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Gibson Archtop - looking for info

Gibson Archtop - looking for info
« on: October 26, 2007, 10:37:17 AM »
I found this list while searching for information on my guitar - I hope someone can help me out!

A little disclaimer beforehand: I don't play guitar and I don't know much about them.

Basically, when my grandfather passed away in 1988 I inherited a Gibson guitar that he had owned for many years.  At the time I was 13 and all we knew about it was that it might have been made in the 50s or 60s; chances are that he owned it through most if not all of the time until I received it...I've seen some very old pictures of him holding it.  

It came to me with no case and a missing pick guard, having survived more than a few LA earthquakes (and with no case I suppose that's a small miracle by itself).  Several years later I had the finish and the pickguard restored and it looks beautiful.

What I am trying to figure out now is what exactly it is.  I'm not as interested in its monetary value because to me it's priceless (it's the only thing I have of his and he tried so hard to teach me to play when I was a little girl...I used to have a vintage Fender amp that went with it, which for some odd reason my mother decided to put out with the trash one day while I was at still makes me mad!)  In my web searches I've come across some distinguishing features that might be helpful at some point, but it's a little frustrating because I just don't know where to look for this sort of info...which is what I was hoping someone here could help me with.

Inside there is a white oval label that I know is supposed to list the serial number and model.  Unfortunately the years have not been kind to it and I can barely make it out...I can tell that the numbers were stamped on the label and the last 3 digits are 964, though it looks like there is definitely another digit in front of that.  At the top it has the model, which is all but impossible to make out so I am hesitant to put a guess in writing just yet.  I read on one of the sites that the logo it has started to be used in the late 40s (with the dot of the i connected to the G).  I also read about FON numbers but for the life of me I can't find any anywhere.  There is also a tag below the logo that looks like an elongated bell-shape and says "custom".

If anyone's curious to see I can upload pics, but I didn't want to waste anyone's time with them.

So...knowing that's about all I have to go on, is there a good place for me to look some of this stuff up?  If someone can point me in the right direction I'd really appreciate it. Thanks so much!  



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« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2007, 03:16:46 PM »
Hi Karmelita

sounds like an interesting guitar - and its nice to hear you have such good memories associated with it. Old Gibson archtops were quality instruments, and well made. It will be worth getting it a case, and perhaps trying to learn to play again....

yes we want to see pictures - thats what we thrive on here - but also we would need to look at it to work out what it is.

If you can't work out how to post pics, just email them to me, and i'll do the rest.

The first digits of the serial number are crucial in dating it, but there are other ways - even a hint at what the full number may be may help


Gibson Archtop - looking for info
« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2007, 05:01:37 PM »
Hi Jules...thanks for the reply!

I do have wonderful memories associated with it.  He was quite a character, and he had a ton of interesting guitars.  He'd always bring one with him when he came to visit from the west coast, but this was his favorite and the only nice one he kept.  I've thought about learning to play it over the years.  Otherwise it would be such a shame for it to be owned by someone who can't fully appreciate it!  Maybe when I finish grad school next year...

I actually did get a case for it at the same time it was refinished.  It cost a small fortune and an 8 hour round trip to refinish, so I planned on buying one before picking it up anyway.  As it turned out, the guy who worked on it found an old case that fits it perfectly and he just gave it to me.  It isn't pretty, but it protects it.  I rarely take it out of the case.

Yes, the serial number is figures that it would be the crucial part of the number that is obscured! I'm in the process of uploading pics to my photo sharing account, and I'll post some as soon as I'm finished.  Hopefully someone will be able to tell me something.

I took another look at the label, and I think it's an L series.  It ends in C...and the middle number is obscured (of course) but I think it may be a 7.  It's handwritten so it's a little tougher than the serial number.  It definitely doesn't look like a 5 to me.  I think that's the best I can do on the numbers unless I figure out how to clean it up without ruining it.

I'll post back soon...thanks again!


« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2007, 05:43:34 PM »
Here are a few.  I tried to take them from a bunch of different angles, but if you want to see more just let me know. I didn't get a great shot of the binding on the back, but I can always try again tonight.  (Please disregard the surroundings...the house is very much a work in progress at the moment!  :) )


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« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2007, 02:45:54 AM »
Quote from: Karmelita
I took another look at the label, and I think it's an L series.  It ends in C...and the middle number is obscured (of course) but I think it may be a 7.

I think you are right. An L-7C - but with added pickups.

They were acoustic (no pickups). The C signifies the guitar has a cutaway. Available 1948-1972. Versions with pickups also existed - though these were not attached to the guitar - they were floating in the pickguard.

See an unmodified L-7C here

Ones with pickups also had a different serial number L-7CED - for a two pickup model. E for electric, D for double pickup.

Yours would originally have been sunburst - otherwise the model would have been L-7CN (N for natural)

The pickups used are late fifties at the earliest, whereas the logo suggests very early fifties. The modification was done long after the guitar was made.

This is a really nice guitar. Despite the modifications it is still valuable (low to mid $XXXX) - but it was made at a time when Gibson really knew how to make fine guitars.

Gibson Archtop - looking for info
« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2007, 03:15:40 AM »
How cool!

After reading your reply, I went back to check the label with a penlight, and I definitely think the last letter is C - it doesn't look like there was room for them to write anything after that.

I took another crack at the serial number while I had the better light there, and I am pretty sure the full stamp says "7964".  I can't be 100% sure of the 7, but from what's left of the number that's the one that seems right to me.  There are some marks in front of that that look like it may be the bottom half of the "A".  That's not part of the stamp, though, and if I hadn't already seen serial numbers in that format I probably wouldn't guess it...there's not much left of that part.  

So if I'm right about the number and I can trust the Blue Book, it sounds like you were spot on...that would place it at 1951 sometime, right?

I'm not surprised to hear about the modifications...he had a habit of tinkering with everything...he was a bit eccentric, but did he ever have some good stories.  That's neat that it's still worth something too...although even if you said it wasn't, it would still be priceless to me.

Well, Jules, it's looking like you've cleared up my 20 year old mystery!  Thanks again for taking the time to look at this...can't wait to share it with my sister...



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1951 L-7C
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2007, 08:15:56 PM »
Quote from: Karmelita
So if I'm right about the number and I can trust the Blue Book, it sounds like you were spot on...that would place it at 1951 sometime, right?

Yeah - Gibson serial numbers were not contradictory in those days. I think you can be fairly sure its a '51.

If you really wanted to you could have a look at the date on the volume control (i'm afraid it involves taking the pot out - getting the code, deciphering it and putting it back) - this date is the year the pot was manufactured. Assuming whoever did this used new pots you get the date the modifications were done. Hopefully the mod was done using old Gibson parts in the 50s or 60s (or returned to Gibson for the work).


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