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1946 J-45 Script quest


Charlie99
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Hi, I’m searching for a 1946 J-45 Script, ideally in the U.K. but will consider overseas too. Why 1946 only?

 

1. Good sized neck (1-3/4” nut usually) with truss rod - but not as chunky as a Banner.

 

2. Cheaper than a Banner.

 

3. Script logo

 

4. Pre-1st March 1947 build date so can be legally imported into the EU (CITES regulations).

 

So that’s it! I would consider a good later ‘40s one (only if in the U.K. - I won’t risk smuggling a post 1 March 1947 one) but I really would like a 1-3:4” neck (not sure exactly when the 1-11/16” neck came in - 1957/8?)

 

All the late Forties ones I’ve heard sounded fantastic - but I suspect ‘50s ones can be as good too).

 

(I might just give up on this though and buy a nice new J-45 Standard though - these sound outstanding too - and they’re a lot more affordable than vintage guitars!)

 

If anyone can put me on the trail of one, that would be great!

 

Thanks in advance!

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The neck width in 1946 may well be 1 11/16", not 1 3/4". This one is tricky if it means that much to you. Note also that a lot of sellers may not appreciate the small difference, and may accidentally misrepresent a slightly narrower neck as being wider.

 

By 1948, the width at the nut on all I have looked at was definitely 1 11/16, not 1 3/4".

 

The pin spacing at the bridge may be equally important to some people. Sometime between the late 1930's and late 1940's, the typical Gibson flat top pin spacing went from 2 3/8"(60.325mm) down to 2 1/8" (54mm).

 

1946 models aren't necessarily that easy to find, depending on the condition you are looking for. I've been looking for a good 1946 SJ or J-45 for several years. I've seen some rough ones, but that's not what I'm looking for.

 

Proving the build date may not be that easy. We associate the script logo (no banner) with 1946, but it isn't clear exactly when the change-over took place, so be prepared to do some background if you are going to try to import into the EU or the UK.

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Thanks for the info. 1-3/4” ideally (and I understand some ‘46s are this size - though could also be misinformation) but 1-11/16” is fine. Frustratingly, I located a nice ‘46 for sale from a respected dealer in the U.K. from whom I’ve bought several vintage Martins in the past. I arranged to view it and he agreed to hold it but disappointingly emailed me a couple of days before the appointment saying it was no longer available. Apparently it was on consignment but the owner decided he wanted more than the dealer could charge and still make a 10% profit. I said I was prepared to pay the extra but no joy. Somethings just aren’t meant to be, I guess! The dealer has a nice ‘48 J-45 advertiser too - but that’s long sold (his website isn’t updated too often when things sell!) - otherwise I’d be looking at that.

 

If at all possible I’d like to buy in the U.K. - but as you say, these guitars are thin on the ground, and I’m not getting any younger so if a decent ‘46 came up overseas I’d certainly consider it.

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Thanks for the info. 1-3/4” ideally (and I understand some ‘46s are this size - though could also be misinformation) but 1-11/16” is fine. Frustratingly, I located a nice ‘46 for sale from a respected dealer in the U.K. from whom I’ve bought several vintage Martins in the past. I arranged to view it and he agreed to hold it but disappointingly emailed me a couple of days before the appointment saying it was no longer available. Apparently it was on consignment but the owner decided he wanted more than the dealer could charge and still make a 10% profit. I said I was prepared to pay the extra but no joy. Somethings just aren’t meant to be, I guess! The dealer has a nice ‘48 J-45 advertiser too - but that’s long sold (his website isn’t updated too often when things sell!) - otherwise I’d be looking at that.

 

If at all possible I’d like to buy in the U.K. - but as you say, these guitars are thin on the ground, and I’m not getting any younger so if a decent ‘46 came up overseas I’d certainly consider it.

 

 

Have a word with Glenn of glennsguitars.co.uk

Not saying he has one , but he also offers a finding service

 

Is a good guy

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As you will not find an FON on a 1946 - 1947 Gibson there is no way you will be able to determine the year it was built. I owned a 1946 LG-2 which did have the 1 3/4" nut. But I do not have a clue whether the switch to the narrower nut took place late in that year or early in the next.

