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Is this a Gibson L4C ? (1953)

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I’ve just acquired this vintage Gibson, spruce top, ebony fingerboard and Grover tuning pegs, but it doesn’t have the parallelograms as fret markers, nor the emblem inlay in the head stock.  Can anyone help me confirm the model.  The vendor tells me it is from 1953.



Edited by WhiteCatzs
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The headstock and fretboard inlays are the same those found on the Gibson L-50 and some post-war ES-150s.  Most likely L-50 as ES 150s had one more fret AFAIK.

Obviously the humbucker,  tuners and strap button(s) were added later, if it is from 1953.  Possibly it was originally made without a pickup as humbuckers didn't come in before about 1955 at least.  The pickup has been put right up at the end of the neck (usually it is a little further away) and the scratch plate designed to fit.

I am no expert, but - conjectures:

- It is an L4 body with an L-50 neck, made like that in factory perhaps for/by an employee and so a one-off for whatever reason.  If the pickup and scratchplate are original, then it must be later than 1953.  If it started life as an employee's guitar, he may even have worked for Gibson long enough to have the pickup and scratchplate factory-installed some years after the original date of manufacture.  However the fact that the pickup is right up at the end of the board makes me suspect that it (and the perfectly-fitted scratchplate) were added much later.

- Or it is an L4 that has had a complete neck replacement with an ES-50 type neck, for some reason.

- Or it is not an L4 but an L-50 which has had a cutaway added.  Unlikely but......

I would favour the 1st of these 3 as from your 3rd pic both the neck and cutaway certainly look original, as far as can be seen.

It might be interesting to remove the pickup and have a look inside using a mirror and a torch. If the cutaway was added later there might be evidence in cuts to the bracing.  Also look at the underside of the pickup for any labels or i.d. marks.

Perhaps ksdaddy can comment, but without more detailed close-up pics or any provenance it's not possible to do any more than guess.  Presumably there is no internal label or serial number?

You could get an expert appraisal (costs $$) from Gruhn guitars or Archtop.com.  They should be able to shed more light on it. 

How does it sound?

Best wishes.


Edited by jdgm
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Doesn't look much like the '53 L4C shown when I googled that model, which had a rosewood fingerboard, a different pickup and pickguard, different inlays on the fingerboard, different tuners, and different tailpiece.  Not sure what you may have, but it is a highly modified something.  Is there a tag inside with a serial or FON number?  That would tell a lot about what year and model it is. 

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I can only guess. It looks like a typical 16" body as found on many Gibson archtops. The fretboard is typical of an L-50 made between 1946 and 1954 (crowns and 19 frets) and it has a newer logo, which is hard to pinpoint....some models held onto the old logo later than others but seems like they had all made the switch by 1948.

There's a couple things that jump out at me. The sunburst doesn't look right for that era. It looks more like a mid 60s sunburst. I'm also looking at the wood in the cutaway and  the staining job doesn't look as 'even' as I'm used to seeing. It looks like it has light spots. Also, what is going on with the binding in the cutaway? It looks weird. Not the size or shape, but rather where it's chipped or something. It just doesn't look right.

I'd love to have it on the bench with my blacklight from Hades.

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Looks to me like a modified L50.  The cutaway is pretty well done, but it doesn't quite match the shape of the cutaway on a vintage L4C.  It's too wide, whereas the L4C has a narrower "U" shape with more vertical sides.  Also, look at the "ledge" between the treble side of the neck and the inner edge of the cutaway.  Gibson didn't do that.  The neck should be flush with the cutaway. 

Here is a photo of a '54 L4C.  Note the smooth junction of the neck and the cutaway.


Also, the binding in the cutaway is not what you'd find on a 50's L4C (cutaway binding wasn't tapered like that in 1953).  And as ksdaddy mentioned, there's something odd going on with that cutaway binding (paint chipping? color fading?).  It makes it more obvious that the cutaway is not original.

Also, I agree that the sunburst is wrong for the era.  My guess is that the top was refinished when the other mods were done, probably in the late 60's or into the 70's.

Obviously the fingerboard is rosewood, and not ebony.

This is a "player's" guitar, and hopefully it plays and sounds good (I suspect it does).  And hopefully you didn't pay too much for it, because its value has been severely affected by all of the modifications.  If you bought this from a dealer, how did they describe it, other than stating that it dates to 1953?

Edited by JimR56
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