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A Brief History of Gibson Guitar catalogs - 1903-1978


The newly incorporated Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Co., Ltd. issued its first official catalog in February 1903. Sometimes referred to as catalog ‘A’, it actually had no specific letter designation. Gibson would use a lettering system for many subsequent catalogs, but there is no evidence that a catalog A – B – C – D exist. The 1903 catalog contained many illustrations of the instruments created by Orville Gibson himself, including the Style A mandolin for which Orville received his only U.S. Patent in 1898. It also had the Style F mandolins, Style H mandolas, K mando-cellos, Styles R & U harp-guitars, and the Styles L & O guitars. These letters had no real bearing on the type of instruments they were assigned too, and often misunderstood to be short for a word, such as L=little guitar. It also contained this rather provocative illustration of a lady holding an F mandolin with the caption “It’s a Gibson”. It is believed that co-founder Lewis A. Williams was responsible for producing catalogs and writing some of the most extraordinary descriptions that are often called ‘Biblical’ or the “Gospel According to Gibson”.


Gibson guitar catalog 1903 Gibson guitar catalog first 


























1903 Gibson Style O O-2 guitar1903 Gibson F-2 F2 mandolin

























Above: Two of the instruments made by Orville Gibson that appeared in the 1903 catalog, The Style 'O-2" guitar and 'Artist Mandolin Style F-2".


1905: The next catalog known to exist is referred to as the ‘Red Cover’ catalog as it also did not have any letter designation. It is dated to approximately 1905, but there is no date printed on it. It is actually more like a brochure than a catalog only having 12 pages bound in an embossed red cover with gold lettering. It’s the first catalog to contain the newly designed Style L slot-head guitars in several sizes and models. Standard size had a 13 5/8” wide lower bout and Concert Size was 14 ¾”. This changed and Concert Size became 13 5/8” wide and was the ‘standard’ on all small-bodied Style L archtop guitars until 1923. The Style L (no number) only shows in this catalog, but the more familiar L-1 and L-3 were models Gibson made until 1923.

1905 Gibson guitar mandolin catalog
































Above left: The cover of c1905 "The Red Cover" catalog. Above right: The inside title page exclaiming that Gibsons were "The First Serious Mandolins and Guitars Ever Manufactured".

1905 Gibson mandolin guitar factory Kalamazoo
Above: The first Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Comapny's factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan c1905





































Above left: The c1905 'Style A' mandolins. Above right: The 'Style L' guitar illustration, with list of available models. Note: The firt listed in just plain 'Style L' with no number after. This is the only appearance of such a model in any catalog. The L-1 came in 2 sizes 'Standard' and 'Concert' , as did the L-3, but the L-2 was only available in 'Concert' size. Gibson also eliminated the 18" wide 'Style O-3' and the 1905 catalog only lists the 'Style O' in the same 2 sizes as above.


1906: Gibsons did not issue a full-size catalog, only a small harp-guitar brochure that was discovered by Gregg Miner at
www.harpguitars.net. This brochure was only 4 pages and featured a beautiful illustration of the Style U harp-guitar on the cover.

 


1907: The first official Gibson catalog with a letter designation is Catalog ‘E’ which was in published in 1907 or possibly 1908, though no copyright date appears on it. It had illustrations of Gibson’s ‘top-of-line” mandolin, the F-4 with the distinctive scrolled peghead design, and ‘Grand Concert’ 16” Style O guitar. Gibson had made an 18” wide Style O-3 in the early days, but was discontinued by 1906-07, and no 18” wide guitar was made until the legendary Super 400 which was introduced in 1935. It is believed that Gibson still had the tooling for the O-3 and were re-used for the S400.

 

Above: The outside cover and inside title page of Gibson's 1908 catalog 'E'.


Above: The c1908 'Style F-4' mandolin (left) and 'Style O' guitar (right) from Catalog 'E'.


1909: Catalog ‘F’ was 48 pages, double the size of catalog ‘E’ and L.A. Williams, one of Gibson's founders, put page after page of ‘the Gibson gospel’ before ever showing a single instrument. With phrases like “Competition Unhorsed”,  “Prayer of the Non-conformist” and “Hold thou the potato-bugist to his love of tonal diminutiveness….”, it’s easy to see why his writing is often described as ‘Biblical’ in nature. Williams wanted to crush Gibson’s mandolin competitors that were still making the European bowl-back style mandolin he referred to as “potato bugs”, by attacking the inferiority of that design vs. Gibson’s carved models. This particular copy of Catalog 'F' has the date Sept, 1909 stamped on the front cover.



Above left: The cover of Catalog 'F' with "On and after Sept. 15,1909 initial payments on Harp-Guitars will be $10.00. Monthly payments $5.00" stamped in red ink. Above right: Page 1 of 4 of Gibson's Confidential Wholesale Price List which was meant for teacher/agents only.

Below left: The top-of-the-line Gibson F-4 mandolin. Below right The new Style K-2 mando-cello.




1910: Catalog ‘G’ ushered in a new era of Gibson catalogs going to a whopping 84 pages. Williams also included many “artist endorsements” spouting the virtues of Gibson’s instruments, including a very young and talented mandolin player named Lloyd Loar. The catalog also featured many beautiful studio portraits of prominent “Mandolin Orchestras” which were extremely popular in the early 20th century. Williams jumped at the chance to sponsor many such orchestras, as well as the promise of appearing in a Gibson catalog. It also introduced the new Style ‘O’ Artist model design by George Laurian, who was also responsible for many innovations.


Above left: The cover of Catalog 'G'. Above right: c1910 picture of Gibson endorser Lloyd Loar, and future Gibson acoustical engineer.


Above: From New York City, The Amorita Mandolin Orchestra with leader and Gibson teacher/agent Dennis Hartnett seated in center without an instrument.



1912:  Catalog ‘H’ continued the expansion of Gibson’s catalogs and now over 100 pages long. It also contained the first appearance of the Gibson model L-4 archtop guitar, as well as new “The Gibson” brand of strings. Gibson now carried six different mandolin models (4 A-style & 2 F-style), four guitars, two mandolas, two mando-cellos, and the harp-guitar. Catalog 'H' also had a complete section of parts and accessories, which was new.


