Dating a gibson explorer
I'd be very interested in hearing what the gurus have to say, but in my very unenlightened estimation, I would suspect you'll be SOL until you strip the back of the headstock if they were stamping explorers there back then. They didn't make them til circa excepting the late 50s models. To get an idea of what you have clear shots of the whole guitar, front and back of headstock, bridge area are the most helpful. You should be able to get an idea of the earliest possible date from codes on the potentiometers.
Thanks for the info guys. I've taken some photos and put them up on Flickr here - http: There are some markings on one of the tone or Volume pots that say: The brass nut is sort of interesting, were these stock? Any markings on the underside of the original pickups? I date women, not guitars! I don't believe they were but I'm not sure for certain. Just had a look and there's no markings on the underneath of the original pickups. Yeah I realised what I'd said after posted it. There were Gibson Explorer 2 and V2 models that had brass nuts. My guess is that is a later Explorer 2 on its way to becoming the "The Explorer" model.
If you look in the pu cavity van you see a maple top? That would fit with a possible pot date.
Gibson Serial Numbers
Tuco , Aug 28, As for the case it is not original. I don't know much about inlay and pickup spacing differences. IIRC, 8 would be an R8, made in and the th produced that year. I had an R9 from '04 that was 9 4xxx. Not trying to be vague with the number, I just don't remember all of it.
Also, look inside the control cavity. If it is an "R" type it will be stamped in there. Or just call Gibson. They'll tell you over the phone. Looking at all the online info though makes me think I did pull apart the cavity and checked for an R8 stamp, it's there. Just got off the phone with Gibson, couldn't wait on the email. Just forgot to ask which plant it came out of. Oh well maybe it'll be in the email, if and when it comes. An R8 would be from the custom shop in Nashville. Although lapsteels are considered student model instruments, pre-war models are interesting. This is because they are early examples in the evolution of the electric guitar.
Today, the pedal steel has made the lapsteel obsolete. Vintage Mandolins by Gibson: Gibson mandolins are the standard of the industry. The original series made by Orville Gibson generally don't sound that good, but are interesting historically. Mandolins from to have a better design, but still lack sound. The high end models from to are excellent utility mandolins. The F-5 design of the mid 's is considered to be high point of mandolin design, and the mandolin by which all others are judged. By the late 's, the mandolin boom had pasted and demand feel.
Because demand was low, so was production. Hence mandolins from the 's are somewhat rare. Until the mandolin became popular in country music after WWII, demand and production for mandolins stayed low. Discontinued all models except L-5 by Fiber peghead veneer replaces "Holly" wood veneer: Also "Made in U. Peghead angle is 17 degrees: Peghead angle is 14 degrees: Thickness of peghead uniform: Prior to peghead narrows in thickness towards top. Fingerboard Woods Fingerboards, bridges and other small parts made from rosewood are all the Brazilian variety till Starting in , Gibson changed to Indian rosewood.
Pre-WW2 pearl script logo. Note no letters drop below the other letters. Post-WW2 pearl style logo with connecting dot. The "G" and the "n" drop below the other letters, and the open "b" and open "o" open at the top of the letters were used in their pearl logos until Note the closed "b" and "o". Fret size Gibson used a smaller. Then the width changed to. This happened to pretty much all models at some point in There were some exceptions though, like the Les Paul Custom which kept the smaller. Peghead Logos Pre-war Gibson script logo used before No letters drops below the other letters.
Pre-war Script Gibson logo, Pearl or White. Pearl inlaid, high-end models: Thicker "Gibson" on Super and other high-end models: Thicker "Gibson" all models: Gold post-war logo on a Les Paul Junior. The "i" dot was always attached on all of these post-war gold logos. Pearl post-war logo with detached "i" dot on a Les Paul. This style logo with detached "i" dot was used from to , and again from to present.
War-time gold script "only a Gibson is Good Enough" logo on a Southern Jumbo, as used from to Gold Script Gibson logo. All models made during WW2. The post-war logo has the "G" and the "N" with a tail that drops below the other letters. Dot on "i" connected to "G": Dot on "i" free from "G": Gibson always used nitrocellulose lacquer for all instruments from to present.
