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Gibson Vintage Collectable Guitars


Gibson solid body guitars made from 1952 to 1960 are considered the most collectable guitars ever made and can be worth a lot of money. They were made in the main Gibson plant, 225 Parsons Street, Kalamazoo (Michigan) under the "CMI era" (Chicago Musical Instruments). These Gibsons are the epitome 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. Most prized ones are the Les Paul Standard with "burst" color (one of them can cost more than $300.000) along with the Korina Flying V and Explorer. The reasons are two: first because producted in limited quantities (only 1712 pieces during 1958-1959-1960 for Les Paul Standard, only 98 Flying V Korina during 1958-1959 and only 22 Explorer during 1958-1959) and second because after 1960 Gibson stopped his production to promote the new model with double cut (called "SG"). Les Paul Custom model from that years are very well prized and collectable also. All other models from the 50's are good for collectors and they can be purchased at an acceptable price.


By a click on years you can see detailed description or pics of the model available.
[...] = available finish

1952 - Gibson Les Paul [Gold top/Natural back] (1st year, 1st series with trapezoid bridge).
               This is the first ever solid body guitar made by Gibson.

1953 - Gibson Les Paul [Gold top/Natural back] (2nd series with warp around bridge)

1954 - Gibson Les Paul [Gold top/Natural back] (2nd series)
  - Gibson Les Paul Custom [Ebony] (1st year)
  - Gibson Les Paul Junior (1st year)
  - Gibson Les Paul TV (1st year)

1955 - Gibson Les Paul [Gold top/Natural back] (3rd series with tunematic bridge and stopbar)
  - Gibson Les Paul Custom [Ebony]
  - Gibson Les Paul Junior
  - Gibson Les Paul TV - Gibson Les Paul TV Special

1956 - Gibson Les Paul [Gold top/Natural back] (3rd series)
  - Gibson Les Paul Custom [Ebony]
  - Gibson Les Paul Junior - Gibson Les Paul Junior 3/4 scale (1st year)
  - Gibson Les Paul TV - Gibson Les Paul TV Special

1957 - Gibson Les Paul [Gold top/Natural back] (4th series with PAF pickups)
  - Gibson Les Paul Custom [Ebony]
  - Gibson Les Paul Junior - Gibson Les Paul Junior 3/4 scale
  - Gibson Les Paul TV - Gibson Les Paul TV Special

1958 - Gibson Les Paul Standard [Cherry Sunburst] (1st year)
  - Gibson Les Paul Custom [Ebony]
 - Gibson Flying V [Natural] (1st year)
  - Gibson Les Paul Junior - Gibson Les Paul Junior 3/4 scale
  - Gibson Les Paul TV - Gibson Les Paul TV Special

1959 - Gibson Les Paul Standard [Cherry Sunburst]
  - Gibson Les Paul Custom [Ebony]
 - Gibson Flying V [Natural]
  - Gibson Les Paul Junior - Gibson Les Paul Junior 3/4 scale
  - Gibson Les Paul TV - Gibson Les Paul TV Special - Gibson Les Paul TV Special 3/4 scale (1st year)
 - Gibson Melody Maker (1st year) - Gibson Melody Maker 3/4 scale (1st year)

1960 - Gibson Les Paul Standard [Cherry Sunburst] (last year...discontinued till 1976)
  - Gibson Les Paul Custom [Ebony] (last year...discontinued till 1968)
  - Gibson Les Paul Junior - Gibson Les Paul Junior 3/4 scale
  - Gibson Les Paul TV - Gibson Les Paul TV Special - Gibson Les Paul TV Special 3/4 scale
  - Gibson Melody Maker - Gibson Melody Maker 3/4 scale - Gibson Melody Maker D (2 pickups)
 - Gibson Les Paul (SG body style) [Cherry]

The sunburst 1958–1960 Les Paul was considered a failure, with low production and sales. For 1961, the Les Paul was redesigned into what is now known as the Gibson SG ("solid guitar") with doube cut shape (due to disapproval from Les Paul himself), and the classic shape was discontinued till 1968. Gibson SG of these years are well collectable and have an affordable price.