 




1914: Catalog 'I' was over 100 pages and was similar to catalog 'H' in that it contained dozens of wonderful photographs of Gibson players and mandolin orchestras. It also provided the first-ever full color illustration of Gibson’s high-end mandolin model F-4 (front & back - see belo
w). It introduced Gibson's new H-4 mandola and K-4 mando-cello, which were the fanciest and most expensive models they offered. It also included the Gibson Style 'J' mando-bass, which was a very large oval-shaped instrument tuned like an upright bass viol.

Below: The cover and inside title page of 1914's Catalog ‘I’ that was almost the identical design as Catalog 'J'.
1914 Gibson Catalog I





























 
Above: The first full-color illustrations of the F-4 mandolin that appeared in catalog 'I'.




1917:  Catalog ‘J’ was even larger than  Catalog ‘I’ with 114 pages. The reason for dating it to 1917 and the gap of 3 years between ‘I’ and ‘J’ is from a rare "revised prices" list dated August, 25th, 1917 (see below). Although it’s hard to read, the price list specifically mentions Catalog ‘J’ and indicates it was published earlier in 1917. Gibson rarely put a date in any of their catalogs, so it’s possible that Catalog ‘I’ could be dated to 1914 or 1915.


Above: The outside cover of Catalog 'J' (left) and inside title page (right) that were nearly identical to Gibson's previous Catalog 'I'.


Below left: A "Revised Prices" list dated August 25, 1917 that  mentions Catalog 'J', thus giving a firm way to date it. Below right: The 1917 'Style H-4' mandola, another instrument in the mandolin orchestras of the day.
1917 Gibson guitars price list
































1918-1919:  Inside Catalog ‘K’, the world got it's first glimpse at the newly completed Gibson factory at 225 Parsons Street in Kalamazoo, MI that Gibson would occupy for 66 years until moving all operations to Nashville, TN in 1984. This catalog now featured several full color illustrations including the Model A-3 mandolin, later nicknamed the “Ivory Top”, and the Style ‘O’ Artist guitar. Even though it was a war-time catalog, it still had well over 100 pages, including a full parts and accessories section in the back. It too had a companion "Revised Prices" sheet dated September 1, 1919, but it is believed that the catalog was first issued in 1918.

1918 1919 Gibson Catalog K cover


Gibson guitar catalog
Above left: The Gibson Model A-3 "Ivory Top" mandolin. Above middle: The Special Grand Concert Guitar Style 'O' "Artist's Model". Above right: The Style J mando-bass.

Note: Dates that appear on the pictures on this website were added for visual reference purposes only.


I would like to personally thank Rod McDonald for his kindness and generosity in sharing one the most amazing collections of Gibson catalogs and ephemera on the face of the earth. Paul Fox


1920: Catalog ‘L’ was very similar to Catalog 'K', but had a cover that featured the first full color illustration of a romantic couple playing their Gibson instruments by the moonlight. It also had a new color illustration of the A-2 mandolin and a price list dated May 20, 1920 making the publication date pretty clear. Catalog 'L' contained a total of 112 pages. 




Below left: The price list in Catalog 'L' dated May 20, 1920. Below right: The first color illustration of the A-2 mandolin.




1921: Gibson started making banjos in 1918, but it wasn't until 1921 that Gibson issued its first banjo brochure. “The Standardized Banjo Family” was a small 8-page brochure that contained the entire line of Gibson banjos including the Models TB (tenor banjo) TB-2 (melody tenor banjo), MB & MB-2 (mandolin banjos), the new CB (cello banjo), and GB (guitar banjo), a 6-string banjo tuned like a guitar.



Above left: The 1921 Gibson Melody Banjo models MB-2 (mandolin banjo), and TB-2 (tenor banjo). Above right the cover of "The Standardized Banjo Family" with "The Gibsonian's Concert Party" (upper left) with the date of 1921, and the "Holloway's High Tension Orchestra" (lower right).


1921: The inside title page of Catalog ‘M’ featured the lovely and talented Priscilla Dean, who appeared in many Gibson ads as well. She was a Hollywood actress who also happened to play the mandolin. This catalog also featured some interesting pictures of the interior of the new factory and a detailed description of “Construction Principles Applied”, another great example of L.A. Williams expounding the “Distinctive Features Common to All Gibson Instruments”. It had 112 pages with color illustrations of the A-2, A-3 and F-4 mandolins, plus the Style O guitar.

1921 Gibson catalog M

 



























Below: Many of Gibson's bigger catalogs from the teens and early 20s had a 2-page centerfold that featured the Style U harp-guitar.




1923: Catalog ‘N’ was a radical departure from previous catalogs. It had half the number of pages of Catalog 'M', mainly because Gibson eliminated many pages of the "Gospel According To Gibson" that was such a integral part of previous catalogs. It was also a completely different format including small foldout tabs attached to both the front and back covers. Catalog 'N' was the first full-line catalog to contain any Gibson banjos, including full a color illustration of the TB-5 tenor banjo. It was also the first catalog to feature Gibson’s brand new F-5 Master Model mandolin. Gibson had also eliminated the parts and accessories section, opting to print a separate accessory catalog in 1924. It was also the first catalog to use Gibson’s “The Music Pals of the Nation” slogan that Gibson used throughout the 1920s. 56 Pages

Below: The front and back cover of Catalog 'N' with the small foldout tabs that featured prominent Gibson players.



Above: Some of the beautiful color illustrations from 1923's Catalog 'N'. On left: The NEW Gibson Mastertone Banjo Style TB-5. Pages 6 and 7 (above right) was a 2-page spread with all full-color illustrations of various Gibson instruments: Clockwise from top on the right: The A-1 mandolin, GB Guitar banjo, RB-3 Regular Banjo (5-string), H-1 mandola, L-2 arch-top guitar, MB-3 mandolin banjo, K-4 mando-cello, and TB-4 tenor banjo.



