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 discovers women made Gibson guitars during World War IIWTNH Connecticut News, June 24th
(WTNH) — John Thomas, a Professor of Law at Quinnipiac University, passionate about music, and a lover of guitar music has uncovered a story that has never before been reported. During World War II there were 70 women making guitars for Gibson in a ...Read more
Stephen Arnold Music “Guitar Legends” Giveaway Continues At Promax Station ...Multichannel News, June 23rd
DALLAS/LAS VEGAS PROMAX STATION SUMMIT 2015 -- Stephen Arnold Music, the Leaders in Sonic Branding, will host a “Guitar Legends” display in conjunction with another landmark guitar giveaway for Promax Station Summit: a Gibson Les Paul signed ...Read more
Win It! An Epiphone SG-Special Guitar by GibsonExtra, June 22nd
The Epiphone SG Special guitar by Gibson is an incredible way to get real SG tone and styling without breaking the bank. In 1961, the original Les Paul shape was redesigned into a light, double-cutaway design. That new design soon became known as the ...Read more
Valuable Gibson Les Paul guitar stolen in raid on musician's homeHuddersfield Examiner, June 18th
Musician Howard Walker has been left counting the cost of a burglary in which a coveted – and valuable – guitar was stolen. Howard, 48, who plays with Huddersfield rock band Black Gravy, had a collection of 11 professional guitars. Howard came home...Read more
Gibson Guitars' $40 Million, 11 Year Tech GambleForbes, June 16th
Gibson guitars, the legendary crafters of some of the finest instruments to ever create rock and roll (including the iconic Les Paul), is having just such a problem. An aficionado might tell you that plenty has changed over the years in the world of...Read more
Professor's Chester talk to detail Gibson Guitar's female workersMiddletown Press, June 10th
Now among the finest acoustic guitars ever made, nearly 10,000 were built when no such Gibson instruments were made, Thomas says the company claims, “because the company had shifted to churning out war goods,” according to kalamazoogals.com...Read more
John Lennon's Lost Guitar Turns Up in Weird WayNewser, June 8th
(Newser) – John Lennon last saw his prized J-160E Gibson guitar—the instrument he played when recording "Love Me Do"—in December 1963, during a Beatles Christmas show in a London park. The guitar went missing and stayed that way for about 50 ...Read more
John Lennon's Gibson Guitar Up For SaleRTT News, June 7th
A Gibson acoustic guitar once owned by John Lennon, and thought to be lost, will be auctioned in Beverly Hills in November. The Gibson J-160-E was used by Lennon on many early Beatles recordings. Darren Julien, owner of Julien's Auctions, called the ...Read more