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Help me buy a used Gibson Acoustic
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GRiFF
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#1
23rd December 2012
Old 23rd December 2012
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Help me buy a used Gibson Acoustic

Hi Chaps,

I'm cruising ebay at present with a view to picking up a nicely aged Gibson, probably J45/J50 1970s, I have £700-£800.

I own already a Taylor 214c auditorium but am looking for a vibier, fatter sound for strummy percussive rhythm.
The Taylor is great for certain tasks but I dont love it, very surgical instrument.
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23rd December 2012
Old 23rd December 2012
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Apologies, hit send before I finished the question!

I realise its best to try guitars but it will have to be a bit of a punt.

With that in mind if you have any thoughts on the era, or know of models best to avoid, would be very helpful.
Thanks!
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23rd December 2012
Old 23rd December 2012
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I believe that's Norlin era Gibson which is not regarded as a great period for them. However I've played a friend's Gibson Dove from the early 70's and it's an amazing instrument, so there are some good ones out there. If you can't try before you buy, maybe you can work out a trial period with the buyer or something like that.

Also I should note that most of the new Gibson acoustics I've seen have been very good. I picked up a Songwriter from MF a few years ago when they were dumping used inventory, it was in nearly new condition and I paid under $1200 for it. It might be worth keeping an eye on their site and seeing if a J45 pops up used.
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23rd December 2012
Old 23rd December 2012
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Mahogany backed J45's are one of my favorite guitars. They have a thick, dense, woody sound that's great for flat-picked strumming. Very meaty guitar, but with a crisp attack. Definitely on my short-list of guitars to pick up. I don't know what they're going for in the UK, but I wish you luck in finding one that plays well for your price.

As for age, I wouldn't worry about it. Acoustics need to be played before they're bought, no matter when they were made. Sure, some eras were more consistently better than others, but there are good guitars and dogs, players and abused guitars, from every era.
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23rd December 2012
Old 23rd December 2012
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this guy's always been good with me, knows his stuff and sensibly priced.


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23rd December 2012
Old 23rd December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GRiFF View Post
Hi Chaps,

I'm cruising ebay at present with a view to picking up a nicely aged Gibson, probably J45/J50 1970s, I have £700-£800.
is there any specific reason you're looking for a 70s era Gibson? Due to changing warranty laws at the time, Gibson/Norlin had the great idea of using the hardest woods to insure that their guitars didn't 'break' - or didn't project for that matter....

It's not a myth that these are among the worst intruments Gibson ever produced and though they seem 'affordable' on the vintage market, there is a reason for it.

Sorry to sound negative but I'd either get a vintage Gibson from the - well maybe not golden years as in unaffordable - but let's say from the good years up to the mid 60s or so.

Or I would look out for a good newer reissue model, preferably a used one that has some miles on it. No matter what anybody says there are some really great instruments out there from more recent years. I really think that most of these are vastly superior to 70s-era Gibson acoustics.
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24th December 2012
Old 24th December 2012
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I would avoid a '70s era Gibson unless I had a change to play it first. While there are a few good ones there are an awful lot of turkeys.
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24th December 2012
Old 24th December 2012
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I'll leave the Norlin-era Gibson guitar bashing to the other guys on this thread - they seem to be doing a pretty good job of it. But I will say this:

You're taking a chance buying any guitar as old as that without having the opportunity to inspect it first. Most guitars that old are in need of lots of work. I'm not sure how this converts to pounds or euros, but a refret can cost $350-$400. A neck reset: upwards of $500. A bridge replacement: $250 or so. There's also the possibility (probability) of loose braces and/or cracks. Not to mention the strong possibility that someone has already done substandard repair work on it, which may not be reversible.

I do guitar repair for a living. I can't count the amount of times that someone has brought me an old guitar that they just bought, expecting to spend a few bucks for a setup, and I have to break the news to them that their guitar needs $1000 or more worth of work. In a lot of cases, that's more than they paid for it, and more than it's worth.

