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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

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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.
1966 Kalamazoo KB-1 bass
Kalamazoo KB-1 bass Gibson assembled these 30 1/2" scale Kalamazoo KB-1 basses in their electronics plant in Kalamazoo, MI - separate from the main Gibson plant. They used the same components and hardware as on the Gibson EB bass series; but with a pre-painted masonite body and a bolt-on maple neck; a very different construction to Gibson's usual output. Initially the KB bass had a Mustang-shaped body (see the 1966 Kalamazoo KB-1, left), which was soon redesigned with the classic SG shape (see the 1967 Kalamazoo KB-1, right). Have a listen to sound clips of this bass here.

Vintage Gibson guitars for sale

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US ebay listings

Gibson Burstbucker 1959 replica Humbucker

Current price: $49.99
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Time left: 5d 2h 59m
Gibson 1957 Les Paul Goldtop Reissue Custom Shop Electric Guitar

Current price: $2499.00

Time left: 2h 3m
1961 Gibson LGO LG0 LG-0 Guitar W/Case

Current price: $750.00
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Time left: 29d 11h 29m
Gibson Les Paul "Classic 1960"

Current price: $1175.00
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Time left: 3h 40m
1955 Gibson Les Paul Vintage Electric Guitar Goldtop

Current price: $34999.00
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Time left: 29d 3h 42m
2011 Gibson Les Paul R9 1959 Reissue Cherry Burst VOS - No Reserve

Current price: $3499.00
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Time left: 4h 40m
1962 Gibson LGO Acoustic Guitar Vintage Player 846654 Original LG 0

Current price: $825.00
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Time left: 26d 11h 5m
1969 Gibson ES 175D

Current price: $2750.00
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Time left: 7h 3m
2007 Gibson 1958 Les Paul Historic Electric Guitar Lemonburst

Current price: $2899.00
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Time left: 29d 2h 12m
Vintage (1968) Gibson Hawk Amp Reverb/Tremelo Foot-switch

Current price: $25.00
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Time left: 7h 42m
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UK ebay listings

Gibson SG Standard 1972 Walnut - Original Roadworn - Bigsby Removed - Excellent

Current price: £949.99
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Time left: 8d 31m
1957 replica gibson gold top with original american hardwear and hard case

Current price: £250.00
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Time left: 44m
Gibson 1968 SG Junior Vibrola P90

Current price: £1399.00
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Time left: 3d 1h 33m
Pair of 1972 Gibson guitar Catalogs

Current price: £6.08
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Time left: 25d 4h 41m
Gibson B-45 12 string acoustic guitar, 1965.

Current price: £850.00
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Time left: 1d 1h 27m
Epiphone korina flying v (gibson 1958 flying v reissue)

Current price: £142.00
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Time left: 3h 45m

Current price: £21.07
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Time left: 6d 12h 21m

Current price: £3895.00
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Time left: 4d 22h 37m
1959 Gibson Custom Shop VOS ES-330 Vintage Sunburst Electric Guitar KILLER AXE!

Current price: £1850.00
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Time left: 2h 46m

Current price: £25.55
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Time left: 27d 6h 26m
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German ebay listings

Rarit├Ąt! 1966 Gibson J-45 sunburst Vintage 100% original -top Zustand + Martin S

Current price: €2066.00
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Time left: 4h 56m
2010 Gibson Les Paul Custom 1957 Reissue Black Beauty inkl. OHSC, CoA, usw.

Current price: €3199.00
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Time left: 29d 20h
1972 `54 Gibson Les Paul Custom

Current price: €7999.00
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Time left: 29d 16m
GIBSON ES 120 1965

Current price: €500.00
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Time left: 2d 1h 31m
1961 Gibson Les Paul Junior - Cherry - Slab Body / Double Cutaway / PLAYER

Current price: €4590.00
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Time left: 29d 19h 10m
Gibson Les Paul Classic 1960 Reissue absolut Neuwertig

Current price: €1590.00
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Time left: 8d 4h 50m
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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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