1961 - Gibson Les Paul (SG body style) [Cherry]
             - Gibson Melody Maker - Gibson Melody Maker 3/4 scale - Gibson Melody Maker D (2 pickups)

1962 - Gibson Les Paul (SG body style) [Cherry]
             - Gibson Melody Maker - Gibson Melody Maker 3/4 scale - Gibson Melody Maker D (2 pickups)
             - Gibson Explorer Korina [Natural]

1963 - Gibson Les Paul (SG body style) [Cherry]
             - Gibson Melody Maker - Gibson Melody Maker 3/4 scale - Gibson Melody Maker D (2 pickups)
             - Gibson Explorer Korina [Natural]

1964 - Gibson Melody Maker - Gibson Melody Maker 3/4 scale - Gibson Melody Maker D (2 pickups)

1965 - Gibson Melody Maker - Gibson Melody Maker 3/4 scale - Gibson Melody Maker D (2 pickups)

1966 - Gibson Melody Maker - Gibson Melody Maker 3/4 scale - Gibson Melody Maker D (2 pickups)

1967 - Gibson Melody Maker - Gibson Melody Maker 3/4 scale - Gibson Melody Maker D (2 pickups)
             - Gibson Les Paul Custom (SG) [White] $395 - Gibson Les Paul Standard (SG) [Cherry Red] $265
             - Gibson SG Special [Cherry Red, White] - Gibson SG Junior [Cherry Red] - Gibson (SG) Melody Maker
             - Gibson Firebird VII - Gibson Firebird V - Gibson Firebird III - Gibson Firebird I

From 1968, due to a great request from players, Gibson restart to produce the Les Paul classic shape. In 1969, Gibson's parent company CMI (Chicago Musical Instruments) was taken over by the conglomerate ECL.

Hereafter I will report only Les Paul series, Explorer and Flying V guitars!!!

1968 - Gibson Les Paul Standard [Gold top/Natural back] (P-90 pickups)
             - Gibson Les Paul Custom [Ebony]

1969 - Gibson Les Paul Standard [Gold top/Natural back] $425 (P-90 pickups)
             - Gibson Les Paul Personal [Walnut] $645
             - Gibson Les Paul Deluxe [Goldtop] (1st year?)
             - Gibson Les Paul Custom [Ebony] $575
             - Gibson Les Paul Jumbo [Natural] (Acoustic) $495
             - Gibson Les Paul Professional [Walnut] $485
             - Gibson Les Paul Bass [Walnut] $465
         

1970 - Gibson Les Paul Custom [Ebony]
             - Gibson Les Paul Deluxe [Gold] (1st year?)
             - Gibson Les Paul Professional [Walnut] - Gibson Les Paul Personal

1971 - Gibson Les Paul Standard [Gold top/Natural back] (P-90 pickups)
             - Gibson Les Paul Deluxe

1972 - Gibson Les Paul Standard [Gold top/Natural back] (P-90 pickups)
             - Gibson Les Paul Deluxe

1973 - Gibson Les Paul Standard [Gold top/Natural back] (P-90 pickups)
             - Gibson Les Paul Deluxe

1974 - Gibson Les Paul Standard [Wine Red, Ebony, Gold, Cherry Sunburst, Dark Sunburst, Natural]
             - Gibson Les Paul Deluxe

