Vintage Instruments: Gibson Guitars

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1949 Gibson ES-175

Gibson’s ES-175 was introduced in 1949 and went on to become the company’s most successful professional electric archtop model. It was in production for the 70 years that followed and was finally retired from standard production for 2019.

This example is a first-year ES-175 and features the tall clear barrel knobs typical of that period as well as an early-style P-90 pickup, original tailpiece, and 5 of 6 original patent applied for Kluson tuners. The original crumbling pickguard came in with the guitar as well but is beyond practical repair. The replacement is beautifully made, even if its binding isn’t quite accurate! The guitar’s body, complete wire harness and finish are factory original and the serial number label is in excellent shape as well.

What may not be original to the guitar is the neck, which may be an old replacement that was fitted with the ES-175’s original fingerboard, tuners, and pearl headstock crown transplanted. This was something that the widow of this guitar’s long-time owner (since the mid 1950’s) was quite surprised to learn when the guitar was brought to our shop. If the neck was switched it must have happened quite early on in the guitar’s life as it has aged quite uniformly with the body (that, and that its the owner of the last 60+ years didn’t know about it). And although there is ancient lacquer touchup visible around the heel and a gold decal logo instead of pearl, the neck swap would be easy to miss if it was done.

The guitar was well used but well cared for and the body is in excellent condition with stunning patina to its original finish. The neck finish is worn off in areas and the first 3 frets were replaced years back. The tuners show corrosion due to the decaying celluloid pickguard that was stored up by the headstock in the case, but they do work very well still with original tulip buttons that look gorgeous. The package presents really well, with all kinds of vintage guitar vibe and mojo, and no evidence of misuse.

Set up and action are very good, with 11-49 strings, medium action and original frets that play well despite their age.

With new TKL Dlx hardshell case

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