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L-48 or L-50 (30s or 40s)

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Hi All, 

I have what I thought was a 1940s Gibson L-48, but have had others question that based on the logo on the headstock. 
They suggested it  might be an older L-50 from the late 1930s
I thought the  L-50 always had a bound fretboard,  which is why I figured it was L-48.
I have since found 1930s L-50s without  fretboard  binding,  and  the  same logo that mine has.

The logo is white in older script. 
Arched top and back, and Ebony nut
No label or numbers anywhere, even inside up at  the neck block. 

It  has been hard to  find good source of accurate info,  so I am trying here.  
Any info is appreciated. 

L-48 - 1.jpeg

L-48 - 2.jpeg

L-48 - 6.jpeg

Edited by cwroyds
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I found a very faint FON number inside. It seems to be either 5544 32 or 5644 32. The 32 is in red.

Im starting to thing it is a 1935 L-50...
Before that date, they had a round sound hole.
After that date the tailpiece has a raised diamond, which mine doesn’t have.

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I don't blame you for being puzzled.  I've been puzzling over this for a couple of hours.  The more I try to figure it out, the more confusing it gets.  This is nothing new when it comes to sorting out some of these low-end, prewar Gibson archtops.  We've had topics like this here before, and sometimes it's nearly impossible to provide a solid answer.

First of all, an L50 is supposed to have a pearl logo, not silkscreened like yours (of course, it's easy to find plenty of L50's on the market with silkscreened logos, but what's not easy is to know whether sellers can be trusted to identify and date their guitars correctly).  So the logo might suggest that your guitar is an L48 (especially if the body is all-mahogany...?), however...

The L48 is supposed to have been introduced in 1946 (by which time the white silkscreened logo is supposed to have been discontinued).

FON's in the 5000 range were used in 1941, but supposedly on lap steels primarily.  The 5000 range was also used in 1950 (too late for this guitar).  The red pencil sequence number (suffix) is supposed to be a WWII-era thing, but a 5000-range prefix doesn't go along with that.

My gut is telling me that your guitar dates to 1941.  At least your silkscreened logo and FON both fit for that year.   To me, the logo carries the most weight, since it was phased out by the gold banner logo, and Gibson FON dating is usually tricky.  As for the model... I'll just say that it's too bad that ALL of the authors and scholars seemed to have dropped the ball when it comes to outlining the details of the low-end Gibson archtops of the 30's/40's period.  It's always been confusing, and probably always will be.

Here's a link to Gruhn's guide (scroll down to pages 141 to 143 for his details on these models):  https://www.google.com/books/edition/Gruhn_s_Guide_to_Vintage_Guitars/sgeZ_cISRpAC?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=gruhn's+guide+gibson+L48+L50&pg=PA137&printsec=frontcover

For more info on FON's, I usually rely on this page:  http://www.guitarhq.com/gibson.html#serial

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Hey Jim, 

Thank you so  much for the input. I appreciate it
I see you  live in the Bay Area. 
This guitar lives in San Rafael.  🙂

Yeah, it was getting  very frustrating trying to  figure out. 
I have  always  thought  it was a late 40s  L-48, but Im not sure what I was basing that on. 
I figured it wasn't an L-50 because of  the unbound  fretboard, but then I started seeing L-50s with an  unbound  fretboard.

I just started  looking into it because I posted pictures  of it elsewhere and it was suggested that it was 1930s, based on the logo, which I believe started mid 30s.
If it was  1930s, it couldn't be an L-48. 

The FON is  very  very  hard to  read,  so  I  could have the numbers totally  off. 
The red 32 is the only  clear number.

The end of the fretboard is flush with the top, if that helps any. 
It is surprising how hard it is to figure out the age of  Gibson instruments sometime. 

I  do think it is  a pretty thing.
I love the shape and simplicity of it. 
It was a bit  neglected  when I got it,  but I had  fun cleaning it  up.
I was surprised at how good the condition really was under the grime. 

Here are a couple of extra shots for reference.
The first shot is what it looked  like when I got it.  🙂

Thanks again for your input. 
It is greatly appreciated. 

L48A 1.jpg

L48A 3.jpg

L48A 2.jpg

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Wow.  Well, regardless of the confusion around identifying/dating this thing, I feel much better now.  Why?  Because I can see that the guitar is now in the hands of someone who appreciates it and will take care of it.  The "before" and "after" images are actually startling- in a good way!  Kudos to you for what you've done with it.  I was going to say that this is one of the cleanest-looking prewar archtops of its type that I've ever seen.  I even wondered whether it could have been refinned because it was so clean.  Now it appears that somebody just neglected it and let it collect dust (not to mention dirt).  That sunburst is really gorgeous.  Anyway, maybe there's a true expert on prewar acoustic archtops out there somewhere, and you will eventually have your riddle solved.  In the meantime, I would just enjoy the guitar and not be too concerned about it.  😎

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Thanks  for the compliment. 
I appreciate it. 
I  think the years of dust and grime protected the finish  for the most part. 

The truth  is that I think the quality of those first image hides its flaws.  
There is extensive but fine finish checking, and certainly play wear, like the occasional pick scratch. 
You can see in the closeup I post below what I am talking about. 
But that's OK. It is has been around a long time, and is deserving of some age marks. 

It does have a stunning color and sunburst finish. 
I am a sucker for that simple arch top design.
No BS or bling,  just mojo. 
I love the shape of the back too. 

I happen to love some  good  play  wear on a vintage instrument. 
Shows it was loved  and  played.  
You should see my mandolin. 🙂 

Finish - 1.jpeg

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