Jack White has picked up a Les Paul, a Firebird, or one of the many other guitars that the company continues to make. But did...Read more