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trying to date a J50


sawyer56
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I'm trying to date a Gibson J50.  Thought it would be an easy job until I ran up against the 1960's Gibson serial number issues.  This guitar was purchased for my father when I was around 8 - 12 years old which should put the date at somewhere between 1961 - 1965.  That makes me 67 now and age does play tricks on the memory so these dates could be suspect.  The SN on the headstock is 542109 which according to the Gibson files say Kalamazoo 1969.  My confusion is that starting in 69 Gibson switched to the square shoulder and this is definitely a round shoulder.  It has the double rosette which I understand started in 1965.  There is no text on the vertical bracing but there is a single G on the neck plate inside the guitar.  The thing that is really odd is the truss rod cover plate on the head stock that is engraved with J50.  In my research so far looking at a number of guitars on line I've never seen the engraved cover plate, all have been flat black.

If anyone could help me with this I would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks

Dan

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It's actually illegal to date a J-50 in most states.  Except maybe Alabama and Alaska......  🙂

Sorry -- someone had to say it! 
Based on the features and the serial number your guitar comes up as either a '66 or a '69.  The transition from round-shouldered to square-shouldered is not necessarily all that clear either.  I think all will agree a '70s-era J-45/50 has square-shoulders, but some '68s show up with square and some '69s with round.

Here's a round '68 at Gary's https://www.gbase.com/gear/gibson-j-50-1968-2

Here's a square somewhere else:

1969-gibson-j-50-1.jpg

Here's a '67 at Gary's:

1967-gibson-j-50-natural-top-0NlBGdI.jpg

Your bridge looks a bit more like the later '60s to me than the mid-'60s.

Don't forget -- the other "dreadnaught" stablemates in the Gibson line, the SJ and CW, had been square-shouldered since the earlier '60s.  Mixing of parts is/was not uncommon in manufacturing of guitars.  My inclination is to say '67, but I would not be too dogmatic on that.

Fred

 

 

 

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Probably somewhere between 1965 and 1969. There appears to be a fair amount of serial number duplication and overlap in this  period.

The details of the guitar could fit anywhere in this period. The engraved truss rod cover could have been installed later, since those are often and easily replaced.

As J-1854 says, the last round-shoulder Js were made sometime in 1969, but probably overlapped some square-dread versions.

Note that the pickguard had to be notched to fit around the belly-up bridge (Martin-style). I'm not sure what years they used that bridge, but I have one that came off a 1968 top.

If you can, carefully measure the nut width (just below the bottom of the trussrod cover at the end of the fretboard). it will be either  1 9/16" (39.7 mm),  1 5/8" (41.3 mm), or 1 11/16" (42.9 mm). This won't be definitive, but may be helpful.

It looks to be in really nice condition, and is a wonderful heirloom as well as a very nice guitar. It's good to see a one-owner guitar that has stayed in the family for more than 50 years.

And welcome to the family.

 

Edited by j45nick
added additional thought
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1 hour ago, zombywoof said:

Somebody in Kalamazoo must have been in a hurry to get out the door that day.  That pickguard is mounted so low the bridge actually appears to cover part of it.  

I think the pickguard  is notched around the bridge.

That bridge is a bit funky: no dots. The '68 belly-down bridge I have has dots and screws. This one also has a funky transition from the narrow ends to the belly section, which I've seen later in this period.  That leads me to think 1969, rather than earlier. That might also be consistent with the etched truss rod cover, which I've seen on early square J-series guitars.

A 1 9/16" nut could be anytime in this period. The last round-bodies certainly had that narrow nut,

This might be one of the last round-shoulder J-series guitars just before the Norlin era.

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Thanks to everyone for their thoughts.  At this point from everything I've read and the comments here I think the closest I can get is to say 68 - 69.  The serial number is definitely 69 but I think it was built just before the transition to the square shoulder models.

Thanks again

Dan

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4 hours ago, sawyer56 said:

Thanks to everyone for their thoughts.  At this point from everything I've read and the comments here I think the closest I can get is to say 68 - 69.  The serial number is definitely 69 but I think it was built just before the transition to the square shoulder models.

Thanks again

Dan

Don't rely on the serial numbers from that period too heavily.  As mentioned, some of those got recycled, and the '66 and '69 SNs notoriously double-used. 

I spent about a week or so trying to sort out an ES-355 with one of those doubled-up SNs, a few years ago, and eventually as able to get it sorted as a '66.  Read up on that aspect a bit more.

