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Gibson L4


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Hello.  I am a fellow guitar player and a friend brought a guitar to me to look over that was a family members.  I am trying to find the year the guitar was made.  On the inside of the instrument through the F hole is says on a oval sticker Gibson L4 and number 98700.  All of the text is ink stamped, nothing is hand written.  The L4 is in red ink and the Gibson name and number are black stamped ink.  I have looked on the internet but I keep getting somewhere in the late 40s but can't find anything definite.  Also the name GIBSON on the head stock is rather old looking but it does not have "the" in the title.  Just "Gibson".  Anyone with any knowledge it would be greatly appreciated.  The only issue with the guitar is the back plates have come unglued the entire length of the back.  Thanks,


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If it s a script logo (like cursive writing, with a highly-stylized G) rather than the "modern" block Gibson logo, and assuming the label is a white oval, it is probably from very early 1946. The last serial number from 1945 was apparently 98650.

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I agree with Nick. Here's serial number reference showing the last number used for the year  and some details from   http://www.guitarhq.com/gibson.html#serial


  • 1936    94100
    1937    95200
    1938    95750
    1939    96050
    1940    96600
    1941    97400
    1942    97700
    1943    97850
    1944    98250
    1945    98650
    1946    99300
    1947    99999 (April 28, 1947)
  • Model: L-4 Acoustic Archtop
    Available: 1912 to 1956.
    Collectibility Rating: D+ (a non-cutaway model of an old design, even 1950's models).

  • 1912 L-4 introduction specs: 16" wide, oval soundhole with 3 rings inlaid with diamond pattern middle ring, trapeze tailpiece with pins anchored in tortoise celluloid plate, elevated pickguard with 2 supports, bound top & back, 12 frets clear of body, single bound ebony fingerboard with pointed end that extends over soundhole, pearl dot fingerboard inlays, single bound peghead, slanted "The Gibson" peghead logo, black top finish.
  • 1914 L-4 specs: Solid middle soundhole ring, red mahogany finish that's slighly shaded, black or orange top finish available. 1918 L-4 specs: Red mahogany sunburst finish.
  • 1920 L-4 specs: Diamond pattern soundhole ring again, single pickguard support, straight "The Gibson" peghead logo.
  • 1923 L-4 specs: Trapeze tailpiece with no pins.
  • 1927 L-4 specs: Checkered outer soundhole ring, solid middle ring.
  • 1928 L-4 specs: Round soundhole, 7 ply back & white soundhole ring, single bound top & back, unbound pickguard, single bound square end rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays, 14 frets clear of body, unbound pegehead.
  • 1929 L-4 specs: Unbound fingerboard, "Gibson" logo.
  • 1934 L-4 specs: Bound fingerboard, diamond peghead inlay.
  • 1935 L-4 specs: "F" holes, raised diamond on trapeze tailpiece, single bound pickguard, varied pattern fingerboard inlays starting at 1st fret, single bound peghead, fleur-de-lis peghead inlay, sunburst finish.
  • 1937 L-4 specs: Unbound pickguard, round soundhole optional (1937 only).
  • 1940 L-4 specs: Natural finish optional.
  • 1941 L-4 specs: Unbound peghead.
  • 1946 L-4 specs: Triple bound top & back, bound pickguard.
  • 1947 L-4 specs: Double parallelogram fingerboard inlays, laminated beveled edge pickguard.
  • L-4 discontinued in 1956.
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The L4 went though a ton of changes.  It started off in 1912 as a 12 fret oval soundhole guitar going to a 14 fret round soundhole and finally to the f-holes.   J.J. Cale used to play an oval soundhole version.  As it dates to 1946  it should, as j45nick notes,  have the script logo and also a 1 3/4" nut.

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11 hours ago, tpbiii said:

Here is a 1937 -- they made a few round hole examples with Nick Lucas finger boards c. 1936-1937.




I know folks who say this round soundhole version was their favorite  of that model.   If I recall the earlier oval soundhole version had an elevated fingerboard.

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On 2/1/2021 at 6:15 PM, tpbiii said:

Here is a 1937 -- they made a few round hole examples with Nick Lucas finger boards c. 1936-1937.



These old Round holes got a unique tone. There cool guitars. 

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I had one of the round hole variants that was full of additional holes when it arrived - someone had chopped out a hole for a pickup and fitted volume and tone pots, and then had a big chunk broken out of the side where an output jack was fitted.  I had it patched and repaired and refretted.  It's one of exactly TWO guitars out of the hundreds I have owned that I still regret letting go of.  It had the most incredible percussive WHOMP, straddling a line between a conventional archtop and a J-45.  I remember using it to accompany a singer, without amplification, in an old cinema converted to a theatre, and later learning it did indeed carry all the way to the back.  Awesome guitars!

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