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Questions on Vintage Gibsons and Vintage Epiphones answered by Mat Koehler

Arch D. Bunker

Active member
Joined
Jul 9, 2015
Messages
283
Hi Mat - thanks much for all your graciously provided support to the LPF folks over the years.

Last month I got this 1964 Gibson Hummingbird with a factory L5 fingerboard. A few of these have turned up over the years, which were apparently only made during a brief time in 1964 - Tom Petty owned one, too. The serial number on mine is 207858 - I've seen another with #207854, plus two with #20828X and 20829X serials. I would like to know if there is any indication in the ledgers about the L5 board (e.g. as 'Special'), and if so how many (batches) of these were made. Many thanks in advance.

06s may 12 2024.jpg
 
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MikeSlub

Administrator
Joined
Jul 15, 2001
Messages
15,267
LPFers: Friendly reminder that we're limiting questions for Matt to up to 1969 Gibsons/Epiphones. Please do not post questions here about 1970 to present Gibsons/Epiphones here. Thank you.
 

S. Weiger

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 25, 2002
Messages
1,874
Yipe!
I never seed nekkid minis!
Me neither, until that Deluxe kinda fell into my lap. I hope I'll never have to deal with such a horror task again. There is literally no room for the metal cover to slip onto a mini hum. pickup without damaging the thread.
 

MikeSlub

Administrator
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Messages
15,267
Thanks Mike - maybe change the '1979' in your original post above, I guess that is a typo then..
My bad. Matt did agree to address questions thru 1979, even though IMHO it's way too far into the Norlin era. I have nothing against Norlins - I own several, I just feel we should have a 50 year cutoff for this "vintage" forum, like 1974 at most. So I guess the early 1970's shouldn't be ruled out.
 

TM1

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 27, 2003
Messages
8,382
Hi Matt; I have a 1965 Al Caiola(sunburst). It has a wide nut with a Zero Fret! As far as to what I know, Al was a Gretsch guy before coming to Epiphone. Interesting guitar with the 6-way Varitone switches. Any idea on how many Al Caiola "Customs" were made. On mine, someone took off the original tailpiece and installed a Bigsby. The body is thicker than an ES-335(or 345, 355) @ 2" vs 1 5/8"
Thanks!
 

S. Weiger

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 25, 2002
Messages
1,874
Hello Mat:
I think I once read that the transition from 50's real long tenon to the "shorter long" version might have come at around 1960
ser.# 0 11xx approx.
But do you have any clue as to why Gibson changed the specs back then? .. Yeah I'm obsessed with this nerdy stuff..
Here are 3 examples, 2 from ATB guitars, the 3rd is mine.

0 0308 -full length tenon:
0-0308 Neck cavity.jpeg

0 1602 -shorter version:
0-1602 Neck cavity Tony Hicks.jpg

7 0437 -really shorter version:
0-7437 Neck cavity.jpg

Again, many thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. :)
 

mdubya

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 31, 2010
Messages
1,039
Hi Mat.

I have a 1908 Gibson A Style mandolin which belonged to my grandfather. It is in need of some attention. I am hoping to simply make it structurally sound while being as minimally invasive as possible.

Any suggestions on who might be a safe person to entrust?

Thx.

1TvruRk.jpg


JiWr3pA.jpg


yaL1uod.jpg


RMRcUFu.jpg


I have the nut and the bridge and even some 75 year old strings that came off of it.
 

matkoehler

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 12, 2014
Messages
539
I have a proposed topic [an alliterative one at that]: Leftovers: Legitimacy and Lore.

With stories of leftover 58 Korina models being finished and sold well after the original run as an example, has your time spent in the Archives revealed more about this or other significant models born from 'leftover' neck-body builds and released well after their run?

More details, anything to be specially clarified or debunked?

Any new surprises, etc?

Perhaps there's nothing new on this front, or maybe breaking news... 🍑

People forget that we have all the 1961-1969 ledger books, and yes, they have revealed a lot! For example...8XXXX and 9XXXX serial number ranges repeated in the 1960s (hard stamped, not ink stamped). But whoever was logging was not shy about adding the duplicate ink stamped model next to the existing line item. Dozens of examples in the margins. If anyone owns a 60s-feature Korina guitar personally and want me to authenticate, I'm happy to do it. It's a scary world out there, though, so we at Gibson keep that information close to the chest. As for "leftover" builds...I have not seen any evidence of hard-stamped serial number or even no-serial-number Korina guitars logged, nor are there any Korina guitars listed anywhere that I have seen after 1964.

In my opinion, the value of original Korina Flying V and Explorer models is all about hard provenance that goes back further than the 1980s. I have seen a lot of scary guitars (and cases!) come out of the woodwork recently, and even if you're an expert in tells and fine details, you still have to take a leap of faith on them.

