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Best Historian/Expert to identify a vintage Gibson acoustic


BigSapelo

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Hello all! I'm looking for opinions on who might be the best person, dealer, historian regarding pre-war Gibson acoustic guitars. For the past 10 or 12 years I have owned what appears to be a one-off, hybrid, or employee guitar that I picked up in an old (now closed) music store in North Georgia. It was in a very, very sad state when I got it. It was actually underneath a pile of old guitar cases and I saw the charred headstock sticking out and asked the old fella if I could pull it out and look at it. Anyway, it survived (barely) a house fire from a friend of his who bought it used when he had gotten back from WWII. I'm now having it restored and have had 10 different opinions from 20 different experts who have looked at it. Sure would be nice to know where/who it came from, but I'll settle for knowing what it is, lol

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Post some pics' date=' and the serial number and Factory Order Number (FON) and we'll have a go at identifying it for you...[/quote']

 

There is no serial number nor a FON. Never was a FON on the endblock, but if there was ever anything inked on the back of the headstock then it is now gone. I don't have the pictures of it when I first got the guitar, but it basically looked as if it was painted flat black. Here's some pics of the restoration work...

 

http://s274.photobucket.com/albums/jj268/BigSapelo/

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Btw, I guess that I should give a rundown of what I DO know about the guitar. It has solid mahogany back and sides. The back is ONE PIECE of mahogany...no joint or splice...., 16 inches at lower bout, yada yada.... same shape as J35 and J45 from this era. Single ply white binding front and back. Quarter sawn spruce top, Brazilian fretboard and bridge, straight sided and tapered headstock, no inlaid logo (no logo at all now as a matter of fact), tuners shown are the original with the exception of the buttons. I transplanted the buttons from a 50's model Harmony doner as the originals had decided to become raisins. No pickguard either, but the outline of the original is shaded onto the top and its of the typical pre-war firestripe shape.

 

Most who see the guitar and know the different measurements and elements of construction for the war era guitars believe that it is a J35 neck on a j45 body and was prolly made at the transition from J35 to j45 construction. Maybe 1939 or 1940? Just odd that there is no FON....

 

 

 

Interested in this restoration? I can keep the pics coming as it comes together.... literally!

 

 

Steve

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It is a shame you are having it restored. The original parts and finish might have helped in identifying it, and a restoration/refinish will probably decrease any value considerably. That being said, just because it is old and says Gibson does not mean it is worth a fortune. You can get pre 1950's Gibsons for reasonable prices. It all depends on what it is and what shape it is in. I would suggest, if you have any original pictures that you send them to George Gruhn at http://www.gruhn.com/ There are a lot of others who can do identification and appraisals, but George Gruhn is one of the best. He is also one of the few who will do an appraisal over the net. I hope it turns out to be something nice. Let us knw what you learn.

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It is a shame you are having it restored. The original parts and finish might have helped in identifying it' date=' and a restoration/refinish will probably decrease any value considerably. That being said, just because it is old and says Gibson does not mean it is worth a fortune. You can get pre 1950's Gibsons for reasonable prices. It all depends on what it is and what shape it is in. I would suggest, if you have any original pictures that you send them to George Gruhn at http://www.gruhn.com/ There are a lot of others who can do identification and appraisals, but George Gruhn is one of the best. He is also one of the few who will do an appraisal over the net. I hope it turns out to be something nice. Let us knw what you learn.[/quote']

 

No, it's not a shame in this case. I guess that I should have been a little more clear about the condition of the guitar when I found it. It was laying in the floor of a dank, delapidated music store underneath a stack of old guitar cases. It was scorched solid black from a house fire and was in three pieces. All plastic on the guitar was melted or missing, and had more cracks and breaks than you could imagine. It was going to be thrown away eventually, so I figured that maybe I could make it play again even though it may have more cleats in it than a football team. As for Gruhn, I don't want an appraisal. He'll just scoff at this guitar because it's such a mess. Maybe he or one of his panel of experts could help me with identifying it or figuring out the unusual options though. Thanks!

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Steve,

 

That is and interesting guitar! The rosette looks like that of a 1942 J-45, but the '42s had multiple binding and yours has (had!) single. And, that J-35 neck makes it even more interesting. Please do keep the pics coming.

 

I'm also interested in your maple J-45. I'm in the middle of writing a book about the Banner era flattops. You can read a bit about the project here. My coauthor and I are maintaining a registry of Banner guitars. We'd love to add info and pics of your J-45. We'd also want to include info about your project guitar.