In 1974 Gibson became a subsidiary of Norlin Musical Instruments. The Factory move his solid body production from Kalamazoo (Michigan) to Nashville (Tennessee). Gibson produced during the "Norlin era" are units produced from 1970 through 1983. Guitars produced in this era are considered by many Gibson fans to be the worst guitars Gibson ever made, but in my opinion this is NOT TRUE for Les Paul solid body! The changes to construction were generally made to maximize the number of instruments that could be made from a given amount of wood, and to reduce warranty repairs. An example of a bad change can be when they began putting double X bracing on acoustic flat tops, which not only halted returns due to instruments' tops bellying up from string tension, but reduced the Gibson tone to zero. On the solid body Les Paul a reinforced upper neck volute to decrease headstock breaks was added, and this, in my opinion, can be increase the mass of wood for perhaps strength and sustain as well! Neck woods were changed from one-piece mahogany to a three-piece maple design. The body was also changed from one-piece mahogany with a maple top to multiple slabs of mahogany with multiple pieced maple tops. This is referred to as "multipiece" construction, and sometimes incorrectly referred to as a "pancake" body. The expression "pancake body" actually refers to a body made of a thin layer of maple sandwiched between two slabs of mahogany, with a maple cap. The grain of the maple was placed at 90 degrees to that of the mahogany. The "pancake"-like layers are clearly visible when looking at the edge of the guitar. This process is also known as "crossbanding", and was done to make use of less expensive and more readily available thinner mahogany. Crossbanding was phased out by 1977.
In 1976 they begin again to produce the Les Paul Standard with some changes: pickup cavity shielding, the crossover of the ABR1 Tune-o-matic bridge into the wide "Nashville" bridge, optional maple fingerboards.

1975 - Gibson Les Paul Standard [Wine Red, Ebony, Gold, Cherry Sunburst, Dark Sunburst, Natural]
             - Gibson Les Paul Deluxe
             - Explorer Reissue [Black, Natural, White] (1st year)

1976 - Gibson Les Paul Standard [Wine Red, Ebony, Gold, Cherry Sunburst, Dark Sunburst, Natural]
             - Gibson Les Paul Deluxe
            - Gibson Les Paul Artisan [Ebony, Tobacco Sunburst, Walnut]
             - Explorer Reissue [Black, Natural, White]

1977 - Gibson Les Paul Standard [Wine Red, Ebony, Gold, Cherry Sunburst, Dark Sunburst, Natural]
             - Gibson Les Paul Deluxe
           - Gibson Les Paul Artisan [Ebony, Tobacco Sunburst, Walnut]            
            - Explorer Reissue [Black, Natural, White]

1978 - LES PAUL SERIES IN 1978:
             - The Les Paul [Natural, Wine Red] $3000
            - Gibson Les Paul Artisan [Ebony, Tobacco Sunburst, Walnut] $1039
             - Gibson Les Paul Custom 3-Pickup [Ebony, Natulal, Wine Red] $949
             - Gibson Les Paul Custom w/maple fingerboard [Ebony, Natural] $879
             - Gibson Les Paul Custom [Ebony, Wine Red, Tobacco Sunburst, Cherry Sunburst, Natural, White] $849
             - Gibson Les Paul Custom / Nickel parts [Ebony, Wine Red, Silverburst, Cherry Sunburst] $799
             - Gibson Les Paul Recording [Ebony, White, Walnut, C [Wine Red, Ebony, Gold, Cherry Sunburst, Dark Sunburst, Natural]herry Sunburst] $799
             - Gibson Les Paul Pro-Deluxe [Ebony, Gold, Tobacco Sunburst] $789
             - Gibson Les Paul Standard [Wine Red, Ebony, Gold, Cherry Sunburst, Dark Sunburst, Natural] $749
             - Gibson Les Paul Deluxe [Wine Red, Ebony, Gold, Cherry Sunburst, Tobacco Sunburst, Natural] $699
             - Gibson Les Paul 55 [Dark Sunburst, Wine Red] $619
             - Gibson Les Paul Special Double Cutaway [Dark Sunburst, Ebony, Wine Red] $619
             - fiberglass "protector case" ($109,50 purchased individually, $99.50 purchased together with a guitar)
            - Gibson CUSTOM ORDER '59 REISSUE LES PAUL
             - Explorer Reissue [Black, Natural, White]

1979 - Les Paul Series same as in 1978
            - Gibson Les Paul Artisan [Ebony, Tobacco Sunburst, Walnut]
            - Gibson Les Paul Artist [Sunburst]
            - Gibson CUSTOM ORDER '59 REISSUE LES PAUL
            - Gibson Les Paul KALAMAZOO [Antique Sunburst, Cherry Sunburst, Natural] (1979 only)
             - Explorer Reissue [Black, Natural, White]
             - Gibson Explorer II (E2) [Natural] (1st year)