1923: The second Gibson banjo brochure was published in 1923 and it was another 8-page foldout. The 1923 brochure contained illustrations of the entire banjo line including the tenor banjos, Models TB-1 thru TB-4; MB, MB-3 & MB-4 (mandolin banjos), and the Style GB (guitar banjo).




1923: The Gibson Service Handbook was a 48 page booklet containing a complete list of all parts & accessories, as well a lot of information on how to take care of your Gibson. My favorite is Gibson’s guitar polish formula that called for 1 quart of gasoline mixed with lemon and parafin oil, to be applied “with the tips of your fingers”. It makes me wonder how many people set themselves on fire. It was also the first piece of Gibson literature to contain advertising for other companies, including Gibson's own printer, Shakespeare Press in Kalamazoo. 48 pages.



 



1923: The Gibson F-5 Master Mandolin brochure seems to pre-date 1923’s Catalog 'N' that was the first full-line catalog to show the new F-5. It also contained a fascinating little article by legendary Gibson Acoustic Engineer, Lloyd Loar, entitled “A Talk About Tone”. The F-5 was a landmark design in Gibson’s history and was available before the rest of Style 5 Master Models L-5 guitar, H-5 mandola, and the K-5 mando-cello.

If you can’t read it, please email us at
info@fox-guitars,com for a higher resolution image.

1923 Gibson F5 brochure










1924: Gibson’s small fold-out brochure titled “Mastertone Stringed Instruments" pre-dates 1924’s Catalog 'O', and is in fact the first piece of Gibson literature to mention the NEW Master Guitar Style L-5-(see below).

1924 Gibson Mastertone brochure L-5 F-5



1924: Gibson also published a small accessory catalog in 1924, which contained 30 pages of every Gibson part and accessory for their instruments. It included strings, arm rests, banjo heads, bridges, tailpieces and much more. It was also full of information about Gibson, like what strings to use and how to care for your instrument.






1924-25: Gibson's third banjo brochure was probably published in late 1924 or early 1925. It was another foldout style brochure with 10 panels featuring all the Gibson banjos, including the new "Professional Special Resonator" that had just been introduced on Gibson's tenor banjo models TB-3, TB-4 and TB-5. An article in The Music Trade Review from February, 1925 announced the new model TB-5, which may date this brochure to early 1925.







1924: Catalog ‘O’ had similar formatting to Catalog 'N' including the foldout tabs attached to the front and back covers. It was slightly smaller than 'N' with only 60 pages, but it featured the rest of the legendary Style 5 Master Models that didn’t appear in Catalog ‘N’, including the L-5 guitar, H-5 mandola, and the K-5 mando-cello, all stunning instruments in their own right. Like the F-5, the L-5 arch-top guitar is one of the most revered and copied guitar designs and literally changed guitar manufacturing as a whole for decades. Most of Gibson’s competitors would try and copy the L-5, but not until the 1930’s. Many would pay Gibson for the rights to use the truss rod & adjustable bridge, or not use one at all, like Martin.

Below left: The cover of Catalog 'N' with foldout tab. Below right: The title page of Catalog 'N'.
  

Above: Three pages from Cataloig 'N' featuring the rest of the Style 5 Master models (from left to right): The H-5 mandola, L-5 arch-top guitar, and the K-5 mando-cello.



1925: Gibson issued its first full-size banjo catalog, usually referred to as B-1, though it does not have that official designation printed on it. It was 16 pages full of all the new Mastertone banjo models Gibson had just introduced. The Mastertone name would become synonymous with high-quality Gibson banjos and these models remain some of the most sought after instruments by collectors.

Below left: The cover of Gibson's 1925 banjo catalog. Below right: A page featuring the "Granada" model tenor banjo, one of the more expensive Mastertone banjos.
 


Above: The centerfold of Gibson's 1925 banjo catalog with detailed information about the construction of their Mastertone banjos, including the patented adjustable truss rod.



1925: Gibson Junior Instruments was another small fold-out brochure devoted exclusively to the Junior models. Although dismissed by many as “not really Gibsons” the brochure clearly states they had “Phenomenal Gibson Features Incorporated Into Instruments At Popular Prices”. For all intents and purposes, these were Gibson's first “budget brand” instruments pre-dating the Montogomery Ward guitars by 4 years and the Kalamazoo line by 9 years
.

1925 Gibson Junior guitars mandolins




1926: Catalog ‘P’ is rather significant because it introduced Gibson’s first official flat-top guitar Models L-0 and L-1. Gibson had discontinued the L-1 archtop guitar in 1923, and rather than use a new model designation, they re-used 'L-1' for the flattop version. It did have the same "Concert Size" 13 3/4" body as it's archtop big brother, but that's were the similarities stop. They would do the same with the L-2 flattop in 1929, which had been an archtop model designation dating back to 1905. Catalog P also introduced Gibson’s first ukuleles; Models Uke-1, 2 & 3. It had only 40 pages, and did not contain any banjos except on the back cover.

Below: The cover of Catalog 'P' and the two pages that featured Gibson's new line of ukuleles. 


Above: The new flat-top guitar models L-0 and L-1 which were first introduced in 1926's Catalog 'P'.



1926: Gibson published their second full-sized Mastertone banjo catalog designated as 'B-2'. It was very similar to their 1925 Mastertone banjo catalog only slightly larger with 20 pages. It contained a couple more pages of banjo accessories and a centerfold that featured many prominent banjoists of that era. Gibson re-used the cover from 1925 only in blue and touting their new slogan, "The Banjo You'll Love To Play".

Below: The front and back covers of Gibson's 1926 banjo catalog 'B-2'.



Above: The centerfold of banjo catalog 'B-2' had many photographs of banjo players and various bands of the 1920s.



1927: Banjo Catalog ‘B-3’ was the first full-size color “banjos only” catalog Gibson published. It’s likely that Gibson’s sales manager Frank Campbell wanted to put out a separate catalog just for banjos, as the height of the jazz age was in full swing and the banjo was KING. It certainly helped as Gibson went from near bankruptcy in 1924 to record sales in 1926. It featured Gibson’s "Mastertone" brand of banjos that are some of the finest pre-war banjos ever made. They ranged in price and style from the plain and affordable $50.00 TB-1 to the beautiful and ornate ‘Bella Voce’ and ‘Florentine’ models that were all custom made from various designs customers could choose from.