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As you will not find an FON on a 1946 - 1947 Gibson there is no way you will be able to determine the year it was built. I owned a 1946 LG-2 which did have the 1 3/4" nut. But I do not have a clue whether the switch to the narrower nut took place late in that year or early in the next.

 

 

1946 appears to be unique in both the script logo without banner, and the absence of an FON. That should make them fairly easy to identify by year, although when during the year a particular guitar was made may be impossible to determine.

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1946 appears to be unique in both the script logo without banner, and the absence of an FON. That should make them fairly easy to identify by year, although when during the year a particular guitar was made may be impossible to determine.

 

1947 Gibsons also generally did not have an FON. I had a '47 LG-2 (block letter logo and 1 11/16" nut) in the house for a bit that did not have one. I believe the FON did not return consistently until 1948. As is usual with Gibson though it is tough to pinpoint exactly when specs changed. Again, it is not like Gibson went to a block letter logo and narrower nut at the stroke of midnight on January 1, 1947. As soon as you think you have it figured out they throw you a ringer. Part of their charm.

 

If you had a receipt from a reputable dealer which dated the guitar the OP would probably be OK. He could also have Gruhn do one of his photo appraisals and go on record saying the specs say 1946. But for some funny reason I would prefer to avoid having to argue guitar specs with a customs official.

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Just to clarify, the spec posted initially would be exactly what I’m looking for, my ideal J-45. This matches that of the one which was being held for me by the dealer in the U.K. (but which unfortunately became unavailable shortly before my visit - would have just bought it unseen had I known what I know now!) If I need to pay a visit to the US to pick one up, then this would be the spec I’m looking for. It would have to be ‘46 as later than that and I couldn’t import it. Proving it’s ‘46 would be difficult - which is why this is not my preferred option. My understanding is that Script non-Banner J-45s are all 1946 - though I don’t suppose anyone knows for sure whether some might have been made in 1947, or whether any were made after March 1st. Might have some difficulty convincing a Customs officer of its date of manufacture but with the correct paperwork it might not be that bad.

 

The US option is a last resort. In case of a U.K. J-45, the spec above is still my ideal. But given that there are probably only a handful at most in the U.K. - and one has just slipped away - I might never find one in this lifetime so I’d be more flexible. 1-11/16” nut? Fine. Block logo? Ok. 1947-48? No CITES restrictions to worry about. No problem.

 

I would like a late ‘40s J-45 but I’m beginning to wonder whether it’s worth the trouble. It might be easier just to move to the US? Or Canada - I’ve always liked Canada. Are there restrictions on importing Brazilian rosewood into Canada from the US I wonder? If not, I think I might look into moving to Canada as an easier option.

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I doubt that emigration is a cost-effective solution, whether to the US or Canada.

 

You might talk to lars88 here about buying through Willi Henkes in Germany.

 

The last thing you want is to have a guitar questioned and seized by an over-zealous customs official, anywhere in the world. They have been known not to listen to reason.

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I get the impression you do not have a lot of experience with old Gibsons. As that can get you in trouble real fast it would probably be wise to stick with a reputable dealer as you will know you are getting what you believe you are and in the condition as described. You will pay more for the guitar but getting that Good Housekeeping seal of approval can really put your mind at rest. I agree with the Henkes and Blazer recommendation. There is nothing Willi Henkes does not know about Gibsons. I would love to own one of their custom builds but they carry an out of my pay grade price tag.

 

I would just say do not limit yourself. I do have a thing for 1942-1949 instruments But you will find just as many people who will tell you the slightly heavier built guitars of the early 1950s have a magic to them. Still others cannot get enough of the punch of the mid- to late-1950s Gibsons. Also leave yourself open to a new/newish Gibson such as a Legend J45 or one of that 2013 run of Banners based on originals provided by John Thomas. If you are particularly well heeled there are always those Henkes and Blazer guitars.

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Thanks, I’ll try lars88. A chap I work with is emigrating to Canada with his family - I’ll have a word with him and find out who’s employing him, what the relocation package is and whether they’re looking to recruit others. I think it could end up less costly than you’d think, so I’m keeping an open mind on this one.

