Jump to content
Gibson Brands Forums

1941 Gibson J-55


JeepNerd
 Share

Recommended Posts

My wife’s family had an old guitar in the closet that has been passed around for a couple of generations now and they mentioned it at the funeral last week that the action was way too high to play and I told them my dad could look at lowering it for them. Dad has been working on guitars the last couple of years as a hobby and has bought and repaired dozens of guitars now.

 

However when I got to researching this, we knew it was a 1940s Gibson, I figured out this was a 1941 J-55 based on the serial number and information found online. 5285G (with a 4 in red it appears afterwards) You should be able to see the pictures below if this all works right.

 

This has been sitting in various closets, not being played for decades now, the bridge had been replaced with something way too high and the action is nearly a quarter inch high on the lower frets. Lots of patina, the pick guard curled and chipped, etc. they just did not think much about it being worth anything.

 

Once we figured out the rarity of this model and the fact that most collectors will want to do any work themselves, we did NOT touch anything except to take pictures and loosen the strings and put it back in the case. (Not sure if original but vintage Gibson hard case too.)

 

I am attaching here a couple quick pictures. The family may want to get a formal appraisal, but thought I would post it up here and start to gauge interest in this model. It does not appear that these J-55s come up very often and so the prices vary pretty wildly. The family may even decide to keep it, but I told them I would get as much information for them as possible to help make those decisions.

 

I look forward to hearing back from the crew here in what you think about this find!?

 

Sam

 

U3OydERl.jpg

jpZNQeml.jpg

ZnGzuTGl.jpg

77VjQpzl.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very nice find JeepNerd. I think you've dated and identified this guitar correctly which is no easy task. The case is not original to the guitar but appears to be a Gibson J sized case from the 1950s. The guitar has potential to be a very fine instrument. I'd be interested in buying it whenever they get around to selling it. Would you ask them to contact me through my website when they decide to sell? There's a link in my signature.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

First, let me say you can trust John, (tvguit).

 

Second, that's a neat guitar. I like the way you can see the outline of the original Bat Wing bridge.

 

I have a 1939 J55. The 1939 models were unique in that they had the stair step headstock and the mustache bridge. It was also the year the fewest were made, only 55. I say this to help you with a ballpark idea of value. Mine has been refinished at some time in its life, but otherwise is original. Some people say that kills half the price. Having said that, this one was appraised a while ago by Mandolin Bros at between $7K and $10k. I bought it from a private individual for more than 7, but a lot less than 10. It plays and sounds great. I just came home from three hours of jamming with it.

 

That guitar deserves to be saved. Obviously there is going to be $$ involved in getting back to playable condition with the correct bridge and that should be done by an expert. How much work it needs will affect the price you can get.

 

Thanks for bringing that out to the light of day. Good luck and let us know what you end up doing.

 

Rich

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks again for the posts and confirmation!! I was wondering if anyone knows of a source of those batwing bridges? Either new/old stock, or reproduction versions? Just having that would go a long way imho to making this more collectible, and then you would not see the "outline" on the face, it would all match again. Not to mention the action should be back close to stock.

 

At some point we will tune it up again and play it a bit, maybe recording that and posting on Youtube so you can hear the tone, etc. Really sounds nice.

 

Is there any specific set of strings that we should consider buying and putting on there to play with? (Should I leave on the "vintage" strings..don't want to mess something up if that is part of the valuation...)

 

Sam

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Those bridges are not common enough to have a good reproduction source unfortunately. There are plenty of luthiers out there that will make you one but I suggest not doing so. I am happy with only about 1% of replaced bridge that I've ever seen. It's a very difficult job to do correctly. So often it's done incorrectly which causes irreparable damage to the guitar and renders it much less valuable (sometimes half).

 

It's your guitar and you are free to do with it whatever you like. However, in my opinion it should be left alone without any restring. There are so many potential structural problems with the guitar that require a very skilled eye to detect. String tension on a guitar with loose braces can cause such severe top distortion that it cannot be fixed. String tension on a guitar with a failed bridge plate can cause the strings to pull through the top leaving behind a large hole. Etc, etc.

