1976 Gibson L-6S Custom, 1978 Guild B302F bass, 1967 Fender Coronado guitar
1976 Gibson L-6S Custom1978 Guild B-302F1967 Fender Coronado
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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 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 had been produced by Gibson humbuckers, a mahogany body and a glued in mahogany neck. 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. The use of maple continued later in the decade with the RD and Victory series. But even necks on a lot of traditionally all-mahogany instruments went maple: 70s Les Pauls, SGs and 335s often have maple necks.

One of the last series of instruments to be made entirely at the Kalamazoo plant was the RD series. This was a colaboration between Gibson and Moog, to create an active instrument with built-in Moog electronics.

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

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



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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

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US ebay listings

Gibson 1972 Walnut EB 3 Bass Body & Neck

Current price: $130.00
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Time left: 2d 5h 8m
1959 GIBSON ES-330 VINTAGE SEMI HOLLOWBODY ACOUSTIC ELECTRIC GUITAR ES330 ES-335

Current price: $4146.00
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Time left: 3d 6h 11m
1957 Gibson ES-175D Vintage Player Archtop Jazz Guitar ES175d bigsby w HSC E64

Current price: $1575.01
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Time left: 3d 5h 41m
1962 GIBSON COUNTRY WESTERN MODEL ACOUSTIC GUITAR 6 STRING GIBSON VINTAGE GUITAR

Current price: $820.00
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Time left: 4d 20h 4m
ORIGINAL 1959/1960 GIBSON GA-18 TUBE AMP AMPLIFIER JENSEN SPEAKER

Current price: $204.50
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Time left: 3d 5h 56m
Gibson SG old vintage 1970's Guitar w/ relic case & extra bridge Fender stuff

Current price: $307.99
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Time left: 2d 6h 2m
BEAUTIFUL RARE Vintage original 1957 Gibson ES-225 TN natural ES-330 type + OHSC

Current price: $1563.64
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Time left: 2d 23h 48m
Vintage 1973 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe Sunburst Guitar

Current price: $1111.00
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Time left: 5d 6h 24m
ULTRA RARE Factory BLACK Vintage original 1968 Gibson ES-335 TDV +OHSC STUNNING!

Current price: $4174.36
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Time left: 3d 2m
1961 Gibson Melody Maker Vintage Player Electric Guitar w faux alligator case

Current price: $413.00
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Time left: 3d 5h 42m
See more results on eBay here


UK ebay listings

1959 GIBSON ES-330 VINTAGE SEMI HOLLOWBODY ACOUSTIC ELECTRIC GUITAR ES330 ES-335

Current price: £2731.32
buy it now
Time left: 3d 6h 11m
BEAUTIFUL RARE Vintage original 1957 Gibson ES-225 TN natural ES-330 type + OHSC

Current price: £1030.10
buy it now
Time left: 2d 23h 48m
ULTRA RARE Factory BLACK Vintage original 1968 Gibson ES-335 TDV +OHSC STUNNING!

Current price: £2750.00
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Time left: 3d 2m
Gibson les paul junior 1962, Not A Reissue

Current price: £750.00
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Time left: 1d 17h 4m
Gibson B25 12 String 1966

Current price: £390.00
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Time left: 3d 21h 51m
1960's Jedson Bass guitar project Gibson sg type

Current price: £16.00
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Time left: 2d 23h 12m
Vintage retro 1960 - 1970s Kay-2 sg electric guitar Teisco Japan Gibson Ibanez

Current price: £40.00
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Time left: 9d 13h 17m
Gibson ABR Bridge - Original 1970's Pat Number 2740313

Current price: £50.00
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Time left: 4d 19h 38m
Vintage Gibson SG Custom with 3 Paf's 1961/2

Current price: £8000.00
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Time left: 3d 3h 30m
Gibson SG Junior 1965

Current price: £999.00
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Time left: 4d 16h 23m
See more results on eBay here


German ebay listings

Gibson LG-0, 1968, Vintage Guitar, einstellbarer Steg

Current price: €445.44
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Time left: 2d 22h 3m
GIBSON EB-2D 1968

Current price: €1717.00
buy it now
Time left: 1d 21h 47m
GIBSON SG 200 SINGELCOIL 1972

Current price: €337.00
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Time left: 4d 14h 59m
Gibson ABR Bridge Pat.nr 1968-72

Current price: €4.50
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Time left: 3d 20h 57m
Gibson SG Lefthand mit Bigsby Baujahr 1973 Vintage

Current price: €3500.00
buy it now
Time left: 2d 3h 42m
Vintage 1958 Gibson Kluson Deluxe Tuners Les Paul Burst ES-335 PAF

Current price: €620.00
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Time left: 6d 23h 48m
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?
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??
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.

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