1927 Gibson banjo catalog B-3

Above left: The cover of banjo catalog B-3. Above right: The 'Bella Voce' and "Florentine" custom-order banjo page showing various design options.
 

1928: Catalog ‘Q’ introduced the famous "Nick Lucas Special", not only the first Gibson to use an artist's name, but the first ever “artist-endorsed" guitar in history. It was partially designed by Nick Lucas himself who wanted a guitar that had deeper sides and a wider neck. Catalog ‘Q’ was a smaller catalog with only 24 pages, partially due to the fact that they issued banjo Catalog B-3 a year earlier, but also had one of the more eloquent covers.

1928 Gibson Catalog Q Nick Lucas

 
Above left: The cover of catalog 'Q' featuring the F-5 mandolin "The Strad of the Fretted Instrument Family". Above right: The legendary Nick Lucas Special from Gibson's 1928 Catalog 'Q'.




1929: Catalog ‘R’ was also a small catalog with only 24 pages. It introduced the new “big-body” 14 3/4" wide flat-top model L-2. Note the short stubby "pyramid" bridge that was a distinct feature of Gibson’s 1929 models. During the mid-20s thru the 1930s, the instrument illustrations in Gibson’s catalogs changed in almost every catalog, in order to keep up with many changes and new models being introduced.

1929 Gibson guitar catalog R

 Above left: The cover of catalog 'R' featuring the L-5. Above right: The new big-body L-2.


1928-29: Gibson Parts & Accessories catalog was a separate booklet Gibson issued to dealers. It has mainly written descriptions, and few illustrations except for some bridges and Gibson’s picks (see below). It is a great piece of reference material like knowing which Grover banjo machine heads were used on each banjo model.

1928 1929 Gibson parts accessories catalog1928 1929 Gibson parts accessories catalog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


1929: Banjo Catalog ‘B-4’ was the second full-size color “banjos only” catalog Gibson published. Following the success of Catalog B-3, Frank Campbell wanted to contnue to put out separate banjo catalogs in order to introduce new models like the very ornate "All American". It also featured photos of several Gibson employees, including John Adams, the last of the original 1902 founders, Guy Hart, General Manager from 1924 to 1948, and sale and marketing manager, Frank Campbell (below right).

Gibson banjo catalog B-4 1929Gibson banjo catalog B-4 1929






























 
Note: Dates that appear on the pictures on this website were added for visual reference purposes only.



1929-30: There are no known catalogs designated with letter ‘S’ or ‘T’, but Gibson did issue a 64 page catalog called the “Road To Happiness”, which could be considered as ‘S’, although no letter designation is printed anywhere on it. It does pre-date 1930's Blue Cover Catalog (sometimes referred to as 'T'), but it’s an odd catalog with a mix of old illustrations and new ones, including the big-body L-2 that appeared in Catalog R. Here are couple of sample pages, including a rather rare L-5 ‘prototype’ illustration.

1929 1930 Gibson guitar catalog
Above: "The Road To Happiness" catalog cover, the rare L-5 prototype illustration, and the odd 1926 Nick Lucas Special illustration, now 3 years out of date.



1930-31: The “Blue Cover’ catalog is sometimes referred to as Catalog ‘T’, but no letter actually appeared inside this catalog. The blue catalog was a very important catalog with its bold gold embossed cover, but more importantly it introduced many new guitars and banjo models. The “Argentine Grey” L-2, the “All American” banjo are just 2 high-end Gibsons contained in this catalog. It also had the entirely new line of larger flat-top guitars, the L-0, L-1, Nick Lucas Special, and the TG-1 & TG-0 tenor guitars all sported the “big body” size first introduced in 1929 on the L-2. It is the only catalog to show the Style L-2 "New Guitar Triumph", finished in "an original tone of Argentine Grey, flecked with glints of gold...". 68 pages

1930 Gibson Argentine Grey L-2 guitar1930 Gibson catalog Blue cover






















 

Above left: The elegent gold-embossed Blue Cover catalog from 1930 featuring Gibson's new script logo that dropped "The" in favor of just "Gibson". Above right: One of the rarest Gibsons - The 1930 L-2 finished in "Argentine Grey".

Below left: The Guitar Banjo and on the right a pretty lady playing the very strange Bass Banjo
 

1930 Gibson catalog guitar-banjo bass-banjo1930 Gibson catalog K5 mando-cello harp-guitar
Above left: The stunning Master Model K-5 mando-cello and right the Style 'U' harp-guitar.



1931: “The Road To Happiness” fold-out brochure is too small to be considered a catalog, but it did contain the only known illustrations of Gibson’s NEW HG-24 Hawaiian guitar and the flat-tops L-0 & L-00 in “black ebony” finish with white pickguards. It also introduced Gibson's new TB-11 tenor banjo and the unusual flat-top mandolin model C-1. It is clearly a 1931 publication because all of these new models first appeared on Gibson price lists from that same year, but did not appear in “Blue Cover” catalog from 1930.

1931 Gibson HG-24 L-00 L-0 guitars
Above left: The HG-24 Hawaiian guitar with 1-round sound hole and 4-f holes. Above right: The L-0 and L-00 finished in black with white pickguards.



1932 Catalog ‘U is one of the very few Gibson catalogs to have a letter designation and a date printed in it. It was the next catalog published after the “Blue Cover” catalog containing the full line of Gibson instruments. It was 68 pages long and oddly contained an almost identical illustration of models L-0 & L-00 in black, but without the white pick guards (they were probably air-brushed out of the 1931 illustrations). It also introduced the first new arch-top model since the L-5, the new L-10. In addition, it was the last catalog to contain the L-3 arch-top and L-2 flat-top models.

Below: The cover and inside title page of Catalog 'U'. The catalog letter and the date of 1932 are printed in the lower right hand corner of the inside title page.