 

These suggestions are meant to help and not to scare you away from the guitar. They guitar is more valuable in as is condition as opposed to having been repaired by someone not well qualified to do the job. It's already had one unqualified bridge replacement so there's no reason to make it two.

 

Maybe you could post some cell phone shots of the interior so we can see if it has had any prior repair? You can use a flashlight inside the body to help the camera focus.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

John's perspective is from knowledge, concern and experience, but I would at the very least carefully restring it one string at a time, with a lighter gauge like 11's or 12's and keep it tuned below standard. Be sure that the ball end of the strings are snug against the plate before you push in the pins. My old L00's stay at DGCFAD, two steps down anyway to coddle the structure and give me more singing keys. I'm more trusting of the craftsmen that do fine luthiery to properly assess, reproduce and replace a bridge like that. It'll take some research, cross referencing, and time...but who doesn't have time? The internet is your search genie.

 

I think Folkways is saying this J55 from '40 has a replaced bridge in the search. I typed in Gibson mustasche bridge replicas and it sent me to Folkways. Seeing the outline of a proper bridge underneath an incorrect one is something I would almost be obsessed to rectify.

 

 

 

 

http://www.folkwaymusic.com/oldmuseum/gibsongallery2.html

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll clarify my statement about the bridge: I think the bridge should be replaced properly but the decision of who does the repair would be better left up to the buyer. That way they will more likely get the result they desire.

 

Those pictures are a good start. The most important area is going to be the bridge plate directly under the bridge. See of you can take the old strings off and get a picture of that. Try to get a good shot of the inside of the back as well. There will be four horizontal braces that are prone to coming loose.

 

I can see a cracked top brace in your second picture. Look half way up on the left side of the picture.

p8DleJFl.jpg

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

They are talking it over now and trying to decide which direction to go in. Probably will get a professional appraisal for the first step and then decide if they want to restore it before selling or sell it as is and let the buyer do the work?

 

We had a recommendation on a restoration place down in Durham, NC, Hanson & Crawford. Best guess was $700-1000 for the cost.

 

That the value restored was likely $13-20k or so, less as is obviously.

 

Would love to get your thoughts, should we have it restored so we can get top dollar for it, or would we be better off to let the buyer use their own Luthier?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If the Hanson and Crawford shop is pushing period authenticity in the restoration, I would opine to let them handle it. It'll come back to you in all it's best playable magnificence, which should not only dazzle you, but will be hard to resist for a vintage picker at fair market value. Half the sell is in picking it up, playing in comfort and hearing it's best voice. Finding yourself haggling with a guy whose trying to convince you that repair costs and devaluation by renovation is tiring and I think, not a step in the process you'll enjoy or benefit from.

 

Of course, if that $700-1,000 is your food and gas money, you have something else at play.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

They are talking it over now and trying to decide which direction to go in. Probably will get a professional appraisal for the first step and then decide if they want to restore it before selling or sell it as is and let the buyer do the work?

 

We had a recommendation on a restoration place down in Durham, NC, Hanson & Crawford. Best guess was $700-1000 for the cost.

 

That the value restored was likely $13-20k or so, less as is obviously.

 

Would love to get your thoughts, should we have it restored so we can get top dollar for it, or would we be better off to let the buyer use their own Luthier?

 

I own a similar guitar, perhaps from the same batch. If I were you friends I would sell it as is. The guitar will not bring 20K restored, maybe 13K, as is maybe 10K. Understand selling a guitar like this is a pain even if you know guitars a real pain when you don't. Pay for an evaluation of the guitar. Have someone write up a description of the issues in and out, someone who knows vintage guitars. Depending on where the guitar is located finding that person can be difficult. Buyers spending this kind of money naturally want to know in detail what they are buying. The J55 was made in limited quantity and that helps, but there is a limit. Take an 8K offer as it sits and be done with it. I would not pay to have it restored in hopes of getting more money.