They're still out there, though. Gibson just landed a really killer and uncirculated V from its original owner. :) The V that sold through Brian's Guitars recently was absolutely stellar as well...the cleanest example out there with provenance too. It was known/circulated before, but good to see it surface again.
 

matkoehler

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 12, 2014
Messages
539
Hi Mat - thanks much for all your graciously provided support to the LPF folks over the years.

Last month I got this 1964 Gibson Hummingbird with a factory L5 fingerboard. A few of these have turned up over the years, which were apparently only made during a brief time in 1964 - Tom Petty owned one, too. The serial number on mine is 207858 - I've seen another with #207854, plus two with #20828X and 20829X serials. I would like to know if there is any indication in the ledgers about the L5 board (e.g. as 'Special'), and if so how many (batches) of these were made. Many thanks in advance.

That's awesome! I have never seen one and didn't know that Petty had one.

Unfortunately for you, this is a good example of the limitations of the ledgers. It's extremely possible that a small batch was made, even accidentally (really...it happens), but we know they were not custom ordered because if they were, they'd be listed only in a separate (non-sequential) custom order log. That said, all of these numbers you list appear in the standard '64 ledger and between those two ranges I see about four dozen Hummingbirds...none with any special notes. I said I wouldn't do ledger lookups but again this illustrates the point that not everything in every era tells you what you want to know.

If you're curious about the gaps...you see them on nearly every page and because the numbers are not found elsewhere, we believe this indicates the instrument fell out of production due to a flaw or issue. Each would have been hard-stamped fairly early on in this era so you do see more gaps in the sequential serial logs as a result. We have no evidence to suggest the blank lines represent instruments that were completed, even for employee sale or anything like that...those instruments were indeed logged in the 1960s and almost always marked BGN (Bargain) beside the serial number.
 

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matkoehler

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Joined
Sep 12, 2014
Messages
539
My bad. Matt did agree to address questions thru 1979, even though IMHO it's way too far into the Norlin era. I have nothing against Norlins - I own several, I just feel we should have a 50 year cutoff for this "vintage" forum, like 1974 at most. So I guess the early 1970's shouldn't be ruled out.
Late Kalamazoo production and early Nashville production is just as thrilling to me as anything! Truly. But again the intent of this thread, ideally, was to address more general questions -- Gibson and Epiphone history moreso than specific instruments. Everybody good with that? :)
 

matkoehler

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 12, 2014
Messages
539
Hi Matt; I have a 1965 Al Caiola(sunburst). It has a wide nut with a Zero Fret! As far as to what I know, Al was a Gretsch guy before coming to Epiphone. Interesting guitar with the 6-way Varitone switches. Any idea on how many Al Caiola "Customs" were made. On mine, someone took off the original tailpiece and installed a Bigsby. The body is thicker than an ES-335(or 345, 355) @ 2" vs 1 5/8"
Thanks!
Funny, I just mentioned Al Caiola models earlier in this thread -- mine with the huge fat neck. Love them and yes the secret is out but they all had wide nuts.

Here's a fact that may boggle your mind. There were NO Al Caiola Custom models made prior to 1966. Only 23 made in that year, 102 in 1967, 13 each in 1968 and 1969, and 23 in 1970, They are outstandingly rare and undervalued instruments in my opinion.

Al Caiola Standard models are also rare but there were 2 shipped in 1963, 30 in 1964, 47 in 1965, 8 in 1966, 116 in 1967, 24 in 1968, 18 in 1969, and 49 in 1970.
 

matkoehler

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 12, 2014
Messages
539
Hello Mat:
I think I once read that the transition from 50's real long tenon to the "shorter long" version might have come at around 1960
ser.# 0 11xx approx.
But do you have any clue as to why Gibson changed the specs back then? .. Yeah I'm obsessed with this nerdy stuff..
Here are 3 examples, 2 from ATB guitars, the 3rd is mine.

0 0308 -full length tenon:
View attachment 26119

0 1602 -shorter version:
View attachment 26120

7 0437 -really shorter version:
View attachment 26121

Again, many thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. :)
I hate to be a wet blanket, but I really think what we are looking at here is 1) basic migration in production environment and 2) variation due to the nature of prepping and setting mortise and tenon necks -- much more than any conscious use of long or short tenons. We're talking about a centimeter of variation at most.
 

matkoehler

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 12, 2014
Messages
539
Hi Mat.

I have a 1908 Gibson A Style mandolin which belonged to my grandfather. It is in need of some attention. I am hoping to simply make it structurally sound while being as minimally invasive as possible.

Any suggestions on who might be a safe person to entrust?

Thx.



I have the nut and the bridge and even some 75 year old strings that came off of it.
Respectfully, mdubya -- I don't think this follows the spirit of this thread but I encourage you post elswhere here and get opinions. I can tell you that the cost of the repairs is going to be at least the price of several clean 1908 Gibson A-style mandolins, wherever you go...
 

S. Weiger

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 25, 2002
Messages
1,874
Hi Mat.