I'm not trying to be a downer - I'm merely cautioning you about the pitfalls that one can encounter when shopping for a vintage acoustic guitar. Just make sure you know what you're getting into before you make the investment.
#9
24th December 2012
Old 24th December 2012
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I'll have to second what John and Hot wrote.

70's Gibsons are spotty quality. I've seen 70's Gib acoustics with bracing that needed shaving, flawed finishes, misplaced bridges, sloppy neck joints and nutwork, what looked like wood filler at seams and other things that ID the 70's as an era of sloppy craftmanship. Plenty of good 70's guits out there, but it's a game of chances. You see much less of this in the '60's and after about '80, although it can be hard sometimes to distinguish bad factory work from bad repair work.

And be careful when buying an old acoustic. Lots of bad repairs, worn frets, belly tops, loose bracing, unglued joints, neck reset needs and other things that result from age with any brand of older acoustic. 30 or 40 years of string tension takes a toll on thin wood and glued joints. Personally, I'd NEVER buy an old acoustic from ebay.
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24th December 2012
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I'll second avoiding e-bay!

The risk is just too high and frankly, unless you happen to know somebody that will do you a favour/inheritance/etc there are really no bargains out there when it comes to 'vintage' Gibson guitars.

I'd buy from a reputable dealer and the price will reflect what 'Hot Vibrato' says above: Set up, fixing of cracks, etc. Even a 70s guitar is 40 years old by now and will most likely need repair work.

I'd also be aware of the 'vintage bargain' syndrom that many sellers will use for things like 70s-era Gibsons (or Fenders for that matter). It SEEMS like a bargain compared to say a J-45 from the 50s but in reality it often will be overpriced for what it is.

The Gibson name in general will fetch high prices but there are certain models that are very desirable on the vintage market and the prices will reflect that. It's certainly true for J-45s and with J-200s it quickly gets into the higher 4 digits.

Here's a few places I had good experiences with.

"Vintage Guitars, Vintage Guitar Store in Ithaca and Albuquerque, Used Vintage Electric Gibson, Fender, Martin Acoustic Guitars and Vintage Gretsch, Ithaca, NY

Grinning Elk | Vintage Guitars & Vintage Amplifiers

Elderly Instruments - Welcome - Elderly Instruments

Vintage Guitars and New Guitars, Ontario Canada | Folkway Music

Good luck!
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24th December 2012
Old 24th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker View Post
I'll second avoiding e-bay!
I've done well on eBay, but only with solid bodies. For a flattop, I'd have to play it first.
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25th December 2012
Old 25th December 2012
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+100 on playing any AC guitar before buying.

As far as Gibby's go though, the J45 has always been my fave if you can deal with the fat, clubby neck.

Never got along with the Hummingbird or any of the other Gibby AC's.
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2nd January 2013
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I would not buy a 70s Gibson.

I own a few Gibson acoustics - old and new. One of the best sounding ones is a model called the Gospel from 1994. It is just a J style guitar with a funny looking logo, arched back (instead of 2 piece) and a old style pick guard.

It's a great guitar and sounds a lot like my 60s J-45 for a lot less money. I think it was under $800 used.

This is not mine but seems to be identical except mine has the 94 anniversary logo in it. I have a '94 Hummingbird and this one blows it away (also the HB has a big V neck).

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17th January 2013
Old 17th January 2013
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Gosh, didnt realise this post was collecting replies, only just checked in - no notifications from GS.
Oh well, thanks for the overwhelming heads up on 70's Gibsons, I will avoid unless I can play it first.

Any views at all on the best clones of J45/J50s? Especially if vintaged versions are so expensive.
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17th January 2013
Old 17th January 2013
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I've always loved J-200s (aka SJ-200), but they're expensive.

If you like Gibsons you might also want to check out older (pre-Fender) Guilds, they have a lot of the same mojo.

'70s and '80s Guilds are pretty sweet.
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17th January 2013
Old 17th January 2013
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Thats interesting to note but you know what those Guilds from 70s / 80s look to be as expensive as Gibsons these days.

What Guild models do you suggest?
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18th January 2013
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19th January 2013
Old 19th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GRiFF View Post
Thats interesting to note but you know what those Guilds from 70s / 80s look to be as expensive as Gibsons these days.

