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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

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US ebay listings

Vintage 1957 Gibson ES 350 T Bigbsy 48" Guitar Case w/Badge Housed SN A25795

Current price: $140.00
buy it now
Time left: 6d 19h 10m
CMI tube amplifier, guitar amp. Combo amp. Gibson. SG-410 SG Systems 1970's 8417

Current price: $85.14
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Time left: 5h 2m
Vintage 1959 Gibson humbucker PAF PICKUP with HaRNESS, PoTs, and JaCK

Current price: $2400.00
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Time left: 7d 21h 35m
1966 1967 1968 1969 Gibson SG Jr Special Junior Standard guitar project

Current price: $372.77
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Time left: 6h 11m
Gibson ES-175 1963/64

Current price: $2199.00
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Time left: 29d 14h 47m
Gibson Les Paul Goldtop 1957 gloss reissue, 2014 model.

Current price: $3200.00
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Time left: 6h 19m

Current price: $349.00
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Time left: 28d 5h 7m
Gibson Ga-30 invader Tweed 1960 5Y3 Amp Amplifier Ga

Current price: $610.00
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Time left: 6h 33m
Vintage 1968 Gibson Hummingbird DOUBLE GUARD - MINT CONDITION 1964 1963 1965 66

Current price: $3500.00
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Time left: 13d 6h 44m
Vintage 1972 Gibson SG Deluxe Electric Guitar in Walnut and Cherry Finish

Current price: $676.66

Time left: 8h 27m
See more results on eBay here

UK ebay listings

Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop R9 1959 Burstbuckers #1 & #2 PAF Pickups

Current price: £139.00
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Time left: 22d 7h 41m
STUNNING 100% original Vintage c 1970 Gibson ES-335 335 + OHSC - 1p No RESERVE!!

Current price: £1270.00
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Time left: 1d 11h 26m
Vintage Gibson Guitar Orange Label Pre-Union Made 1956 -1964

Current price: £9.33
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Time left: 3d 14h 10m
1955 Gibson Les Paul Junior Guitar

Current price: £1240.52
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Time left: 26d 12h
Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul 1957 Junior Reissue Includes Gibson Hardcase

Current price: £1400.00
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Time left: 25d 5h 17m
Vintage 1969 Gibson SG Standard Killer Mojo Tone Machine!!

Current price: £1678.90
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Time left: 1d 14h 4m
Vintage 1972 Gibson Les Paul Custom Ebony Fingerboard Guitar grlc1405

Current price: £1737.97
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Time left: 5d 8h 19m

Current price: £777.27
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Time left: 29d 14h 14m
Gibson ES175D 1963 PAF ES175 175 175D

Current price: £3999.00
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Time left: 1d 2h 27m
1967 Gibson Hummingbird Sunburst acoustic guitar

Current price: £1333.79
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Time left: 7d 17h 11m
See more results on eBay here

German ebay listings

Gibson The New Golden Age of 1955 Korina Guitars Prospekt Selten

Current price: €1.00
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Time left: 11h 13m
Gibson - Paul Kossoff - 1959 Les Paul Standard VOS ! 2012 Custom Shop Signature

Current price: €5289.00
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Time left: 8d 9h 53m

Current price: €19.90
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Time left: 22d 14h 15m
1971 Gibson Les Paul Humbucker Pickup Set PATENT NO. 2.737.842

Current price: €450.00
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Time left: 25d 10h 17m
Gibson Les Paul Studio 1960´s Tribute Worn White P90

Current price: €326.00
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Time left: 1d 6h 56m

Current price: €39.50
buy it now
Time left: 27d 11h 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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