1940s Gibson J-200 Image Heritage auctions
The Gibson J-200 was a large-body flat top 'super jumbo' acoustic guitar with a 17" wide body. It was a very fine instrument indeed, primarily available by custom order for guitarists that wanted the very best. It was launched in 1938, but only 96 guitars were shipped between then and 1941 when guitar production ceased in order to aid the war effort. Production started again in 1948, and from then the model saw continuous production. Because of its Super Jumbo size, it was sometimes given the model designation SJ-200, rather than J-200, but there is little consistency in this, and price lists (even in the 1950s when most sources suggest 'SJ' was more commonly used) tend to use J-200. As a hugely expensive custom order instrument (at least for much of its period of production), it never sold in huge numbers; the peak year was 1974 with 572 J-200s shipped: 266 Sunburst J-200s and 305 Natural J-200Ns.
Like any guitar with such a long production run, there were numerous hardware and construction changes over the years, however the J-200 never lost its 17" body width.
From the 1966 Gibson catalog
Called "King of the flat top guitars" for its dramatic beauty, booming residence, and penetrating carrying power. Built with an extra large tone chamber and many exclusive design features. Beautiful appearance, flawless workmanship, outstanding performance.
Features: now has adjustable bridge with new inlay and gold Tune-O-Matic bridge saddle. Finest close-grained Spruce top with highly figured Curly Maple back and rims. Decorative black-and-white ivoroid binding, multiple inlaid purfling rings, and etched brown celluloid fingerrest. Slim, fast, low-action neck - laminated Curly Maple with adjustable truss rod. Bound rosewood fingerboard with large pearl inlays. Pearl-inlaid rosewood bridge. Gold-plated enclosed individual machine heads with metal tuning buttons. 17" wide, 21" long, 4 7/8" deep, 20 frets.
As implied above, the J-200 was an expensive guitar. In the February 1974 US Gibson price list (the peak year) it is listed at $710/$730 (Sunburst/ Natural). More expensive than the ES-175D ($600), ES-345TD ($665), Les Paul Custom ($645) and even the Les Paul Recording ($695). Through most of the 1960s it was the highest priced Gibson acoustic - although in the 1970s, a similar model with rosewood back an sides was priced slightly higher still, the J-250R.
According to Gibson shipping totals, 6913 J-200 / SJ-200 guitars shipped from the Gibson Kalamazoo plant between 1938 and 1979. No shipping data is available beyond this time.
The available shipping data for the Gibson J-200 between 1938 and 1979 is as follows:
Note the table above does not suggest Natural finished guitars prior to 1948. It may actually be that guitar shipping statistics were not separated by finish up to this point.
The published shipping data describes the model as SJ-200 between 1948 and 1960, and J-200 from then on. For simplicity (and because other Gibson 1950s Gibson literature simply uses J-200 for these guitars), we shall stick to J-200 here.
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