Above: The page listing the Hawaiian guitar models HG-20, HG-22, and HG-24 did not include any illustration as did the 1931 foldout, but showed a picture of noted Hawaiian guitarist Andy Sannella playing a custom Nick Lucas Special painted white. Also above are the very ornate banjo models "All American" with a carved eagle peghead, and the TB-F "Florentine" banjo.




1933: Again, there is no known Catalog with the letter ‘V’ designation, but Gibson did issue a 48 page pocket-sized catalog in 1933 that contained some very interesting and unusual guitar models. It lists the first models called ‘L-75 Century’ the ‘L-50’ with smaller bodies than their 1934 successors. Gibson only made these for about one year, but would re-use this body size and shape for their new ‘budget brand’ guitar, the Kalamazoo KG-11. This catalog also contains the first new illustrations showing the 14-fret necks that became standard on all flat-top models L-0, L-00, L-1, L-C & Nick Lucas Special. The L-2 vanishes and was discontinued by Gibson only three years after its introduction.

Note the i
nside edge of the L-75 page with the ink-stamped "NEW MODEL - Larger Body - Rosewood Fingerboard", which would become the L-75 shown in 1934’s catalog W. It gives a clear indication that this design was quickly abandoned in favor of a more standard 16’ wide archtop body.

Below L-R: Cover of the 1933 'pocket catalog', the L-75 'Century Model', the L-50 roundhole model, and the gorgeous TB-11 tenor banjo.
1933 Gibson guitar pocket catalog

Below: Four of the pages of parts & accessories show in this small pocket size catalog.


 


1934: Catalog ‘W’ was also a very significant catalog because it introduced the legendary Gibson ‘Jumbo’ flat-top guitar, later called the J-35, plus the Roy Smeck ‘Stage Deluxe’ and ‘Radio Grande’ - two Hawaiian style guitars that carried the “Wizard of the Strings” name. It introduced the new L-7 and L-12 16” wide arch-top guitars, and the smaller 14 ¾” wide L-50 and L-75 arch-tops. The ornate “Century Model” Style L-C guitar and Style A-C mandolin were inspired by the “Century of Progress” world’s fair in Chicago. As you will notice, from 1928 through 1934 Gibson was constantly experimenting with new models, new designs, and this era remains one of the most interesting in the company's history. 84 pages.

1934 Gibson guitar catalog W















Above left: The 1934 'Jumbo' Center: The Roy Smeck Radio Grande and Stage Delux, above right


Above left: The "Century" Model Style L-C Center: L-12 with picture of Carl Kress Right: The L-10


1935: Gibson issue a second version of Catalog 'W' with a slightly different blue and white cover that was almost identical to the previous version. However, it did introduce the Gibson banjo model TB-00 that did not appear in the first version of 'W'.

1935 Gibson guitar banjo catalog1935 Gibson guitar banjo catalog





Also in 1935, Gibson issued a brochure in between Catalogs ‘W’ and ‘X’, simply titled “New Models” and dated October 1, 1935. It introduced the new gigantic 18” Super 400 arch-top guitar, so named because it cost a whopping $400.00, an unheard of price in the height of the Great Depression. Since it pre-dates Catalog ‘X’, it was the first sales flyer to show the new ‘Advanced’ 17” wide arch-top guitars, and other new models coming out like the all-black L-30. It did not contain any flat-top guitars or other Gibson instruments, so it is generally referred to as ‘The Archtop Brochure".

1935 Gibson archtop guitar brochure
Above: The NEW "Super 400" one of the most sought-after pre-war Gibsons. Middle: The 'Advanced L-12' now 17" wide across the lower bout. Right: The new all-black L-30 small archtop. Gibson only made the black L-30 in 1935-36, then went to a sunburst finish. They continued to make the black model, but called it "The Black Special" or sometimes, the "Special #3".



1936: Catalog ‘X’ is the only full-line catalog to mention the L-00 3/4 size guitar (also see 1938's Blue Cover catalog description below). In catalog 'X', the L-75 became the only round sound hole 16” archtop, while the small 14 ¾” wide L-30 and L-37 were new models with the same specs as the previous L-50 and L-75 of 1932. The ‘Jumbo’ was re-named the 'Jumbo 35’ (more commonly, just J-35). The most significant introduction was Gibson’s first electric guitars that were Hawaiian lap-steels & amplifiers. Model numbers EH-100 and EH-150 were the same for guitar & amp as they were usually sold as a set. The most famous of Gibson’s new electric guitars was the ES-150 played guitar great, Charlie Christian. EH stood for “Electric Hawaiian” and ES=”Electric Spanish” a term that referred to any standard guitar with electronics that wasn’t a lap steel or pedal steel. 80 pages

1936 Gibson guitar catalog X
Above: The cover and inside title page of Gibson's 1936 Catalog 'X'

 


Above: The new Style L-5 "Advanced Model" with its 17" wide body. Opposing page shows several well-known Gibson guitarists, and the first appearance of the slogan "Only A Gibson Is Good Enough".


Above left: Gibson's first electric guitars were the EH-150 with matching amp, EH-100 (not pictured), and the ES-150 (pictured below). Above right: The new Style A-75 mandolin, and Style A-C mandolin, which was first introduced in 1933 as a companion instrument to the Style L-75 & L-C "Century Models", inspired by the "Century of Progress" world's fair in Chicago. Only the L-C & A-C were made after 1933 up to 1938.



1937: In Catalog ‘Y’ Gibson changed the L-30 and L-37 to a sunburst finish. It is also the last catalog to have the Nick Lucas Special, although it wasn’t discontinued until 1941. It also introduced the new Advanced Jumbo, one of the most sout-after pre-war Gibsons; the HG-00 a Hawaiian version of the L-00; the double-neck lap steel; the EM-150 electric mandolin, as well as the F-7 & F-50 mandolins; plus 3 new banjos – the TB-7, TB-12 and TB-18. 88 pages.

1937 Gibson guitar catalog Y






 












Above left: The top-of-the-line Gibson Super 400, so named because of it's price tag - $400. Above right: The ES-150 made famous by guitarist Charlie Christian.

Below: "The Most Popular of all Orchestra Guitars" - The Advanced L
-5.


