Dating a Gibson Flat Top

February 28, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Posted in Guitars, Music Instruments | Leave a comment
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Gibson guitars have an unsurpassed charm. Different shapes, sizes, and prices made them available for everyone. Gibson intentionally placed musicians and luthiers as decision makers in the company’s production lines. Companies that make instruments for a long time find as they overlook their history that the instruments in some way reflect the social and political events of the era. Many guitars have their sound improve with age. Understanding how to date a vintage guitar helps one find that special one that has a sound that speaks to your soul.

Flat top

Flat tops were made 1930s to 1950s. Depending on how the inside of the body of the guitar is braced affects the sound but also made the guitars collectible. When looking through the sound hole of a guitar, the bracing becomes apparent. Two major types exist: ladder bracing and X bracing with an occasional H bracing appearing in some models. Inexpensive Gibson models used ladder bracing and are not considered collectibles. When deciding to purchase vintage flat top check the bracing first to see if you can get your money’s worth.

L-0 Flat top

These Gibson guitars made the markets from 1926 to 1942. Because of the light construction many of the guitars sounded great but could not take the daily wear and tear of a guitar put through the paces. Few survived the grind. Width was 13.5 inches with spruce or mahogany tops. Models had dot inlays on the fingerboards while later models and three on the strip tuners sometimes with the Gibson logos placed on them.

L-1 Flat top

Made from 1926 to 1937, the guitars often had little larger body width as wide as 14.75 inches.  Fingerboards were often rosewood as was their bridges. By the 1930’s models the bridges became rectangular, and the fingerboards became unbounded. In 1932, the sprayed sunburst design appeared to offer a nice contrast to the mahogany back, and sides.

L-00 Flat top

The improvements in this series of guitars made it collectible. Marketed from 1932 to 1945 the bigger 14.75 inch body, “v” shaped neck and 3-on-a-plate back strip tuners along with the tapered peg head got noticed. The sunburst design became prominent. A banner added in the year 1943 saying “Only a Gibson is Good Enough” added a nice touch after such a successful series.

L-2 Flat top

Some of the 1929 to 1934 models became collectibles as well. Many of these guitars changed to the Nick Lucas body style which had a trapeze tailpiece. Pricing due to the frequent use of rose wood increased on this design line. Bridges became adjustable and longer.

Nick Lucas Flat top

A maple back with a sweet sound Gibson created a guitar many loved to play. Marketed from 1928 to 1941 distinctive features of 2 multi-ply sound hole rings, pyramid rose bridges, fleur-de-lis inlay, and changed sound hole perfing gave an eye catching look. Nick Lucas guitars did have serial numbers but to insure an “A” level collectible date the guitar by specs.

All these models have a similar look so when buying a vintage guitar investigate the details thoroughly. The ratings for a collectible guitar are based on market dynamics, specific features, and quality of sound. Do your homework, play the guitar and admire the great craftsmanship.

Joseph Sedillo is a music blogger who shares his thoughts and playlists with anyone that will listen. He’s a big fan of Gibson guitars from Music Junkie.


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