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Help id this archtop.


Thehoove
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 My wife's grandma gave us this guitar. Her grandpa got it from pawn shop sometime in the 50's. I've spent hours it seems on the guitarhq gibson page going in circles trying to figure out what year and model it is. I seem to keep reading conflicting info, such as the fon. Mine is 1017-20, with the dash 20 in red pencil. The site says red pencil was only used during WWII, but that no WWII numbers started with a 1?

   A few things I've found out, it's got the pre war logo, looks like pear inlay in the pegboard. It has Philips head screws and open back tuners. Its has dot fingerboard inlays. It's a 16" body.  

   Any help would be greatly appreciated! 

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6 hours ago, ksdaddy said:

Looks like a wartime L-50 to me, simply because of the lack of truss rod. Typically they had a wooden cross bar on the tailpiece but that might have been replaced. 

This has been a learning experience for me.  Took a guitar class in high school. Have.nor done much since then, 20 years ago. Didn't even know what an archtop was until I got this. 

    It would make sense its a wartime model, as it almost seems made from a pile misc parts. Grandpa bought it from a pawn shop in the 50's, and wouldn't have bought an expensive one.

 kind of thought it was an l-50. But couldn't determine the year. Based on FON number maybe a 43 or 45. 

    That said, as an novice player, is it worth putting some new tuners and strings on it and playing it? It seems structurally sound. Just has a lot of cosmetic stories to tell. 

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1 hour ago, Evilive1999 said:

nice guitar! the stories it could tell...

i'm curious about that small red pencil marking that reads -20.

thats on my guitar too. never fund anything about what it indicates

I know Grandpa bought it from a pawn shop in the 50s. He was a church pastor, and used it in street ministry until the late 90s. It's been in grandma's closet since he died. So it's seen some use. 

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37 minutes ago, Thehoove said:

is it worth putting some new tuners and strings on it and playing it? 


There are good replacement tuners out there that are likely to fit with no (or almost no) modification. Put a new set on, save the junked ones, put a new set of strings on it and play it. It’ll outlast you, trust me. 
 

And good cases abound. Gibson has made 16” archtops since the Dead Sea only had a bad cough. Tons of cases out there and the simplest google search would be “es-175 case”, as that’s how most case sellers market them. 

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22 hours ago, Thehoove said:

I've spent hours it seems on the guitarhq gibson page going in circles trying to figure out what year and model it is. I seem to keep reading conflicting info, such as the fon. Mine is 1017-20, with the dash 20 in red pencil. The site says red pencil was only used during WWII, but that no WWII numbers started with a 1?

I understand your frustration.  There just doesn't seem to be much agreement/understanding/scholarship on this topic.  Gruhn completely bypasses the subject in his guide, and Duchossoir suggests that wartime Gibsons generally had no numbers.  I don't know where guitarhq got their information about the red pencil sequence numbers (and I generally rely heavily on that site for online data).  I agree with ksdaddy, but it sure would have been nice if your guitar had a wood crosspiece on the trapeze.

For the sake of comparison, here is a similar example I found online:  https://www.gbase.com/gear/gibson-l-50-1943-sunburst

Edited by JimR56
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3 minutes ago, JimR56 said:

  I agree with ksdaddy, but it sure would have been nice if your guitar had a wood crosspiece on the trapeze.

I really wouldn't be surprised if it was replaced. Grandpa had the guitar for over 40 years. At least 25 of those years it got played every Sunday at church service, several times a week sometimes, and traveled all over mission trips. You can see the wear on the fretboard from his fingers it got played so much. It's quite likely if it did have the wooden crosspiece, it got broken and replaced. 

     We really don't care about value or originality. It's sentimental. Tonight I temporarily fixed the broken string, it was broken right at the ball end, so just shorted it slightly and reinstalled the ball end. After sitting 15 years, it was still almost in tune. Tuned it up, played what few chords I can remember from 20 years ago. Sounds pretty good to my untrained ears. I figure I'll put some new tuners and strings on it, just so we can play grandpa's guitar. Made grandma's night by playing it on the phone for her.  Not sure it's the best guitar to learn on, but for now, it's what we have. 

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Good replacement tuners(I mean period correct, that fit and look good) are available from Stewart-McDonald, a luthier supply company. Look for their 'Golden Age' reproduction tuners. Once you tune it up, you may find it could use some adjustments to make it play it's best. It's potentially a very good sounding and playing guitar, so consider having a qualified repairman look at it, if you find it's hard to play.

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