Some other special order custom colors were available. Prior to , Gibson used mostly spirit varnish. This is very similar to Behlen's Violin Varnish still available today. This spirit varnish produces a eggshell crazing patina. Around is when Gibson started experimenting with Nitrocellulose laquer, and by all models were using lacquer. In the lacquer experimentation process began on less expensive models like the opaque white top A3, L3, and Sheraton Brown "A" models. Note that all staining was done with water based aniline dyes directly on the wood.
What a serial number can and can't tell you about your Gibson
As for binding, all bindings were scraped clean of varnish and stain at the end of the finishing process. Early on, this left the binding "raw". Then with the advent of sprayed lacquer, after the binding was scraped, a clear top coat were applied over the entire instrument including the scraped binding. For example some Lloyd Loar mandolins had this finish. This was short lived though. A faded sunburst on a Les Paul Standard. With the pickguard removed we can see how much brighter the original red was in the sunburst under the pickguard.
This is particularly noticable by the neck pickup pickguard attachment point. During the late 's, the red ainline used in their sunburst finishes often faded. This problem was fixed by mid, though sometimes you see it on later 's models. Oval white label as used from spring to January Orange label as used from January to The to orange labels are identical, except for the added text "union made".
Orange "union made" label as used from to Note the "union made" designation to the left of the "Gibson" insignia. When Gibson was bought by Norlin in , thousands of these labels were discarded and replaced with white and purple "Norlin" labels. These blank unused labels were snatched up by many guitar dealers, and are still available today. White label used from to This particular label is from a L-4 model. Seen through this f-hole is the "Norlin" white rectangle label with purple and black triangles , used from to Labels hollowbody models only. Rectangular label, no serial number or model name on label, photo of Orville Gibson and lyre-mandolin on label, date sometimes penciled under top: Oval label with serial number, no model name, photo of Orville Gibson and lyre-mandolin: White label with number and model name, number range to Hand ink or penciled some overlap with previous style: White label with number and model name Ink stamped: White oval label with number preceded by "A-": Note white label numbers A to A were not used.
Orange oval label with number preceded by an "A": Jan to Note the "-" after the "A" was dropped for the orange labels. Orange oval label with number matching number on back of headstock number range to Don't read too much into a label that has or does not have "union made", as both label types were used throughout the s. White rectangle "Norlin" label with black and purple triangles: Before WW2, tops on electric archtops are solid spruce. Before WW2, back and sides are solid maple.
From to , all models including the above use laminated maple back and sides.
Also note the "made in USA" stamp. Neck Shape Spanish models. Prior to WW2, many models have a distinctive "V" shape. Known as "baseball bats" due to the large back size.
The era necks are often considered the best of this era; large and comfortable without being huge. Thin neck back shape, even compared to today's standards these necks don't have much wood behind the fingerboard and feel very thin. Larger neck shape, but still smaller than the 's "baseball bat" style. Most models have nut width dramatically reduced making the neck feel very small. Back shape is about the same as the era, but the narrow nut width makes these necks feel like "pencil necks". Volute added to back of neck behind the nut.
Nylon, a thermoplastic material, was invented in by Wallace Carothers at DuPont. Bridge, flat top models. Retangular bridge, most models: Martin-type belly bridge, some banner-logo examples: Upper belly bridge above bridge pins: Plastic bridge, most models below SJ: Indian Rosewood used instead of Brazilian: Lower belly bridge below bridge pins: Option on J, J, SJ: Standard on most models: In , it changed to a "compensated" style unit with "stairsteps" for each string.
Tunematic bridges started showing up on many Gibson models in Used on some models ES and ES until This tailpiece was used until the 's on some models including the SG Junior. This was an important change on wrap around tailpieces, because it stopped the wrap-around from leaning forward and cracking the body wood often seen on Les Paul Juniors and Specials. Tunematic bridge "no wire", stamped underneath "ABR-1", metal saddles and stop tailpiece. Many electric archtop models also converted to the tunematic bridge.
