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Vintage Gibson guitars
Gibson guitar, 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 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

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

Vintage Gibson guitars for sale

Back to the GIBSON INDEX | comment

US ebay listings

Vintage 1965 Red Gibson Melody Maker HSC

Current price: $995.00
buy it now
Time left: 29d 12h 27m
Vintage 1965 Gibson SG Custom All Original

Current price: $6350.00
buy it now
Time left: 1h 29m
1964 Gibson J-45 ***Professional Neck Repair***

Current price: $1599.00
buy it now
Time left: 29d 5h 47m
Gibson - 1965 C-0 Classic guitar, right handed, six string

Current price: $400.00

Time left: 2h 57m
Vintage 1960's Gibson Maestro Vibrola tailpiece- Lefty, as is.

Current price: $50.00
buy it now
Time left: 29d 6h 54m
Early 1965 Gibson J-45 w/ Fixed Saddle Insert - No Reserve

Current price: $1325.00
buy it now
Time left: 3h 38m
1964 Epiphone Caballero Gibson LGO

Current price: $499.00
buy it now
Time left: 7h 47m
2013 Gibson Custom Shop Historic Featherweight Wildwood Spec 1958 Les Paul VOS

Current price: $2700.00

Time left: 3h 41m
See more results on eBay here

UK ebay listings


Current price: £2548.16
buy it now
Time left: 16d 23h 45m
1963 Gibson ES 120T Guitar

Current price: £950.00
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Time left: 2h 8m
2001 Gibson Les Paul Classic Vintage Burst 1960

Current price: £892.96
buy it now
Time left: 15d 6h 53m
VERY NICE 100% original vintage 1964 Gibson SG Junior No Breaks Cherry Red NoRes

Current price: £1100.00
buy it now
Time left: 4h 8m
Vintage Gibson Guitar Orange Label "Union Made" 1964 -1969

Current price: £9.57
buy it now
Time left: 5d 21h 26m
1962 Gibson es 330

Current price: £2000.00
buy it now
Time left: 12d 4h 31m
Gibson Custom Memphis 1959 ES-330 TD - Vintage Cherry, VOS - MINT

Current price: £1339.46
buy it now
Time left: 10h 33m
1960s Gibson J45 Ebony Special Edition custom complete with hard case

Current price: £1249.99
buy it now
Time left: 9d 9h 54m
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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