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Gibson Custom Vs Custom Shop ES Series Question


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I went through many forum posts here & on other forums on this question first, before posting, which made me more confused.

I own a Gibson “Custom” ES-355 model #ES55AEBBG1 from 2012.

Serial# CS253332

It was made in Memphis, according to the serial #, from what I’ve been told.

In many posts, I’ve seen, people dismiss anything made in Memphis as “not real Gibson  Custom Shop Guitars”.

It also seems that no one really has details to what the logistical process was between the different ES Guitars, during the Memphis era?

What was the difference between the bottom of the line ES-335 Satin finished Guitars all the way up to ones considered “Gibson Custom” with a COA?

Those include many different VOS runs, Artist Models, etc.

Did the Memphis factory have a separate area to handle these guitars, that used different construction materials from the current regular ES Guitars?

I’ve even read on this forum, people saying everything made in the Memphis factory was the same & only the “Nashville ones” during the “Memphis Era” in any way  “Counted as REAL Gibson Custom”?

Watching a New video on a Gibson factory tour I had a thought that contradicts many things I have seen regarding Gibson Memphis Custom & Gibson Custom Shop Nashville and the ES series guitars.

During the time that the Memphis Factor was making the ES Guitars, the original body presses from the Kalamazoo factory, were at the Memphis factory.

Those presses have now been moved back to Nashville after the closing of the Memphis factory.

Here’s my question, were any “proper” ES series Guitars (with laminate construction) made in the Nashville Custom Shop, during the time that those presses were in Memphis?

Did they press and glue the bodies in Memphis & then ship them to Nashville to finish?

I know they made Carved solid construction ES type Guitars in the Nashville Custom Shop, but how did they make any of the others, without the presses?

Does anyone have any confirmed information on this process from Gibson?

All I‘ve seen trying to research this is a ton of speculation, based on things told to people by dealers & Gibson customer service reps, etc. who may not have the best knowledge to how things were actually done, and often (from my own experience) sound like they are making things up?

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I believe that I have read (no guarantee it was true), that all ES guitars (laminates) started in Memphis and if they were to be "Custom" models, they were finished in Nashville's Custom Shop.  That would allow them to press the laminates in Memphis and do everything else in the custom shop.

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All ES335's made during that time came with a COA and Custom on the case (I have a 2010), and as far as I'm aware they didn't make any true Custom 335's then.

The 339's even came with a Custom decal on the back of the headstock, but reissue Custom Shop have no such markings, some people believe that because it says "Custom" on it, it must be a Custom shop guitar but the price when new was certainly not what you would expect to pay for a Custom Shop guitar. 

Why Gibson did this is anyone's guess, it very much muddies the water  

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Just to add to the confusion, I had a 2008 Larry Carlton signature ES-335. It has a CSxxxxx serial number, Custom Shop case, Gibson Custom COA and was made in Memphis. Later versions of the same model, 2010 on I think, have an MExxxxx serial number, ME meaning Memphis. Never got to compare a newer one to see if they were the same. The Warren Haynes model went through the same thing. I have no idea whether there was a separate custom shop in Memphis for a period of time. That said, my Larry Carlton was impeccably made and comparable to other Gibson Custom Shop guitars I've owned. I have a CS-336 and had a Johnny A, several LP's and a Firebird and all were Nashville Custom Shop.

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Thanks everyone  for the responses!

Trying to find out specific detail on Gibson’s  is kinda ridiculous.

Mine does have an Ebony Fretboard(although I’ve seen other 2012 models listed with Richlite)

I think the model’s a es55aebbg1 are limited runs they would do?

My guess is,


55= 355

aeb= Antique Ebony

b= Bigsby 

g= Guitar

Does this sound correct?

When I contacted Gibson a few years back, this was all the info they sent me,

The serial number you provided reflects in our data base as a 2012 Gibson ES-355 with antiqued finish. It features a maple body, 1-Piece Mahogany Neck, 24-3/4" Scale Length. Slim Taper Neck Profile, 22 Frets, '57 Classic Humbuckers, 2 Volume, 2 Tone Controls, ABR-1 Bridge, Multi-Ply Binding, Grover Tuners

 Which isn’t much information, at all.

Does anyone know what kind of electronics they used at that time?

I’m not sure what the pot values are or the caps, which appear to be the tiny ceramic disc style.

The only pot code I could read off the side, backward with a mirror is...I believe 

48088145 1121?

Some of that could definitely be wrong, since I was trying to read it backwards with a mirror.

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Also, does anyone have any idea what “Antiqued Finish” means?

It’s not listed in anything online I can find?

It seems different than “High Gloss”, did the VOS or Historic replace it?

They should just rename everything as part of the “enigmatic series”.


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