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Questions about early 1900's L-3


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I inherited a Gibson L-3 circa 1900-1933. It's in need of some work but I'm not really inclined to pursue that at this time. Can the year of manufacture be determined by serial #? Can anyone suggest if it is worth repairing or just sell it/trade it as it is. My end goal is to get rid of it -just looking for advice as to how to make that as easy as possible. ACCEPTING OFFERS. Also willing to trade for certain items. PM for more info. Thanks.















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What you have there is a L-3 from 1919. The peghead logo and decoration, side dots on the neck, binding on the back, herringbone soundhole inlay and bridge as shown are all features of the 1915-1921 L-3. The serial number as I read it (49,XXX) is from 1919. That guitar sold for about $100 at the time.


As for repairing it, it looks pretty far gone. It is repairable, but not for the novice. The crack in the soundboard looks to be the worst problem (and only real "damage"), and many guitars with cracked tops get repaired. This guitar originally would have a raised fingerrest, other than that it looks like all the original pieces are there (don't know about the tuners).


Although old and neat, there really is no vintage or collectors market for this guitar. I do not think you would increase your profit, or even recoup your costs, by having it repaired prior to sale. Your best bet is probably to sell or trade it "As-Is".

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I know you aren't planning on keeping the guitar but I just want to say how much I love mine. I have an L-3 from 1914. It has the original pickguard. Although it's very weathered looking the neck and action is perfect and the sound is haunting. It has a unique voice, dark on the bottom, sweet on top. By the way, the neck is a serious baseball bat which I like. Hopefully somebody will have it repaired and restored...but not refinished.

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  • 1 month later...

I have a 1914 L-3 I just had restored. The back had shrunk and there where two major cracks on the front. Now she is a sight to behold... Anyway, I have a 1939' Olympic Epiphone, which needs a bit of help up for trade if you are interested...

One crack on the front side and a small portion of missing binding around the front waist.


Can send you some pics if you like...

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  • 10 months later...

I'm new to the vintage section here but just wanted to say I have recently bought a salvage 1915 L-3 for restoration. Before one discounts an L-3 guitar as unworthy of restoration, one might want to research actual selling prices on e-bay of salvage instruments and instruments in playing condition. Mine was bought for over $600. Two recent sales of playable L2 and L3 models were well over twice that price. On mine, all the wood is there, but it has some separations due to water damage. It is missing the bridge, the pick-guard and the pegs for the tailpiece. The original tuners were gone so I have fitted it with original Gibson bushings and vintage Grover tuners whose buttons are identical to the Gibson originals. Pck823, your tuners are original. That odd little serrated pattern at the ends is apparent in the finish on my headstock as the imprint of the original tuner plates. Mine is the same "orange top" and cherry mahogany combo as this one. It was purchased from a seller in Mobile, Alabama.




Yes your L-3 has a nasty break. But the back is already off so there is easy access for a professional repair to that crack. The labor will be intensive, but yours is a Gibson I would have paid a few hundred for to restore. The tuners alone are worth a small bundle (I paid $80 for the Grovers), and that celluloid tortoise tailpiece disappears in later year models as does the fancier inlaid headstock. Just collector details. Some people collect these so that they have an example of what a 1915 or so Gibson sounds like. Otherwise one would just not know. People do buy these to restore, and restored ones sell for reasonably higher prices than the salvages. One might argue that it is not a collectible guitar, but there is an active commerce in buying, restoring and reselling this model as a player's guitar;- while possibly an eccentric player's guitar.


Other interesting detail;- the mahogany cherry finish on the back is a dead color match for my 1969 cherry mahogany SG standard. The tuner bushings were apparently unchanged in dimension for some 50 years and are interchangeable on almost all Gibsons. I hope someone restoring the guitar winds up with it and you get some value from it. It might have brought $200- $400+ on e-bay.

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