What Guild models do you suggest?
From that era? All of them. Fender took over the company in 1995 but didn't move production until 2001. A friend brought over his mid-90s jumbo (not sure of the model, it had a spruce top and maple back and sides like a J-200 but not as fancy trim) a few days ago and it was really nice. The neck was fairly thin front to back but had a nice width that didn't cramp my fingers - very comfortable.

The thing about Guilds from the '70s and '80s is that while they may be getting as expensive as Gibsons now they're much better guitars than Gibsons of that era.

Damn, why am I saying this? It'll probably drive the price up.....
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19th January 2013
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+1 on the Guild guitars. The quality of their instruments never declined the way Gibson's and Martin's did in the 70's. In fact, Guild's workmanship has remained remarkably consistent throughout their history.
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21st January 2013
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I'm wondering why you've decided on a Gibson, since the 70's models you referred to are square shouldered dreadnaughts. If you have heard and liked what most of us perceive as the "Gibson sound", then you have most likely been hearing a slope shouldered J45/J50/or Southern Jumbo made in the mid-60's or before. If my assumption that this is what you're after is correct, your most economical options are the Bozeman, Montana Gibsons made from around 1990 to present. I can only give you info based on U.S. pricing and availability unfortunately. You could get into a very good used J45 or J50 for as low as $1000 right now in the U.S. They come very close on the classic "Gibson sound". Next most economical would be from the mid 60's, but now you're up into the $2000 range and you have to be very careful about structural issues with these. You could end up putting a ton into having cracks repaired,braces reglued etc. But, if you know how to judge what you're looking at the 2 grand I mentioned is a realistic price for one in acceptable condition. My own guitar collection includes a 2008 Gibson Advanced Jumbo that I bought for $1500 from a Guitar Center and a 1965 J50 that had the adjustable bridge, but I had converted to a solid bone saddle. That one (with the conversion) set me back $2150. There are some lower end guitars (read Chinese made) that are all solid woods and hand built that come extremely close. I own an Epiphone Masterbilt AJ500M that was only $450 new and it satisfied me for awhile until I bought the Gibsons. Now, if I'm mistaken about the "Gibson sound" thing and you just want a great guitar from the 70's that question has already been answered-Guild all the way. And they were built very well, so the only thing to be concerned about are the usual issues-fret wear,top pulled up, possible need for a neck reset. But in all honesty, the only 70's era Guilds I've ever seen or even heard of having the top/neck reset issues are the jumbo 12 strings. Now (and I think it was already mentioned), in my opinion the best quality vs. price guitars made in the mid 70's are the Alverez/Yairis. A really good one can be had for around $500 in this country and is one of the best bargains out there. Sorry for the length of this post, but when I get an opportunity (which is quite rare actually LOL) to share on a topic that I am well educated in I tend to get a bit carried away. Hope this helps and best of luck on your quest,

Larry
#21
23rd January 2013
Old 23rd January 2013
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The Guild dreadnaughts have a sound very similar to the Gibsons and distinct from others such as Martin.

The Guild Jumbos are very, very similar to Gibson jumbos.
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23rd January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
The Guild Jumbos are very, very similar to Gibson jumbos.
In many (most) cases, the Guilds are better. I don't see J-200's very often, but over the years, I've seen quite a few. I'm usually quite disappointed that their sound is not proportionate to their size. Many of the J-200's I've seen, in fact sound kind of puny and thin. It seems as though their tops are too thick and they're braced too heavily.
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24th January 2013
Old 24th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
In many (most) cases, the Guilds are better. I don't see J-200's very often, but over the years, I've seen quite a few. I'm usually quite disappointed that their sound is not proportionate to their size. Many of the J-200's I've seen, in fact sound kind of puny and thin. It seems as though their tops are too thick and they're braced too heavily.
My '58 was amazing. I have it on good authority that the guitar used on "Stairway to Heaven" was a '64. Many, if not most of the newer ones I've tried have been a bit disappointing.
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