Gibson Melody Maker, Harmony H22 bass, Vox Ultrasonic
1969 Gibson Melody Maker guitarHarmony H22 bassVox Ultrasonic guitar, with built-in effects
Home | Guitar Model Info | Catalogue Scans | Forum | Other Stuff | Search     









pick a brand

The majority of the instruments profiled on this site were produced by the brands to the left (click for more), although there is also some limited content on the following guitars and amps
Ampeg, Baldwin, Dan Armstrong, Futurama, G&L, Goya, Hayman, Ibanez, Marshall, Musicman, Ovation, Peavey, Rickenbacker, Selmer, Silvertone, Supro and Yamaha, WEM

Or try the site search

Trying to find the value of your guitar?

Vintage Gibson guitars

Gibson guitars, Gibson bass, Gibson amplifiers, Gibson catalogues

Gibson ES300
Late 1940s Gibson ES300
The Gibson plant at 225 Parsons Street, Kalamazoo, Michigan
The old Gibson plant at 225 Parsons Street, Kalamazoo, Michigan, now home of Heritage guitars
Gibson guitar information on this site is sorted into categories:
Gibson amplifiers
Gibson bass guitars
Gibson guitar catalogues
Gibson electric acoustic guitars
Gibson solid-body guitars
Gibson thinline guitars

Vintage Gibson

Vintage Gibson guitars are very special indeed, and they are held in very high regard by serious players and vintage guitar collectors alike. Especially the guitars made in the main Gibson plant, 225 Parsons Street, Kalamazoo, Michigan. The very best of these guitars were made in the 1950s and 1960s; often referred to as the CMI (Chicago Musical Instruments) period. These Gibsons are the epitomy of quality. The best guitars were hand-built. Tops were carved and tap-tuned, a job requiring great skill and experience, and the pieces were assembled and finished by skilled craftsmen, with incredible attention to detail. But even the entry-level Gibson guitars were a step above the majority of guitars available at the time; both in terms of workmanship and components.

But this was a time of big change in the guitar market. Gibson specialised in expensive electric acoustics; guitars like the L5-CES, ES-5, and ES-175, all large hollow-body guitars with superb clean tones for jazz soloing. Gibson endorsees were 'serious' musicians; often guitar virtuosos, in the jazz, pop or bluegrass genres. They would be accompanied by an upright bass, and a drummer using brushes. But the advent of rock 'n' roll changed everything. The necessary increase in volume rendered the jazz box obsolete and heralded the rise in popularity of the semi-acoustic and the solid-body.

Jack Bruce basses his sound on Gibson
Jack Bruce basses his sound on Gibson

Gibson rock guitars

In this time, and under the stewardship of Ted McCarty, Gibson introduced the majority of the iconic models that it is famous for today. The Les Paul in 1952, the ES335, Flying V and Explorer in 1958, the Melody Maker in 1959, the SG in 1961, and the Firebird in 1963. Despite being superb instruments, many of these were too far ahead of their time, and were commercial failures until re-issued years later. Only 98 Flying V guitars were shipped between 1958 and 1959, and only 22 Explorers. The low-production numbers of these models guarantees their desireability to vintage guitar collectors, and if offered for sale could fetch a five or six figure sum, depending on the state of the market.

Gibson went from strength to strength in the early 1960s, selling guitars quicker than they had time to build them. 1965 was their peak year, selling over 83000 instruments.

But by the late 1960s, the American guitar industry was in trouble. Companies were folding and changing hands, and Gibson was no exception. Norlin took charge in December 1969, and immediately introduced numerous new models.

Keith Richards with the Gibson Les Paul Custom, from the 1975 Gibson catalogue
Keith Richards with the Gibson Les Paul Custom, from the 1975 Gibson Les Paul catalogue

The Norlin period

This period is not held in as high regard as the earlier CMI period, and it is true, Gibson produced a lot of low-priced guitars at this time, but the finest instruments are every bit as good as older versions. Guitars like the Citation, L-5S, and Crest are as good as anything Gibson ever built. In 1974 Gibson opened a new plant in Nashville, and some guitar output was moved there. The Nashville plant, especially early on, was unable to compete in terms of quality with Kalamazoo, and some of the seventies bad reputation may have been due to this.

