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19xx Gibson L-3. Really need help identifying.


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I have a line on this L-3, but the bridge and headstock logo really don't line up with the serial number and I'm trying to get answers.

Gibson told me 1906. But I didn't think that logo existed then? There is only one other image I can find online of an L-3 with a pin bridge too, and it's ebony. But this did appear to be original when I saw it in person.


















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This is a link to the only real information I see on this. The label and serial number do suggest an early guitar, but as you say, a couple of characteristics do no seem consistent with the date suggested by the serial number. It may have had alterations either at the Gibson factory or by someone else at some point during its lifetime.

Gibson archtops

These would appear to be only of interest and value as historical artifacts, not as playable instruments. In fact, the action height that shows in the photos would essentially be unplayable in any conventional sense.

It's interesting, but I wouldn't pay a lot of money for it.

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I would be going into it with the intention of either performing a neck reset, or looking at the possibility of getting the bridge down as  it is very tall. Speaking of which, I'm assuming a neck reset on an archtop like this poses novel challenges not present on a flat top?

It has been rejected by a number of local music stores.
Do we think there is a possibility Gibson re-necked it in the 30's? It's definitely odd. I'm beginning to piece together that the finish, bridge, and rosette are all indicative of 1902-1907, and the serial  matches up with that.

Edited by Natima
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This guitar is outside my experience, and I don't know anything about the model that isn't on the link I sent. This one has 12 frets clear of the body, rather than the 13 the website lists, but I have no idea how definitive that limited information is, so your guess is as good as mine on this guitar.

As to the neck joint, I don't know when the compound dovetail we know today became the standard, or if it has always been the norm.

If you're contemplating a neck re-set, I hope you're getting it cheap.

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My suggestion is that you call Gruhn’s Guitars in Nashville, Tennessee.  Gruhn’s is the expert on vintage guitars.  They usually freely discuss vintage instruments and give out free advice that can be trusted.  They will also give you a general price range of the value of a vintage instrument model as well as give good advice.  The only thing they won’t do freely is give a bona fide appraisal of a specific instrument unless you pay for it.  But, their free advice is priceless and free.  Whenever I’m thinking of buying a vintage instrument , I call them first to get the true scoop.

They also do vintage instrument repairs at a price, but their repairs are qualified to increase the retail value of an instrument that is in need of repair, although I assume their quality repairs are not inexpensive.

Let is know what they tell you if you call them.

Hope this helps.


QM aka “Jazzman” Jeff


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  • 1 month later...

So I did end up purchasing the guitar and have been doing a bunch of close inspection. I can only guess that the guitar must have been refinished by Gibson between 1933 and 1943 when the current logo was in use. I DID find the Factory Order Number which is very faint, but present on the neck block and is absolutely correct for 1906.

It is a nitro finish with checking, which is definitely not original, but really rather old. I would have thought the bridge should be ebony, but who knows... it looks extremely old too, and is a perfect match in shape for what an original would look like.

There doesn't appear to be any major structural repairs, and while it's difficult to say for sure the frets appear original.

I have found *some* pictures of early 1900s Model O and L-1 /L-3 guitars with this type of bridge etc.

Body depth, bridge type, rosette type, neck join etc all are consistent with 1906. There is also no truss rod which means the neck is likely original and definitely pre-1921.

Lastly, there is a portion of the kerfing on the back, roughly 2 1/2 inches long, right next to the treble side of the neck block that appears to be replaced, and I'll tell you. Whoever did that, did one helluva professional job, and it was done LONG ago. So I'm assuming that was done also in the 30's.

Regarding the action and possibility of a neck reset.

Having ummed and ahhed about this for a while, I decided to shave the bridge down. The bridge was extremely tall for a pin bridge, and also angled massively taller towards the bass side.
This meant that performing a neck reset would only get me so far, as the bass side would remain extremely high regardless of neck angle. All things considered, the neck angle looked actually pretty good too. This meant shaving the bridge down to what would be considered a fairly normal thickness would get me 95% of the way there without risking major surgery and potentially causing other issues like fretboard chipping.

I'll upload some pictures tomorrow!

Edited by Natima
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