Your Guide to Buying a Vintage Gibson Electric Guitar

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Your Guide to Buying a Vintage Gibson Electric Guitar

The electric guitar has been the unmistakable sound of rock music ever since it became universally popular in the early 1950s. Gibson was the world’s first manufacturer of mass-produced electric guitars, and it was rivalled only by Fender in terms of popularity and reputation. To this day, Gibson continues to be at the forefront of guitars, and their products are used by some of the most famous bands and musicians in the world. Of course, this is nothing new; some of the most famous musicians in the world, including Jimi Hendrix, have been loyal customers of Gibson, and that has made several of their iconic guitars very famous over the years. Synonymous with style and performance, vintage Gibson guitars are still highly sought after. However, there are many copies and fakes on the market. Knowing how to spot the real thing will protect the investment of die-hard fans of this most famous of guitar producers.

How to Spot a Fake Vintage Gibson Electric Guitar

Sadly, the huge success of Gibson guitars has led to a number of fakes being introduced to the market. At first glance these instruments look the part; however, closer scrutiny gives away some obvious differences from the real thing.



The Truss Rod

A fake Gibson guitar will often have a truss rod cover with three screws, but it should only have two. Also, the Gibson logo on the truss rod cover should not be vertical; it should be angled.

The Pickup

The inside of the pickup cavity should not be black. The arrangement of the pickup and the control cavities should also be neat and tidy.

The Wiring

The wiring on a real Gibson should be tidily executed; fake models will often look a little haphazard and unprofessional. Wiring coated with plastic also usually signifies a fake Gibson; it should be coated with fabric, and it should have braided shielding.

Other Obvious Signs

New Gibson guitars always come with a hard, branded case. The genuine article will also come with a warranty card and an official user manual. Any mention of the instrument being made in China will signify it is a fake; Gibsons are only made in the USA. People tend to cherish their Gibson guitars, so used models will often be sold with their original case and documentation. However, buyers with doubts about a particular guitar can check the Gibson website, or they can contact customer services with any concerns.

The Various Vintage Gibson Electric Guitars Available

The Gibson name tells people that the instrument they are about to purchase should deliver a lifetime of superb performance, but there are several models available, and they all offer different benefits.



The Les Paul

The Les Paul is one of the most iconic electric guitars ever produced. Rivalled by only the Fender Stratocaster in terms of reputation, it is a highly respected instrument. In stark contrast to Fender’s Telecaster, the Les Paul was elegant, and it resembled a traditional guitar. However, it was far heavier than most of its rivals; partly due to the fact that mahogany and maple were used to produce it. The original guitars made before 1961 are hugely expensive, but many other manufacturers have since recreated the basic design far more cheaply.

The Flying ‘V’

The Flying ‘V’ was considered to be a truly groundbreaking instrument when it was first released in 1958. Its futuristic design had never been seen before, but it was this ingenuity that actually made the guitar a commercial failure. However, a new wave of guitarists in the 1960s wanted a distinctive guitar with a unique sound, and the Flying ‘V’ was perfect. Gibson began manufacturing them again in 1966, and they have an iconic status in the music industry.

The Explorer

The Explorer was another attempt by Gibson to create a series of futuristic designs. Although this guitar shares many of the same innovations that are present in the flying ‘V’, its design is very different. The Explorer has almost no curves, but its unconventional design proved too wacky for Gibson fans in the 1950s. However, the Explorer became a huge hit with the next generation of guitarists, and it was reissued in 1975.

The ES-335

This hybrid instrument was essentially a hollow-bodied electric guitar, but it contained a solid block at its centre. The result was a guitar that delivered the tone of hollow-bodied instrument while providing the user with the ‘sustain’ and resistance to feedback of solid guitars. BB King was perhaps the most famous owner of the ES-335.

The SG

The Fender Stratocaster was a more mobile, lightweight alternative to the Les Paul, and Gibson was forced to launch the SG as a result. It featured innovative pickups, a more aggressive look and a much thinner neck, and it is currently very popular with heavy metal bands.

The Firebird

The Firebird featured a reversed design; the right horn was longer than the left – the opposite of most guitars at the time of its launch in the 1960s. This ‘reversed’ body proved unpopular, and the Firebird was discontinued only a few months after its launch. However, the Firebird was re-launched in the 1970s without the ‘reverse’ body. Original Firebirds are rare, and they are extremely expensive.

Buying a Vintage Gibson Electric Guitar on eBay

The eBay website is a great place to buy a vintage Gibson guitar, as there are hundreds to choose from. The feedback system used by eBay lets buyers know a little bit about the trading history of vendors, so purchases can always be made with complete confidence. There is free shipping included in the price of many items, or buyers can choose to pick their item up personally by dealing with locally-based traders. Buyers can also take advantage of significant savings by looking for ‘bundles’. Some vendors may list vintage Gibson electric guitars as part of a package that includes amps, guitar straps and foot pedals.

Finding a Vintage Guitar on eBay

Finding a Gibson guitar on eBay is extremely easy, and some people find that using the text-entry search box near the top of the homepage is the quickest option. However, eBay’s user-friendly, category-based search facility is the best way to find only the guitars that match the user’s exact requirements. Any category-based search should begin by clicking the All Categories drop-down menu near the top of the homepage. A list of categories will then be displayed, and Musical Instruments should be selected. After clicking the Search icon a further list of sub-categories will appear on the left side of the screen. The category entitled Guitars should be selected, and the Electric category should be selected from the subsequent screen. The user will then be presented with a list of check-boxes, and one section will be entitled Brands. Clicking the check-box for Gibson will lead to the entire range of vintage Gibson guitars. Alternatively, clicking the Vintage check-box will take the user to a list of specific models such as Les Paul and Firebird guitars.


Gibson was the world’s first mass-producer of electric guitars, and the name will always hold a special place in the hearts of avid guitarists across the world. These instruments were originally crafted by hand, and they were intended to stand the test of time. Not only are they beautifully designed, Gibson guitars produce sound of the highest quality, and that is why many of the world’s leading musicians buy nothing else. The key to finding a Gibson that is reliable and well made is buying the genuine article. Gibson’s commitment to craftsmanship and performance is second-to-none, and a great sound is always guaranteed. There have been hundreds of Gibson guitars, but none of them have come close to the Les Paul in terms of sheer commercial success. Copied hundreds of times, the Les Paul was one of the biggest innovations in the world of music, and it is still the benchmark for quality electric guitars.

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