Tips and How-To's As one of the oldest and most widely recognized brands in music, Gibson has crafted some of the most cherished and valuable instruments of all time. Determining exactly when your Gibson specimen was made can have high stakes attached to it. A difference of only one year - sometimes even several months - can mean a four-figure difference in value. Our hope is to make the dating process and, in turn, the valuation as easy, accurate and transparent as possible.
You should be able to use this guide to determine the year of your instrument and then consult the Reverb Price Guide to find its value, all for free. Methods For Dating a Gibson Instrument For many vintage instruments, determining the date of manufacture involves little more than running the serial number through a reference guide. Whereas Martin guitars have been using a single, consistent numbering system since the 19th century, Gibson has used several different serial number formats since its inception in , meaning that some formats and numbers overlap across decades.
This makes it especially important to first identify the general era during which your instrument was made before pinning down the exact date of manufacture with a serial number.
If you know the backstory around when the instrument was purchased, this can provide some rough clues about its era. The most general physical piece of evidence on the instrument, however, is going to be the logo on the headstock. This is sometimes referred to as the slanted script logo. Some earlier specimens from to did not slant the logo, or went without a logo entirely. Specimens built before had a star inlay or crescent in place of a logo. Late s to L-2 The script logo continues without the slant.
Some flattop guitars of this era started to omit the word "The" from the inlay. From to , the logo was a thick golden script, known as the banner logo. There were minute changes to which letters were connected in the font between to , but the main logo had the same look. Most models get a dotted i again in , with the rest following suit from onward.
Other Date-Linked Features Aside from the logos, each era of manufacturing included certain identifying traits such as the hardware tuners, knobs, plates, etc. But not a final verdict.
Many older instruments may have reproduction or other non-original parts, including a non-original finish. This makes relying entirely on the physical features of a guitar potentially misleading. The thickness of the headstock, however, is not as vulnerable to modification or replacement. Before mid, most Gibson headstocks were thinner at the top when looked at from a side profile. After , headstocks had uniform thickness. Instruments will generally have one or both of these numbers stamped or written either inside the body generally the case on earlier models or on the back of the headstock.
These will generally date an instrument earlier than the serial number, as they were typically applied in the early stages of assembly. Some earlier lower-end models had no serial number at all, making the FON the sole numerical identifier in those cases.
A FON usually consisted of a 3-, 4-, or 5-digit batch number followed by one or two other numbers in most cases.