Above: The NEW 1937 'Advanced Jumbo' which wasn't actually bigger than the J-35 (regular Jumbo), but a lot more fancy.

Below: Also from 1937 - The 'HG' Hawaiian guitar models HG-00, HG-1 & HG-C "Century" first appeared on Gibson's April, 1936 price list, but strangely, only the HG-00 appeared in Catalog 'Y' the following year, and the other two models were not shown nor mentioned in any catalog at all.

Above: The newly christened 'J-35' was originally called "The Jumbo" in 1934-35, then changed in 1936. This page is from 1937's Catalog 'Y'. 



1938: Catalog ‘Z’ is another significant milestone in Gibson catalog history introducing the ‘Super Jumbo’ (pictured below), which would eventually be re-named the J-200. Its ‘moustache bridge’ design is one of the most recognizable features on this guitar. Catalog 'Z' also introduced the ‘Console Grand’ double-neck lap steel; the ES-100; EM-150 electric mandolin, and the ETB-150 electric tenor banjo. It had 52 pages including a large parts and accessories section. 52 pages.

 



Above left: The Super Jumbo 200, also named because of it's price - $200.00. Above right: The 1937 ES-100, which had the same body as its acoustic cousins Models L-30 & L-37.



Also in 1938, Gibson issued a short 8-page accessories catalog named "Get The Habit" that contained many of Gibson's parts and accessories. Most of the illustrations also appeared in Catalog 'Z', so this catalog was mainly done for dealers and distributors.




One more very small catalog was published in 1938, measuring only 4 1/2' x 7" titled "From 1892 To Year After Tomorrow". For some reason, Gibson had decided that the company started in 1892, when in fact it was officially incorporated in 1902. I had a total of 28 pages, but most of the pages were 2-page fold-outs making it one of the oddest little books Gibson ever issued. It is also one of the only catalogs to mention the flat-top guitar model L-00 3/4 size guitar that was never included on an official Gibson price list (see below).


Note: Dates that appear on the pictures on this website were added for visual reference purposes only. 

 

 



1939: Full-line Catalog ‘AA’ was first published in 1939 and used up to 1941, but there were also two supplemental catalogs printed in 1940 and 1941 called "What's New". ‘AA’ introduced two more Gibson firsts, the Super 400 and L-5 “Premiere Cut-Away” models with a natural or blonde finish. It also introduced the ‘Super Jumbo 100’ a less expensive version of the J-200; the J-55 with a rather unusual “stair step” peghead design also seen on the new 1939 ES-250 electric guitar. It also contained Gibson’s first classical guitar models GS-35 & GS-85, as well as Gibson’s complete line of violins, violas, cellos & basses. 58 pages.

1939 - 1941 Gibson guitar catalog AA


























Above left The cover of catalog 'AA'. Above right: The Super 400 & L-5 'Premiere' cut-away models.

Below: The Super Jumbo 100 (aka J-100) and the Jumbo '55' (aka J-55).




 

1940: In October, 1940 Gibson issued a supplemental catalog to 'AA' called simply "What's New". It included the only appearance of the new ES-300 electric guitar with the long diagonal pickup design that was soon changed, as well as the EH-275, which also disappeared quickly. It was one of the few catalogs or brochures to have the date clearly printed on the cover. The 1940 supplement also had the re-named electric tenor guitar model ETG-150, previously called the EST-150.

1940 Gibson guitar catalog

1940 Gibson guitar catalog EH-275



1941: In May, 1941 Gibson issued another supplement to catalog AA also titled "What's New" that contained the updated ES-300 with shorter slanted pickup. Most of the rest of its contents was the same as the 1940 supplement including the cover except for the date that was printed at the bottom.

1941 Gibson supplemental guitar catalog 1941 Gibson supplemental guitar catalog  

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1942: Catalog ‘BB’ had the same cover as catalog ‘AA’, but was one of the only full-line catalogs to have a printed date of 1942, next to the ‘BB’, and was also the last catalog to have a any letter designation. There were a few fairly minor design changes to existing models, but no significant new models were introduced. This was probably a direct result of the outbreak of WWII, when Gibson re-allocated some of its manufacturing to support the war effort. Although the slogan “Only a Gibson Is Good Enough’ first appeared in 1936’s Catalog ‘X’, it became synonymous with WWII-era guitars, including the famous “Banner” models that had the slogan imprinted on the peg heads below the Gibson logo.

1942 Gibson guitar catalog BB WWII

Above left: The only appearance of Gibson's full violin line was on the back inside cover of Catalog 'BB'. Above right: The inside title page containing both the 'BB' letter designation and the date, 1942.


 


















Above: The rather odd and short-lived ES-300 with diagonal pickup. Right: Catalog BB featured an entire section devoted to teaching materials, including method books, and music.


Special note: No new catalogs or brochures were published from 1943-1945 during WWII.

 

1946: As mentioned above, there are no “lettered” catalogs printed after 1942 and none during WWII, but several smaller brochures appeared in 1946 – 1949. Gibson's first post-war full-line catalog was not published until 1950. This was two years after Ted McCarty took over as Gibson’s General Manager following CMI (Chicago Musical Instruments) acquisition of Gibson. These sample pages are  taken from several of these smaller brochures, and are the only ones to show the ‘banner” models with the slogan “Only a Gibson Is Good Enough”, and they only appear in c1946-1949 literature.

1947 Gibson guitar catalog1946 Gibson guitar catalog


























Above left: The cover of Gibson's 1946 guitar brochure. Above right: Tiny Timbrell and the new ES-350 electric guitar that was actually introduced in 1947.




Above left: 1946 LG-2 Center: The J-45 Right: Southerner Jumbo. You can just barely see the "Only A Gibson Is Good Enough" banner logo on the head stock, below the Gibson logo.
 

New models introduced in 1947 included the ES-350 which replaced the ES-300, the L-12 ‘Premiere’ cut-away acoustic archtop (below); the J-45 and Southerner Jumbo (usually called the Southern Jumbo or SJ); the LG-2 which became Gibson’s only smaller-body acoustic when they discontinued the L-0, L-00, L-1, L-C & HG-00 during WWII; the Ultratone, BR4 & BR-6 electric Hawaiian lap steels; BR-1, BR-4, BR-6 amplifiers.