 

Meantime I’m thinking maybe I should just buy the ‘51 J-45 I tried recently, or a late ‘40s or ‘50s J-50? There are some about in England now. Is it really worth all this trouble just to get a ‘46 Gibson, I can’t help but wonder? Sure, it might have a slightly wider neck and the Script logo is very charming - but is there much difference in tone?

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I’m a relative newbie on old Gibsons, limited to owning 4 ‘30s L-00s and 3 ‘30s Kalamazoo’s over the past 10 years (plus a True Vintage J-185). I know enough to tell a good one from a bad one but my preference is always to buy from a good dealer. I’m mainly interested in how the things sound. Having said that, I imported all my ‘Zoos and L-00s unseen from the US (before CITES made it all but impossible) and all turned out very good buys. If I could find a reputable dealer in the U.K. with a good late ‘40s J-45, that would be my preferred option. Unfortunately these guitars surface rarely over here. I’ll try the German fellas. Thanks.

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A '51 J-45 would be a really nice guitar. The nut width will be 1 11/16", but the neck itself is a nice, comfortable handful. It will also still have a tapered headstock, and should still have scalloped top braces and tall, knife-edge back braces. It should have thin wood internal side stays rather than fabric, which I believe went away in 1948.

 

The Slope-J's from 1946 through 1951 (prior to alpha-prefix FON) are my absolute favorites. Within that timespan, my choice would be based on condition, tone, and playability since the structural and cosmetic differences are really minor. Treat each guitar in those years as an individual to be considered on its own merit, rather than just the year of construction.

 

This assumes, of course that you are primarily really looking for a guitar to play. All other things being equal, a '46 will be worth a bit more than a '51, but that differential may be less as time goes by.

 

When I bought my '50 J-45 in 1966, it was just a rode hard and put away wet 16-year-old guitar, just about worth the $50 I paid for it. Things have changed in the 52 years since then.

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Thanks, j45nick, very informative, I think I’ll reconsider the ‘51. I played it and a couple of J-50s of similar vintage and the J-45 felt the nicest. Personally, I don’t like mint unplayed old guitars and I buy them primarily for their sound. This one was in good, played condition and very original. I wasn’t immediately struck by the ‘51 but maybe I should revisit it.

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A '51 J-45 would be a really nice guitar. The nut width will be 1 11/16", but the neck itself is a nice, comfortable handful. It will also still have a tapered headstock, and should still have scalloped top braces and tall, knife-edge back braces. It should have thin wood internal side stays rather than fabric, which I believe went away in 1948.

 

 

My wife's 1960 J-200 and my 1957 CF-100E have the stiffened fabric side stays. As the CF-100 did not appear until 1950, Gibson may have still been using them and for whatever reason kept doing so in certain models. The guitar, as well, has the tall, thin back braces. Also stiffened side strips were used in Norlin-era guitars. I recall seeing them in a friend's 1970s something or the other and was surprised that they were there.

 

You are spot on about the 1950s Gibson roundback D neck profiles. Comfy as it gets.

Edited by zombywoof
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Gibsons evolved quite a lot from 1942 to 1955 -- in fact all the way from 1942 to the end of the 60s.

 

These date from 1942 to 1953.

 

40Gibs.jpg

 

In general, the early 40s models were stronger than the late 40s, and those again were stronger than the early 50s. Th sound slope in the 50s was (IME) pretty steep, so a 54-55 guitar was quite different from a 50-51 guitar. There is a 45 LG-2 in the back right center. Its nut width is 1 3/4.

 

Her are three SJs -- 43, 43 RW, and 54.

 

FWFDYrH.jpg

 

 

These make look sort of similar, but they are not. The one in the center is RW -- ridiculously strong guitar that holds it own with old AJs and Herringbones. The one on the left is mahogany, and although not nearly as strong as the 30s Jumbos, still a substantive instrument. The one on the right, although strong compared to its 54 brothers and later guitars, is down a fair amount from the 1943 hog SJ.