Fred

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The problem wth dating by specs is when you hit one of Gibson's transition periods you get a whle lot of overlap in features.  So guitars built in say the early-1950s, mid-1960s and late-1960s can have a mish mash of specs.   Gibson did not change the specs at the stroke of midnight on January 1 of any given year.  And then they were going to use whatever leftover parts they had on hand,    So if you go to the late-1960s you will find square shoulder J50s built in late in '68 and slope shoulder guitars dating to early-1969.  And in '69 you will run ito J50s with both a 1 9/16" and 1 11/16" nut and so on.  That inscribed TRC though is something I have rightly or wrongly always associated with a J50 Deluxe.  I always thought production  of these began in 1969.  What was Deluxe about it I do not have a clue.  Hey, maybe it was the TRC.   But to me this is just part of the Gibson charm.

Edited by zombywoof
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A scale length measurement on OP sawyer56's guitar would be something to look into- the notched pickguard gets the mystery going, looking at how the fretboard extension stops short, at the rosette's outer rings, where Boyd's fb extension runs into the rosette's inner rings. Could something have happened when the bridge was located on the guitar? (short).

Instead of the standard way of measuring scale length from the nut to the center of the 12th fret and doubling that measurement, maybe measure from the top of the saddle for the high and low E's to the center of the 12th fret, average those two measurements, and double the result?

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1 hour ago, 62burst said:

A scale length measurement on OP sawyer56's guitar would be something to look into- the notched pickguard gets the mystery going, looking at how the fretboard extension stops short, at the rosette's outer rings, where Boyd's fb extension runs into the rosette's inner rings. Could something have happened when the bridge was located on the guitar? (short).

Instead of the standard way of measuring scale length from the nut to the center of the 12th fret and doubling that measurement, maybe measure from the top of the saddle for the high and low E's to the center of the 12th fret, average those two measurements, and double the result?

Interesting points. I have one Gibson with a top and fretboard of similar vintage as the OP's (1968 in my case). It has the standard soundhole rosette of that period (like the OP's and Boyd's), and the end of the fretboard extension (20-fret board) actually intersects the inner (wider)) rosette ring, more similar to Boyd's than the OP's guitar.

I measured the soundhole location relative the  to the front of the body (just behind the 14th fret), and found that at the closest point, the front of the soundhole, the soundhole is 3.75" from the front of the body.

I have another guitar with a similar rosette, but that's a bound 19-fret neck (an SJ). The soundhole on that one is 3.625" ( 3 5/8") from the front of the body. The soundhole on my other 1950 J-45 is 3.75" ( 3 3/4") from the front.

If the OP would measure the soundhole location on his guitar, I bet it is more than 3.75" from the front, which  could probably explain the unusual pickguard situation at the bridge on the OP's guitar: the soundhole may be in a different location. Don't ask me why.

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Right out of the starting gate I suck at anything which involves math.  But if I am reading some of the responses right are you guys saying that the bridge appears to be placed too close to the soundhole?  If so that would effectively shorten the scale and I would expect fretted notes to sound sharp unless somehow the scale was altered to compensate for it.  Martin had this problem in the early-1970s when some worn piece of machinery or something was causing them to place bridges incorrectly resulting in intonation issues.

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17 minutes ago, zombywoof said:

Right out of the starting gate I suck at anything which involves math.  But if I am reading some of the responses right are you guys saying that the bridge appears to be placed too close to the soundhole?  If so that would effectively shorten the scale and I would expect fretted notes to sound sharp unless somehow the scale was altered to compensate for it.  Martin had this problem in the early-1970s when some worn piece of machinery or something was causing them to place bridges incorrectly resulting in intonation issues.

My guess is that the bridge is placed properly, but the soundhole is closer to the bridge (further from the front of the body). This would push the pickguard towards the bridge if if the  pickguard lines up the rosette, which is why the pickguard is notched slightly at the bridge.

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Yes, the pickguard position being based on the location of that soundhole and it's rosette. Gibson has varied soundhole location (even w/o counting 12 fret models), and soundhole diameter, for that matter- so it wouldn't hurt to check both of those measurements.  

Since the shape of the slope shouldered body is fairly consistent, when checking how deep the soundhole is located down into the body, I usually get sound hole diameter, and at it's mid point (12 & 6 o'clock), see where that is in relation to the narrowest point of the waist.

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17 minutes ago, 62burst said:

Yes, the pickguard position being based on the location of that soundhole and it's rosette. Gibson has varied soundhole location (even w/o counting 12 fret models), and soundhole diameter, for that matter- so it wouldn't hurt to check both of those measurements.  