 




New models introduced in 1948-49: LG-1, LG-3 & J-50 flat-top acoustics; the TG-50 a 16” archtop tenor guitar; the GA-series of amplifiers; L-7CE cutaway electric archtop with Ted McCarty’s own ‘wrap around’ pickguard design; L-4 cut-away; ES-5 triple pickup electric guitar; the new 16" ES-125 and the ES-175.

 

Note: Dates that appear on the pictures on this website were added for visual reference purposes only.

 


1950-1952: Gibson issued separate full-line catalogs for acoustic instruments, electric guitars, and Hawaiian electric & amps, under the new management of Ted McCarty that ushered in what many call the “Golden Age” of Gibson guitars. McCarty & Co. would maintain a separation between acoustic & electric instruments throughout most of the 1950s & 60s. It introduced new models like the Super 300, a less expensive version of the Super 400; The L-48 which was very similar to the L-50 archtop acoustic; the GS-1 classical guitar (see Ted McCarty’s own notations on that page); The Super Jumbo 200 became just the J-200 and the Southerner Jumbo became just ‘SJ’; The J-50 was a new design featuring a Martin-style pickguard; It was the first year for the CF-100, a sharp cut-away version of the LG-2; New mandolins including the F-12 and A-50; Gibson also dramatically cut banjo models down to just two – the RB-150 (RB=Regular Banjo, which was a 5-string, and the TB-100 tenor banjo. Since there are no dates printed in these catalogs, they date to somewhere between 1950-1952, so dates added below are for reference purposes only. Each catalog was 12 pages.

1950 Gibson guitar catalog cover


Above: A rare glimpse at Ted McCarty's personal copy of Gibson's 1950 catalog with editorial notes. The "?" next to the GS-1 classical guitar calls into question the description: "The tone of an instrument can be no better than its strings..."  It doesn't make to sense to me either, Ted.


The 1951-52 electric guitar catalog was nearly identical to the small 1949 catalog, including the same cover with the ES-5 triple pickup archtop electric. It did introduce a couple of new models including the ¾-size ES-140; Custom built amplifier GA-CB; It also showed minor design changes to existing models. The Hawaiian guitar catalog also contained some new models like the Gibson ‘Century’, and ‘Royaltone’ lap steels.


1951 1952 Gibson guitar catalog cover



1953: Another major milestone in Gibson history with the introduction of many new models including the legendary Les Paul. Most historians agree that the Les Paul was available in 1952; it’s also interesting to note that the picture of Les and Mary Ford, Mary is playing a black Les Paul, which did not appear in this catalog and was not available until 1955. Below is a montage of the Les Paul models from 1953 – 1955 showing design changes, including the original trapeze-style stop tailpiece that apparently didn’t work very well, to the ABR-1 adjustable height bridge and separate tailpiece now standard on all Les Pauls. Gibson was always big on putting well-known musicians in their catalogs dating back to the early 20th century, but in fact, Les Paul was only the 3rd player to have his name put on a Gibson guitar, after Nick Lucas and Roy Smeck. Other guitarists had their names attached to other brands made by Gibson, including the Ray Whitley, Roy Smeck, Andy Sanella and Carson Robison models made for Montgomery Ward in the 1930s. The late 50s and 1960s would prove to be fertile ground for many more “artist models”.

Below: Mary Ford and Les Paul playing the new "Les Paul" solid-body electric guitar, that went through several design changes from 1953-55.




The 1953 catalogs also introduced the Super 400 CES and L-5 CES (C=cutaway – ES=electric Spanish), the ES-175D (D=double pickup), the J-160E made famous in the 60s by the Beatles, CF-100E (E=electric), the J-185, and one of the most interesting designs – the ES-295. They also introduced the Les Paul amp, EM-150 electric mandolin, A-40 mandolin, and TB-150 banjo, as well as their first-ever Gibson Electric Bass, later renamed the EB-1 (shown below).

 






























Above: The ES-295 with "flower" print pickguard



Above left: The Supper 400 CES and L-5 CES C=cutaway – ES=electric Spanish). Above right: The ES-175D (D=double pickup).


1954-1955: Gibson continued to maintain separate catalogs for acoustics and electrics, even producing two versions of the 1955 electric guitar catalog with different covers. The first one saw the introduction of the Les Paul Custom with its black finish (shown above), and the Les Paul Jr. Gibson also premiered its “thin” style guitars, including the ES-225T (T=thin). The 2nd in mid-1955 included the new Les Paul Special.

Below: The covers of Gibson's 1954 and 1955 catalogs.

1954 Gibson Guitar catalog1954 Gibson Guitar catalog Super 400

 























1955 Gibson guitar catalog
1955 Gibson guitar catalog





























Above: The first 'Gibson Electric Bass' - later renamed the Model EB-1, aka the 'Violin Bass'.

1956: Two more legendary Gibsons came down the pipe, The Byrdland, named after its designer Billy Byrd, and the ES-5 “Switchmaster”, both very collectable and desirable guitars. Gibson also added the ES-350T, which was a thin-line model, but also had a rounded cutaway & double pickup, so maybe the name should have been ES-350 CEST or TCES? There were now 2 Les Paul Specials, one the same as 1955, and the other was described as the ‘TV Model, Limed Oak – 1 pickup. This became a very collectable guitar known as the ‘LP TV Special’.

1956 Gibson guitar catalog Byrdland
Above: The "sensational new electric spanish guitar" - "The Byrdland", named after designer & player Bill Byrd. Right: Also new in 1956, the ES-5 "Switchmaster"


 














Above: A 2nd catalog came out in mid-1956 showing the "Les Paul Special - TV Model" using "Limed Oak"
Right: 1956's "Favorite of the Stars" back cover, showing off all the well-known guitarist playing their Gibsons.