This is the decade Gibson moved away from mahogany, in favour of other woods. The archetypal Gibson solid body sound was rich and dark; it had been produced by Gibson humbuckers, a mahogany body and a glued in mahogany neck. But there was a recognition that a wider tonal range would be greatly appreciated by the guitar buying public. In the early 1970s, electronics wizard Bill Lawrence designed a number of new guitars for Gibson: the L-6S, Marauder, S-1, Grabber bass and Ripper bass; all used maple and or alder, and many were natural-finished giving a distinctly different look to preceding models. They were electronically experimental, using a number of different techniques to achieve greater tonal palettes, from very simple ideas like a moveable pickup, to more in depth multi-position varitone switches.

Gibson RD Standard bass
The Gibson RD Standard bass, circa 1978

The use of maple continued later in the decade, with the RD series; one of the last instruments to be made entirely at the Kalamazoo plant. But at this time, even necks on a lot of traditionally all-mahogany instruments went maple, for example 70s Les Pauls, SGs and 335s. The RD was a colaboration between Gibson and Moog; again an attempt to increase tonal range but this time by creating an active instrument with built-in Moog expansion and compression circuitry.

The Gibson Victory series was again all maple with state-of-the-art electronics, this time by Tim Shaw, but still aimed at expanding the range of sounds available from a Gibson. The guitars were designed at Kalamazoo, and a few early examples were built there, before production of this line moved to Nashville.

Finally in 1984 the Kalamazoo plant closed, and all electric guitar production moved to Nashville. In January 1986 Gibson was sold to it's current owners.



Latest site updates - Gibson

Other updates here

1982 Gibson Sonex-180 Deluxe
1982 Gibson Sonex-180 Deluxe (candy apple red finish) A closer look at a 1982 Gibson Sonex-180 Deluxe solid body electric, in Candy Apple Red finish. The Sonex series consisted of four models altogether, all made with the same 'multiphonic' bodies, but varying hardware. The bodies had a maple core, enclosed in a material called resonwood, for "extraordinary sustain and harmonic reproduction". The Deluxe was the most basic model with reasonable pickups and hardware, but they were good looking guitars, affordable, solid, and with the Gibson logo on the headstock.
1964 Gibson EB0
1964 Gibson EB0 bass (cherry finish) The EB series evolved throughout the period of production, with (mostly) minor hardware and construction changes occurring every couple years. 1964 basses are typified by their mix of early features: wide, but slightly shallower neck, non-intonatable bridge, 'small' control cavity cover and nickel-plated hardware; most obviously the pickup cover (previously black bakelite - compare with a 1962 EB0, later chrome-plated - see this 1966 EB0)
1972 Gibson EB0L
1972 Gibson EB0L bass (natural finish)A very unusual long scale 1972 Gibson EB0L practically all Gibson EB-0 bass guitars had a mahogany body with a translucent Cherry or Walnut finish. This bass has an alder body with natural finish, and somewhat different hardware, with more in common with an Gibson SB-450, rather than a typical seventies EB bass. Despite being built in 1972, this bass was most likely one of just 5 natural EB-0 basses shipped in 1973, according to the EB-O shipping stats.
1978 Gibson G-3
1978 Gibson G-3 bassThe Gibson G-3 bass was first shown to the public at the 1975 NAMM show, and was an immediate success; it remained in production throughout the 70s, with small numbers being shipped in 1982 and 1985. The three in G-3 is, of course, a reference to the three pickups and associated circuitry designed by Gibson employee Bill Lawrence. The vast majority of G-3s shipped had a Natural or Ebony finish, although small numbers had a Candy Apple Red, White, Walnut, Wine Red or Tobacco Sunburst as shown here. For more, see the G-3 production totals.
1972 Gibson showcase brochures
1972 Gibson showcase brochuresIn 1972 Gibson produced a series of 'Guitar of the Month' brochures, each dedicated to one of their high end models, the Les Paul Recording guitar, L5-CES, ES-175D, Super 400-CES, ES-355TD-SV and Byrdland. Each brochure was a single sheet folded into four panels, with details of the instruments themselves, their features, musical purpose, and a little history behind the development of each guitar. Only the Les Paul Recording was a new model; the others were all well established in the Gibson line. Follow the link to see scans and further information on these leaflets and other Gibson guitar catalogues from the CMI and Norlin periods.