 

There is enough variation in this period -- both random and evolutionary -- it is always good to listen yourself.

 

Good luck,

 

-Tom

Edited by tpbiii
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Very interesting, Tom, thanks (a lovely collection of guitars!) when you say “strong” I’m guessing you mean strong in terms of sound - power, projection, volume, sustain etc. I played a ‘48 J-50 alongside a ‘51 J-45 the other day. I had high hopes for the J-50 but though it seemed better balanced to me than the ‘51 J-45 and had greater clarity, it didn’t have the volume or the bass. The J-45 had more sustain than I expected. I guess each one is different. The only old Gibsons I’ve had are 3 ‘30s L-00, one a 12-fretter, and 3 ‘30s Kalamazoo’s. Of the L-00s i I kept one - the roughest, most played one which was by far the best sounding - but they were all unique. One KG-14 was good, the other ok (that’s gone) and the other (a 12 fretter) is currently having a neck set so I’ll wait and see how that turns out. I think I might give the ‘48 J-50 and ‘51 J-45 another go if they’re still available.

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This website is not completely accurate, but it's pretty close:

 

Gibson serial numbers

 

When you are comparing vintage guitars (or any guitars, for that matter), strings make a huge difference. Unless you are comparing two guitars with the same strings of the same age, the comparisons may be significantly off. Projection, volume, and sustain vary significantly with the strings.

 

It sounds like you have had some good guitars, so I am probably preaching to the choir here.

 

It's interesting that you went through an L-OO stage. I spent more than a year looking for a good vintage L-OO, and was constantly disappointed with what I found. I finally stumbled onto a used L-OO Legend for about the same money I wanted to spend on a vintage L-OO. I got about 98% of the vintage tone and playability I was looking for, but in an un-played five-year-old guitar in near-perfect condition. That approach is always an option, but there are quite a few really good vintage J-45/J-50/SJ models from the late 40's and early '50's out there. It's just a matter of finding the right one.

 

It's tough for you being in the UK, as you have a narrower market to choose from.

 

By the way, Tom is showing you only a narrow slice of his incredible collection, which is probably among the best in the world when it comes to vintage Gibsons and Martins.

Edited by j45nick
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Thanks for the link - I’ll check it out. I started out buying a ‘36 (approx) L-00 from a local dealer in 2008. It was pretty scruffy but set up well and very nice. I didn’t realise just how good it was till I’d bought a couple more. I’ve kept the first one and it’s a great little guitar. Then I bought 3 Kalamazoo KG-14s (except one turned out to be a KG-11 when it arrived - easy mistake to make) because I thought they might make me play like Robert Johnson (they didn’t).

 

After my Gibson small body phase I changed direction and bought a couple of vintage Martin dreads (way too good for me) then a couple of OOOs. I was about to buy a ‘30s OO but suddenly realised the way this was going and nipped it in the bud. Now I’m back looking at Gibsons again - but they seem to have increased in price over the past decade.. Always fancied a slope-shouldered jumbo so that’s brought me back to looking at J-45s and J-50s

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The Slope-J's from 1946 through 1951 (prior to alpha-prefix FON) are my absolute favorites. Within that timespan, my choice would be based on condition, tone, and playability since the structural and cosmetic differences are really minor. Treat each guitar in those years as an individual to be considered on its own merit, rather than just the year of construction.

 

 

J45nick, what makes slope shouldered Js with alpha-prefix FONs less desirable? I’m currently considering a ‘52 J-50. Thanks.

 

Charlie

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J45nick, what makes slope shouldered Js with alpha-prefix FONs less desirable? I’m currently considering a ‘52 J-50. Thanks.

 

Charlie

 

It's a personal preference, not a value judgment. It's where I started my Gibson journey more than 50 years ago, and it's a place I'm comfortable with.

 

Having said that, some of the punchiest, best-sounding (to my ear), best-playing vintage slope-J's I've played have been mid/late 1950's models with un-scalloped braces, so there's an exception to almost every rule.

 

With vintage guitars, you have to consider them as the individuals they are. Generalizations are dangerous, but we all make them.

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