Since the shape of the slope shouldered body is fairly consistent, when checking how deep the soundhole is located down into the body, I usually get sound hole diameter, and at it's mid point (12 & 6 o'clock), see where that is in relation to the narrowest point of the waist.

Good point on soundhole diameter.

I went back and checked on my three slope- Js: 1950 J-45, 1950 J-45 with 1968 factory re-top, modern Bozeman 1943 SJ re-issue.

All soundholes are 4" diameter.

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44 minutes ago, j45nick said:

Good point on soundhole diameter.

I went back and checked on my three slope- Js: 1950 J-45, 1950 J-45 with 1968 factory re-top, modern Bozeman 1943 SJ re-issue.

All soundholes are 4" diameter.

mkay. It was worth a shot. 'Still wouldn't be surprised if the OP's bridge location was off by a smidge. (1 smidge= +/- the amount by which the pickguard was notched). 😬.

'Did some measuring- AJ's were under 4", the 12 fret J-45 was +1/8". There was one production model, either the Original Jumbo, or the '34 Jumbo Reissue, that a considerably reduced soundhole diameter.

more variations discussed here on the forum:

 

or- 

 

Edited by 62burst
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9 hours ago, j45nick said:

My guess is that the bridge is placed properly, but the soundhole is closer to the bridge (further from the front of the body). This would push the pickguard towards the bridge if if the  pickguard lines up the rosette, which is why the pickguard is notched slightly at the bridge.

 

9 hours ago, j45nick said:

If the OP would measure the soundhole location on his guitar, I bet it is more than 3.75" from the front, which  could probably explain the unusual pickguard situation at the bridge on the OP's guitar: the soundhole may be in a different location. Don't ask me why.

Sure, the s-hole seems to have 'fallen' toward the bridge from birth. Probably not enough to affect the sound.  

Regarding the missing dots, they begin to fall out too by down-belly 68/69.  A lot of things fell by then, , , not the price though. . 

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1 hour ago, 62burst said:

Boyd's and OP MrSawyer's:

kzN8FoO.png

Hard to tell definitively from the photo, but a couple of things to note:  The fretboard extension in the OP's guitar is cut shorter beyond the  20th fret, making it look like it's pushed further down the body.

The difference in the saddle location in belly-up vs belly-down bridges "pushes" the front of the belly-down bridge closer to the pickguard. Plus, of course, the front of the bridge isn't cut away in the area where the pickguard will lie like it is wiht the "conventional" Gibson bridge.

The scale of the two photos is slightly different: the guitar on the right is in a slightly larger scale compared to the one on the left.

The location of the back braces may be different in the two guitars, but it's hard to see from these photos. A very slight difference in photo angle makes the apparent location of the braces shift pretty quickly. ( just checked that by looking down at one of my guitars and shifting my POV slightly.)

It may just be an optical illusion from scale differences, but the lower "round" corner on the pickguard looks fatter in the right-hand photo.

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Online photos of J-45 guitars described as 1969 models do show more of them with the teardrop guards than batwing ones, but of the batwings, none show any sort of interference with belly down bridges. Hmmm. The distance from saddle peak to lower soundhole edge of high and low E strings could be compared to a non interference guard, and/but more often than not, we know that the ‘guards shrink a bit with time, not the other way around. It would be interesting to know how those p/g’s were made, and if excess got shaved off or not. Maybe they were transitioning from the larger pick guard, to the teardrop in 69, and this was just one at the bottom of the box (?).

Still one vote here for checking scale length.

Edited by 62burst
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10 minutes ago, 62burst said:

 

Still one vote here for checking scale length.

Check everything in sight. I love a mystery of any type.

The last batwings ( I had a 1968) were quite thick, but I don't know what type of plastic they were. They felt completely different than celluloid, but the thickness may have been part of it.

Speaking of pickguards, below is a link to Terrapin Guitars. You can download (free) scaled PDF files of a huge variety of pickguards from any number of guitar manufacturers, electric and acoustic.

Terrapin pickguards

There were apparently two different batwing guards. One is listed in the Terrapin PDF files as j45/j50 style, the other the J-100 style. When you compare them at the same scale, they are quite different, even though genetically similar.

Curiously, the J-45 teardrop pickguard is not named as such, but instead says "modeled after the J-45". (It is designated as the UA-47 acoustic style pickguard, in the Terrapin PDF files, rather than named as a trademarked Gibson pattern.)

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