Stud wraparound tailpiece unit as used only on the lower-end models like the SG Junior at this point now have compensated "stair steps" cast into the unit. Tunematic bridge "with wire" still stamped "ABR-1" on bottom. The wire goes over the six saddle screw heads to prevent the saddles from popping out during string changes. Tunematic bridge uses white nylon saddles instead of nickel plated brass saddles. Tunematic bridge now chrome plated, no longer stamped "ABR-1" on bottom replaced by casted patent number. Stop tailpiece now chrome plated too, and replaced on many models like the ES with a trapeze tailpiece.
Metal saddles replace the nylon saddles on the tunematic bridge. P pickup, Alino pickup, Humbucking pickup, "double white" humbucking pickup with metal cover removed. P pickup top and a P. Two variations, one almost 6" long extending diagonally from the bridge to almost the neck, the other shorter and more conventional looking and mounted at less of an angle.
Both seen on ES model: First cataloged as a "conversion" pickup. Volume and tone controls and pickup integrated into the pickguard. Available with 1 or 2 pickups. Also known as the "McCarty" pickup system. Available for acoustic archtops such as the L-7, L-5 and Super Non-adjustable pole P pickup, single coil, 6 magnet slugs down center, black "dog ear" pickup cover: Same as fixed pole P, except now has adjustable slot-head poles: Looks like a P soapbar pickup, except has "staple" poles with adjusting screws next to the poles.
Used on upper line models: A late "P. A mid's "Patent No. One row of 6 adjustable slot-head poles off-center: Cover was gold, nickel or after chrome plated. Prior to about mid, have small decal on bottom stating "Patent Applied For".
These are known as "P. Starting in about mid to early , a "Patent No. Most humbucking pickups first year have no decal, and a more squarish stainless steel cover. Also to early P. The internal plastic coil bobbins are usually black plastic, but sometimes they are white this happened mostly in or early You can see the color of the wire bobbins by removing the small underside mounting screw instead of removing the pickup cover.
More information and pictures of PAF pickups can be seen here. The pointed pickguard used on most Gibson flattops from to the 's. Note this Southern Jumbo's "double parallelagram" fingerboard inlays and the "belly up" style bridge opposed to Martin's bridges which had a belly down towards the endpin.
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Most Gibson pickguards prior to the mid's were made from celluloid. This material can deteriote with time the tortoise colored pickguards especially exhibit this trait.
Gibson Custom Shop Serial Numbers | The Gear Page
But in early , most models changed to a "pointed" pickguard that followed the shape of the guitar except for the point. The J was an exception to this rule; it's pickguard stayed the same shape, but the material and the designed changed. Prior to , the J has an engraved celluloid pickguard. Starting in , this changed to an injection molded styrene pickguard that was cheaper to make. The edges were cut beveled to make them look like they had binding. In , the bevel changed from being very wide and flat, to a narrow and steeper cut. Next to it is the ugliest pre Gibson knob, known as the "amp" knob, used from late to the mid's but not on all models.
Middle row, left to right: Tall numbered gold knob, used from to , "speed" knob as used from to , "bonnet" knob as used from to , "metal top bonnet" knob or "reflector" knob as used from mid to mids on many, but not all models. Bottom row, left to right: The left switch tip was used on multiple pickup models from after WW2 to about This knob is bakelite and very amber in color.
Next to it is the version where the switch tip changed to a plastic material that stayed white, and had a visible seam. Bottom row black knobs, left to right: These correspond to the same years as the above gold versions. Smooth rounded top, bumps around top edge, some with arrow across top, 1 black and 1 brown: Looks like a hat box, flared base, back painted gold or black, clear with numbers 1 to 10 visible thru knob: Used from mid to mids.
Similar to bonnet knob but now has metal cap with "Volume" or "Tone" printed in black on the metal cap. There are two styles of this knob. First was used from mid to the end of , and have a shallow post hole as viewed from the side. The and later relector knob has a deeper post hole the bottom of the post hole comes much closer to the metal cap.