I have a 1908 Gibson A Style mandolin which belonged to my grandfather. It is in need of some attention. I am hoping to simply make it structurally sound while being as minimally invasive as possible.

Any suggestions on who might be a safe person to entrust?

Thx.

I have the nut and the bridge and even some 75 year old strings that came off of it.
I'd ask Gruhn's. They are experts on restauration of old instruments.
 
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Arch D. Bunker

Active member
Joined
Jul 9, 2015
Messages
283
That's awesome! I have never seen one and didn't know that Petty had one.

Unfortunately for you, this is a good example of the limitations of the ledgers. It's extremely possible that a small batch was made, even accidentally (really...it happens), but we know they were not custom ordered because if they were, they'd be listed only in a separate (non-sequential) custom order log. That said, all of these numbers you list appear in the standard '64 ledger and between those two ranges I see about four dozen Hummingbirds...none with any special notes. I said I wouldn't do ledger lookups but again this illustrates the point that not everything in every era tells you what you want to know.

If you're curious about the gaps...you see them on nearly every page and because the numbers are not found elsewhere, we believe this indicates the instrument fell out of production due to a flaw or issue. Each would have been hard-stamped fairly early on in this era so you do see more gaps in the sequential serial logs as a result. We have no evidence to suggest the blank lines represent instruments that were completed, even for employee sale or anything like that...those instruments were indeed logged in the 1960s and almost always marked BGN (Bargain) beside the serial number.
Thanks so much Mat, and for the ledger shot - awesome. Some more pics of these versions (after getting used to the L5 board I actually think it looks better on a Hummingbird than the trap inlays) - the one Tom Petty is playing is the same guitar pictured below in the Norman's Rare Guitars book, see the single ply truss rod cover. In a recent store video, Michael Lemmo said that Tom bought this Hummingbird from Norm.

02.jpg01 Petty HB in Norman's rare gtr book.jpg
 

jb_abides

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 6, 2005
Messages
5,702
Mat -

What do the archive, ledger reveal about the 2 known Non-Reverse Firebirds, any more information regarding the custom orders?

Specifically: what year was Paul's, any confirmation it's Pelham Blue (I've only seen B&W photos)?

Long-shot and probably low on your to-do list: perhaps Gibson reached out to the respective owners to capture details about these? Owner 'LeftyFirebird' was a member of Gibson's Forum:

Interesting both were fitted with a 'trem' (Bigsby or Maestro) versus a stop tail... FWIW: I'd order a M2M with a stop tail. :cool: Already have a 2013 USA FBV with Steinberger tuners and the EE Tikibird in Gold Polymist!

Do the ledgers point to other Lefty FB examples or is that a specific search not [yet] done?

....

'68 FB I -

"The original owner ordered this guitar through his guitar teacher at the time. It took about 8 months from order to delivery. He still has the original order form and receipt of purchase."
1718979018849.png


Year? FB VII -

"None other than Paul McCartney had one of the very few left-handed Firebirds – a custom VII with a blue finish, horseshoe Bigsby, and dark pickguard. He used it during sessions for Ram and, reportedly, his first solo effort."
1718979100527.png
 
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matkoehler

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 12, 2014
Messages
539
Mat -

What do the archive, ledger reveal about the 2 known Non-Reverse Firebirds, any more information regarding the custom orders?

Specifically: what year was Paul's, any confirmation it's Pelham Blue (I've only seen B&W photos)?

Long-shot and probably low on your to-do list: perhaps Gibson reached out to the respective owners to capture details about these? Owner 'LeftyFirebird' was a member of Gibson's Forum:

Interesting both were fitted with a 'trem' (Bigsby or Maestro) versus a stop tail... FWIW: I'd order a M2M with a stop tail. :cool: Already have a 2013 USA FBV with Steinberger tuners and the EE Tikibird in Gold Polymist!

Do the ledgers point to other Lefty FB examples or is that a specific search not [yet] done?

....

'68 FB I -

"The original owner ordered this guitar through his guitar teacher at the time. It took about 8 months from order to delivery. He still has the original order form and receipt of purchase."


Year? FB VII -

"None other than Paul McCartney had one of the very few left-handed Firebirds – a custom VII with a blue finish, horseshoe Bigsby, and dark pickguard. He used it during sessions for Ram and, reportedly, his first solo effort."
OK a lot to unpack here. Your first question -- I assume you mean lefty Non-Reverse Firebirds. I would venture to guess there were a lot more than two made, but I can't tell you more about the two referenced in the body of your message without serial numbers. I would love to know Paul's specifically -- I have seen photos of that guitar where it looks like a dark purple metallic, so who knows. It would take a great deal of time and energy to scan every line item of all applicable ledger books looking for lefty Firebirds in the Non-Reverse era, but for as much as I've seen, I've not seen a custom color lefty Non Reverse firebird that I can remember.

As for trem tailpieces, stop tails or wraparounds were not available historically on Non-Reverse Firebirds (6 strings anyway). Only trems of every variety.
 
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