Vintage Gibson guitars for sale

Back to the GIBSON INDEX | comment


US ebay listings

1968 Vintage Original Gibson Duo Medalist Amp

Current price: $450.00

Time left: 4d 23h 32m
Vintage Gibson G-10 20-Watt Solid State Guitar Combo Amplifier 1970's

Current price: $169.99
buy it now
Time left: 6d 23h 26m
VINTAGE GIBSON CHROME 4 WITCHAT KNOBS 1971 FR ES-335 LES PAUL STANDARD SG STD

Current price: $99.95
buy it now
Time left: 4d 23h 5m
Vintage 1969 Gibson B-25 Acoustic Guitar with Cherry Sunburst finish

Current price: $1250.00
buy it now
Time left: 6d 22h 54m
Vintage RARE 1973 GIBSON L-5CES Owners Manual Case Candy Hang Tag, ex. cond.

Current price: $44.00
buy it now
Time left: 6d 21h 54m
1969 Gibson Epiphone Custom ES-335 Archtop Electric Guitar grlc1106

Current price: $2795.00
buy it now
Time left: 29d 20h 49m
1966 Red Kalamazoo KG-2A electric solid 6-string guitar, made by Gibson

Current price: $450.00
buy it now
Time left: 29d 20h 32m
1973 Vintage Gibson EB-3 Bass Pots Caps 4 way Rotary Switch 0226PT2

Current price: $289.00
buy it now
Time left: 29d 20h 10m
See more results on eBay here


UK ebay listings

Gibson Dove 1967 dreadnought acoustic

Current price: £1995.00
buy it now
Time left: 1d 12h 42m
1972 GIBSON LES PAUL TRIUMPH

Current price: £1995.00
buy it now
Time left: 14d 19h 52m
1966 GIBSON EB2C - CHERRY RED

Current price: £1995.00
buy it now
Time left: 14d 19h 54m
Gibson Hummingbird Acoustic Guitar - Natural (1967)

Current price: £1947.16
buy it now
Time left: 19d 14h 48m
Vintage Original 1967 Gibson J-45 Acoustic Guitar Sunburst Clean Sounds Great!!

Current price: £1946.52
buy it now
Time left: 16d 15h 22m
1967 Gibson B-45-12 (#GIA0330)

Current price: £1943.92
buy it now
Time left: 10d 19h 47m
Vintage Original 1968 Gibson J-50 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar Clean Condition!!

Current price: £1943.92
buy it now
Time left: 16d 15h 22m
1968 Gibson B-25 Rare Cherry Red finish (#GIA0546)

Current price: £1943.92
buy it now
Time left: 29d 18h 16m
See more results on eBay here

There are 3 comments on this article so far. Add your comment
joe chaisson Comment left 3rd March 2012 09:09:59
i have a 1980 les paul gold top standard and i would like to know what it would be worth?
Lio Comment left 8th November 2013 09:09:16
I have a old Gibson L 3. The lable inside is not very clear but I think it has patented Feb 1st March 30, '06 also number 535/??. It was made in Kalamasoo Mich. The body is in perfect condition with all original parts. The turtle hand guard is so brittle and falling apart is the only part that is not good. The rest of the guitar has no scratch or wear. It has its original hard case in great condition. Just wondering about the price. I want to sell it. This was a gift I received from my late father-in-law. five years ago. I certainly need the money so I am trying to sell it. I will greatly appreciate your help. Thanks.
Jamie Moore Comment left 10th February 2014 05:05:32
This is great BUT no mention of Gibson Howard Roberts Custom. Would you have any info about how much one is worth or where to find out how much it's worth? Single pick-up, oval sound hole, great condition circa 1975 with Gibson hard shell case. Can you help??

Comment on this article

All comments are moderated. Name and email details are required.

Name
Email address
Your comments

Anti-spam question - to catch web robots

How many legs does a cat have?