1980 - Gibson Les Paul Standard
            - Gibson Les Paul Artisan [Ebony, Tobacco Sunburst, Walnut]
            - Gibson Les Paul Artist [Sunburst]
             - Gibson Les Paul Deluxe
            - Gibson Les Paul Pro-Deluxe
             - Explorer Reissue [Black, Natural, White]
             - Gibson Explorer II (E2) [Natural]

1981 - Gibson Les Paul Standard
            - Gibson Les Paul Artisan [Ebony, Tobacco Sunburst, Walnut]
            - Gibson Les Paul Artist [Sunburst]       
             - Gibson Les Paul Deluxe
            - Gibson Les Paul Pro-Deluxe
            - Gibson Explorer II (E2) [Natural]
             - Gibson Explorer (I) [Black. White]

1982 - Gibson Les Paul Standard
            - Gibson Les Paul Artisan [Ebony, Tobacco Sunburst, Walnut]
             - Gibson Les Paul Deluxe
            - Gibson Les Paul Pro-Deluxe
             - Gibson Explorer II (E2) [Natural]
             - Gibson Explorer (I) [Black. White]

1983 - Gibson Les Paul Standard
            - Les Paul Studio model was added (without bindings on body), still in production.
             - Gibson Les Paul Deluxe
             - Gibson Explorer II (E2) [Natural]
             - Gibson Explorer (I) [Black. White]

1984 - Gibson Les Paul Standard
             - Gibson Les Paul Deluxe
            - Gibson Explorer II (E2) [Natural]
             - Gibson Explorer (I) [Black. White]
             - Gibson Explorer CMT [maple top] (1984 only)
             - Gibson Explorer III [Natural]

1985 - Gibson Les Paul Standard
             - Gibson Les Paul Deluxe
             - Gibson Les Paul 1959 reissue [Flametop] (1985 only) (Gibson's first authorized 1959 Les Paul reissue)
             - Gibson Explorer (I) [Black. White]
             - Gibson Explorer with Black Hardware (1985 only)
             - Gibson Explorer III [Natural]
             - Gibson Explorer III with black hardware [Natural] (1985 only)
             - Gibson Explorer XLP Custom [Natural]

In January 1986 Gibson company was acquired by its present owners. Thus began the "post Norlin era" and began also the manufacturing of a range of varied Les Paul models. The 1980s also saw the end to several design characteristics, including the volute and maple neck. In 1986, to respond to the high demand for vintage models, Gibson formed a Custom Shop division. Originally, the Custom Shop began producing accurate reproductions of early Les Pauls, as well as one-offs. Today, the Custom Shop produces numerous limited-run "historic-spec" models, as well as signature artist models. The first Custom Shop artist guitar was the 1996 Joe Perry Les Paul, and today, several artist models are offered "reliced" or "aged" models are made in the Custom Shop to replicate vintage models that have seen much use.

1986 - Gibson Les Paul Standard
             - Gibson Explorer (I) [Black. White]
             - Gibson Explorer 425 [Natural] (1986 only)
             - Gibson Explorer XLP Custom [Natural]

1987 - Gibson Les Paul Standard
1988 - Gibson Les Paul Standard
1989 - Gibson Les Paul Standard

One of the most famous lover of the 80's guitars is Slash. Slash's first two guitars are "factory second" that Gibson sent him in 1987 and he loves to use them also today. Theese guitars are very heavy, about 5Kg, but in Slash opinion they have a great sustain and they are how he like.

From 1990, in my opinion, they are not to be considered "vintage collectible guitars", obviously this will be destined to change in the future. I leave the research of the following years to who will come after me. For the following years I can only suggest to collect "limited edition", "artist series", "Collector's choice" line, etc.


GIBSON SHIPPING TOTALS FROM 1952 TO 1979
PAY ATTENTION: shipped does NOT mean made! Sometimes they made guitars in a year and ship the year after!
For example in 1976 only 24 les paul standard were registered as shipped out of factory, but I see a lot more of them, so I think we have to consider 610 in total during 1976/1977.

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