 

T.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

LET THE BUYER GET IT FIXED!!! i had a well known collector tell me yesterday about a guitar he was trying to buy but the owner insisted on getting it "fixed" first. sure enough - it came back butchered by the guy he sent it to. so, he didn't buy it/the owner no longer had a sale. for those of us with old instruments, we have our own guy(s) whom we trust. for this job, given it's a rare type/unique bridge replacement, you need someone who knows what they are doing and the buyer needs to trust that person.

 

sell it as is via consignment and your life will be easier and you'll get what it's worth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

LET THE BUYER GET IT FIXED!!! i had a well known collector tell me yesterday about a guitar he was trying to buy but the owner insisted on getting it "fixed" first. sure enough - it came back butchered by the guy he sent it to. so, he didn't buy it/the owner no longer had a sale. for those of us with old instruments, we have our own guy(s) whom we trust. for this job, given it's a rare type/unique bridge replacement, you need someone who knows what they are doing and the buyer needs to trust that person.

 

sell it as is via consignment and your life will be easier and you'll get what it's worth.

 

Yeah the family will get it appraised and then basically put it out there for sale as is. (Or consignment if a shop wants to get involved) It will be a beautiful guitar when done!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 weeks later...

Those bridges are not common enough to have a good reproduction source unfortunately. There are plenty of luthiers out there that will make you one but I suggest not doing so. I am happy with only about 1% of replaced bridge that I've ever seen. It's a very difficult job to do correctly. So often it's done incorrectly which causes irreparable damage to the guitar and renders it much less valuable (sometimes half).

 

Gibson are currently using that same style of batwing bridge on the current 1941 Gibson J-100 reissue.

 

http://www2.gibson.com/Products/Acoustic-Instruments/Super-Jumbo/Gibson-Acoustic/1941-SJ-100.aspx

 

Perhaps it might be worthwhile getting in touch with Gibson.

 

Steve.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 years later...

First, let me say you can trust John, (tvguit).

 

Second, that's a neat guitar. I like the way you can see the outline of the original Bat Wing bridge.

 

I have a 1939 J55. The 1939 models were unique in that they had the stair step headstock and the mustache bridge. It was also the year the fewest were made, only 55. I say this to help you with a ballpark idea of value. Mine has been refinished at some time in its life, but otherwise is original. Some people say that kills half the price. Having said that, this one was appraised a while ago by Mandolin Bros at between $7K and $10k. I bought it from a private individual for more than 7, but a lot less than 10. It plays and sounds great. I just came home from three hours of jamming with it.

 

That guitar deserves to be saved. Obviously there is going to be $$ involved in getting back to playable condition with the correct bridge and that should be done by an expert. How much work it needs will affect the price you can get.

 

Thanks for bringing that out to the light of day. Good luck and let us know what you end up doing.

 

Rich

Link to comment
Share on other sites

First, let me say you can trust John, (tvguit).

 

Second, that's a neat guitar. I like the way you can see the outline of the original Bat Wing bridge.

 

I have a 1939 J55. The 1939 models were unique in that they had the stair step headstock and the mustache bridge. It was also the year the fewest were made, only 55. I say this to help you with a ballpark idea of value. Mine has been refinished at some time in its life, but otherwise is original. Some people say that kills half the price. Having said that, this one was appraised a while ago by Mandolin Bros at between $7K and $10k. I bought it from a private individual for more than 7, but a lot less than 10. It plays and sounds great. I just came home from three hours of jamming with it.

 

That guitar deserves to be saved. Obviously there is going to be $$ involved in getting back to playable condition with the correct bridge and that should be done by an expert. How much work it needs will affect the price you can get.

 

Thanks for bringing that out to the light of day. Good luck and let us know what you end up doing.

 

Rich

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have a 1939 J55 as well, also refinished. Could it be the same guitar... FON starts with an F so my theory (since the F means it was shipped in 1940, but the guitar has the 1939 specs, including stair step headstock and mustache bridge) is that the guitar was built in late 1939 and shipped in early 1940.

 

Such great and rare guitars. It’s great to hear of this one being rescued.

 

Mark

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 years later...
  • 1 month later...

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...