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1956 Gibson J200 with Tune O Matic???

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Looking for assistance regarding a recent purchase.

 

I have (or believe that I have) a 1956 Gibson J200. Both the label and the neck stamp confirm the date to be a middle production run of a 1956. The guitar appears to be accurate and original at every detail, including the Lufton case..... One catch, the guitar has a Tune O Matic bridge and that was not commercially available until 61!! Even the Tune O Matic is very different from anything else I have ever seen, as the moustache is open versus the typical 'closed' Tune O matic with pearl inlays. Also, the bridge pins are set at the back of the bridge versus centered between pearl inlays strips. Initially, I suspected that the ToM was added later, but the open moustache bridge appears to be the original bridge, yet specifically constructed to fit the ToM hardware. A couple of points to support this.... first, there are 2 additional dot inlays at each end of the swirl of the bridge. There is not 1 example I can find on any other j200 that has these added dot inlays. Second, the open swirl design has a shorter leg than your typical 56 bridge. The shorter leg (pointing towards the ToM adjustment screw) is shorter specifically to accommodate the positioning of the adjustment screw. This all suggests that the ToM and moustache bridge are all original and not simply a modification to the original bridge.

 

I Know Gibson spent much time trying to figure out how to secure the ToM bridge throughout its unfortunate history .....different positions, different bracing, etc...so perhaps this is an early prototype in their evolution process...I have found no other bridge configuration like this after looking at 100s of other J200s. curious for any other feedback or ideas.

Beau

post-82834-062468300 1480556273_thumb.jpg

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Welcome to the forums, Beau, and congrats on the J-200! I'm not too knowledgeable concerning flat-tops, but we have some members here who will no doubt be able to weigh in soon...

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That TOM bridge is the first I've seen on an unaltered '56 J-200. I do know that a lot of experiments were tried in the factory at around the '56-'57 time frame. At one time, I owned a ladder braced factory J-45, for example. According to a former Gibson employee, it was one of three he helped build as an experimental model at that time.

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Interesting. I have heard the same of Gibson in the late 50s. With a relatively small production run of each model (I think around 320 J200s in 1956, virtually every guitar was 'prototype' of some sort. I have also heard that post war production used parts from various years to create a complete instrument.

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Good picture. Any sign of a cross bar with the single adjuster? It was for top support .have you had the guitar viewed for originality?

 

Sure looks original from what i see.

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This guitar does not have the 'tone killing' cross brace typically found in the 61s and later. Everything is consistent with 1956 construction. The guitar has a bright and booming presence. One of the nicest playing J200s I have heard. George Gruhn has personally inspected this guitar and certifies that it is a 1956 instrument.

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Nice. 56 must of been a trial year. I have a 56 j50e natural. X brace. Basically a j160e. Oddities from the 50s.

 

Nice j200 you have.

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Page 109 in Gibson's Fabulous Flattops. Same guitar, 1956 J200 with a TOM bridge but with a P-90 pickup at the end of the fingerboard. Yours is just missing the pickup.

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Scan from the page. There is no further info in the text concerning this instrument, but it is in the section covering Gibson acoustics with factory pickups.

 

 

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Very interesting that you're J200 has the open front bridge. I just bought a custom shop Dove (2015 old stock) that has the dove model bridge, open at the front with the ToM installed. I have searched a lot and cant find the same example of that bridge. Every ToM I have seen on a dove and others is the closed type ? I am absolutely no expert and just bought my first 2 Gibson acoustics this month. My Dove has big booming sound also. Could this be a design that Gibson visited in the 50s, forgot about and then went back to it recently ? Mine is the only dove I could find with this setup period.

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Very interesting that you're J200 has the open front bridge. I just bought a custom shop Dove (2015 old stock) that has the dove model bridge, open at the front with the ToM installed. I have searched a lot and cant find the same example of that bridge. Every ToM I have seen on a dove and others is the closed type ? I am absolutely no expert and just bought my first 2 Gibson acoustics this month. My Dove has big booming sound also. Could this be a design thatpost-80395-038101900 1482973928_thumb.jpg Gibson visited in the 50s, forgot about and then went back to it recently ? Mine is the only dove I could find with this setup period.

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Wow! Very interesting. So yours shows the conventional ToM set up with the Pearl inlays. What is the neck stamp#? So does the neck stamp reflect a 1956?

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This guitar went back to gibson for warranty work in the early 60's. The original finish on the back is tobacco but Tom was replaced and top and sides were refinished Cherry SB. As you can see from previous pic that it was the same as yours before warranty work, notice the plugs in the pic. This one sounds pretty good but am probably gonna convert to regular saddle via bridge fill or replace. Because this is a frankenstein... all of the warrantee work I don't think that I would be detracting from the value... I think it would improve tone a lot... I have had the guitar for 20 years+... don't play it much... I was a luthier and used to work at gibson montana BTW... YOur thoughts??? I wouldn't touch yours if it were mine, but theoretically it would sound better with a bone saddle even though the break angle is not good on that bridge...

 

Thanks for helping me solve the mystery of these guitars... Pretty cool... Im in Denver BTW

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