 

Thanks.

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It would be my pleasure to share any info or pics of either guitar with you, John! Your site is exactly what I was hoping to find, and I've already looked at every pic on there, I think. Great job!

 

I was starting to wonder if maybe it's not an employees guitar or perhaps was re-necked at the factory, but after looking at the photos of some of the other documented guitars I'm starting to see that there are more guitars than mine from Gibson during the war that were a bit different from each other. My re-necked war era theory is kind of supported by the tuners that are on the guitar now, as they match some of the ones in the pics of post-war J45's on your site (ie, not welded or screw-type. Lock-nut washer instead). Perhaps a surplus J35 to replace a broken neck on a J45?

 

Anyway, thanks for letting me know about the site! It's a wealth of info, and I'll keep the pics of the resto work coming for those who are interested. The guitar is now assembled (Thanks Ralph Luttrell of Luttrell Guitars) and awaiting it's new nitro "antiqued" finish which is being done by Donald Dunlavey's Fret 'n Finish in Jonesboro,Ga.

 

Laters!

Steve aka Big Sapelo

http://www.myspace.com/sapelosteve

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Steve,

 

There were lots of wartime guitars with mixed parts. The centerpiece of the book will be the oral histories of Gibson's WWI employees. You can learn a bit more abotu the project from the recent press we've gotten:

 

TV

 

Newspaper

 

One of the women I interviewed spoke of a vist to Gibson's basement to find parts to build a guitar. Gibson stashed unused necks, tops, etc. So, parts from different eras clearly ended up on individual guitars.

 

Please do keep us posted on the resurrection of your guitar!

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  • 4 years later...

I realize that it has been 4 years since I posted this thread, but the guitar restoration is finally complete. Please revisit the original link for a few pics:

 

http://s274.photobucket.com/albums/jj268/BigSapelo/

 

The sound? It's a cannon. It sounds just how you would expect a war-era mahogany Gibson Jumbo to, perhaps better. And thanks to Donald Dunlavey's fret work it plays better than most. What a treasure, and to think that it was going to be thrown out!

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I realize that it has been 4 years since I posted this thread, but the guitar restoration is finally complete. Please revisit the original link for a few pics:

 

http://s274.photobucket.com/albums/jj268/BigSapelo/

 

The sound? It's a cannon. It sounds just how you would expect a war-era mahogany Gibson Jumbo to, perhaps better. And thanks to Donald Dunlavey's fret work it plays better than most. What a treasure, and to think that it was going to be thrown out!

Thanks for the update Big! Dummy me, was reading thru till the end, thinking it was new material...HA! The fact the Ballcorner weighed in was my clue. He hasn't posted in years.

The guitar resto looks awesome...Great job! I may suggest that you post more pics of the backs of your guitars in the future. I noticed the lack therefore of your banner J45 also. Don,t be neglecting us 'back guys' now.... [laugh]

I would love to play that rascal...

Rod

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Thanks for the update Big! Dummy me, was reading thru till the end, thinking it was new material...HA! The fact the Ballcorner weighed in was my clue. He hasn't posted in years.

The guitar resto looks awesome...Great job! I may suggest that you post more pics of the backs of your guitars in the future. I noticed the lack therefore of your banner J45 also. Don,t be neglecting us 'back guys' now.... [laugh]

I would love to play that rascal...

Rod

Well, Georgia isn't that far away! Come on and get you some before I play all of the songs out of it! I'll post some back pics of it as soon as I can get home before dark and it's not raining. Thanks!

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There is a guy on the UMGF. I think his handle is tpbill. I'll have to check. He can tell crazy things about the 30's boxes from just the tone bars. He may be able to tell you what it used to be. Could be an old Gibson Jumbo.

Good call...! He is a member of this forum also. He would probably be able to help you out. I wanna say that he is in Georgia also?

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  • 5 months later...

Congrats on your restoration.

 

Years ago, when Gibson made some policy changes about where they sold their guitars,

I emailed the company with a question. I had a rolling guitar collection at the time

and I had bought about 10 books on vintage guitars, such as Gruhn's Guide, the Blue Books,

various Gibson history books, etc.

 

I got an email reply from a very informative source a little later. The conversation

developed and suddenly one day, while answering an email, I realized that the name

in the signature was the same name that was on the majority of the reference books stacked around me!

 

Walter Carter co-wrote Gruhn's Guide and he wrote a number of Gibson specific history books.

He is Gibson's historian. He is also the mando player for The

.
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