1957: Gibson electrics only appeared in CMI’s master distributor catalog that also included other brands owned by Chicago Musical Instruments, including the newly acquired Epiphone Company. Gibson did put their own separate acoustic catalog, which was 16 pages. It did include the C-1 & C-2 classical guitars models and Gibson’s first slot-head guitars since the early 20th century; The J-185N (N=natural finish), the SJN “Country Western”, as well as the electric tenor guitar model ETG-150. The CMI catalog included some cool Gibson factory pictures showing guitar-manufacturing processes. It also introduced the ES-135, ES-125T, and a bevy of 3/4-sized guitar - ES-140T ¾, ES-125T ¾, Les Paul Jr. ¾ electrics, and the LG-2 ¾ acoustic guitar. The LG-2 ¾ did appear in Gibson’s acoustic catalog suggesting that CMI requested these 3/4-size models to fill a specific need somewhere in the market.

1957 Gibson guitar catalog Left: The cover of Gibson's 1957 acoustic instruments catalog.



























Below: The new SJN "Country Western" guitar and the ETG-150 electric tenor guitar.




Below: From CMI's 1957 distributor catalog are interior shots of Gibson's Kalamazoo factory showing several stages in the guitar-manufacturing process.



1958: Gibson’s 1958 catalog was almost an exact reprint of CMI’s 1957 catalog, but it also included the new EB-2 electric bass, and the renamed Gibson Electric Bass – now EB-1 or the ‘violin bass’ as it was nicknamed. Those additions paled by comparison to the legendary Les Paul Custom (3 pickup version), The Flying V, ES-335T, the very rare & expensive ‘Double 12, and ‘Double Mandolin’. Any one of these 4 guitars can fetch $100,000 - $500,000 in today’s vintage guitar market. Oddly, the infamous Gibson 'Explorer' that was introduced in 1958 never appeared in this or any other catalog. It did appear in a promotional ad in a February, 1958 issue of "The Gibson Gazette" (see our "The History of Gibson Advertising” page).


1958 Gibson Flying V ES-335 T






















Above left: The legendary Gibson Flying V and below it, the ES-335. Above right: The Double 12 twin-neck guitar and the Double Mandolin.


Below left: The cover of Gibson's 1958 catalog. Below right: The EB-2 and EB-1 electric bass guitars
.

1958 Gibson Guitar catalog


























1959: Again, Gibson put two separate catalogs, one for acoustics that included mandolins and banjos, and the other for electrics including lap  & pedal steels, and amps. There weren’t any significant additions to the line, in fact they were almost identical catalogs to those published in 1958.

1959 Gibson Electic guitar amp catalog1959 Gibson acoustic guitar catalog 

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Above left: The cover of Gibson's 1959 electric guitars and amplifiers catalog. Above right: The cover of Gibson's 1959 acousticc guitars catalog.


Note: Dates that appear on the pictures on this website were added for visual reference purposes only
.

Again, I would like to personally thank Rod McDonald for his kindness and generosity in sharing one the most amazing collections of Gibson catalogs and ephemera on the face of the earth.
Paul Fox
 

 


1960: Gibson issued one combined full-line catalog and continued to expand its ES-series “thin-line” models with the introduction of the ES-345TD (T=thinline – D=double pickup), the ES-355TD, ES-330T, with several other variations like 355-TD-SV (S=stereo V=Varitone) TDN (N=natural finish), TDC (C=Cherry finish). They also introduced the ‘Melody Maker’ which looked like the late 50s Les Paul Jr. with a single pickup, while they changed the LP Jr.’s design to a double-cutaway body. They also introduced the EB-0 electric bass and several new GA-series amplifiers. A new J-50 acoustic guitar was added with an optional adjustable saddle on the bridge, called the J-50 Adj., and also added the LG-0 & TG-0 - all mahogany 6 string & tenor guitars, and the C-6 ‘Richard Pick’ classical guitar model. 42 pages

1960 Gibson guitar catalog1960 Gibson guitar catalog1960 Gibson guitar catalog1960 Gibson guitar catalog
Upper left: 1960 catalog cover. Upper right: The 1960 EB-2 and EB-0 bass guitars. Lower left: The ES-355TD-SV (T=thin D=double pickup S=stereo ouput & V=Varitone). Lower right: On left is the Les Paul Jr. that inherited the 1959 Melody Maker body, and on the right, the Melody Maker with 1959 Les Paul Jr. body.

 

1961-62: At first glance, Gibson’s 1962 catalog looked very similar to 1960 and could possibly be dated to 1961. However, this catalog had significant differences, including NO 1950’s style Les Paul model. The story goes that the 50s LP was not selling and Gibson decided to give it a complete facelift. Now known as the LP SG, the 1962 Les Paul had the same body of the later 60s Model SG, but still had Les’ name on the truss rod cover. Les was not too pleased with the change and parted company with Gibson shortly thereafter. There were five 2 new LP models – the ‘Custom’ 3-pickup with Gibson’s own “vibrola” sometimes called the “sideways vibrato”; The ‘Standard’ 2-pickup, ‘Special’, ‘TV’ and ‘Jr.’ models, but the LP Jr. also had the SG-body style. Gibson swapped it with the Melody Maker, so the MM had the previous LP Jr. double cut-away body instead. This catalog also introduced another well known “artist models”, including the ‘Barney Kessel’, and the ‘Johnny Smith’. The EB-2 electric bass and Gibson’s first 12-string acoustic, the ‘B-45-12 were also added to the line. 48 pages

1962 Gibson guitar catalog1962 Gibson guitar catalog

 















Left: The cover of Gibson's 1962 catalog. Above right: The new Barney Kessel and Johnny Smith "artist model" guitars. Below: The "SG Les Paul" models were a complete redesign of the 50s LPs.




1962 Gibson guitar catalog

1963: Another “artist” model, the ‘Tal Farlow’ was introduced with its distinctive scrolled cut-away design. But also a some stunning new designs that would prove to be way ahead of their time; The Firebird, that came in four different configurations – Firebird I – single pickup, Firebird III double pickup with short Vibrola, Firebird V with 2 pickups and the beautiful vibrola with engraved ‘Lyre’ tailpiece cover, and the most expensive – Firebird VII with 3 pickups and all gold-plated hardware. Gibson also issued a separate Firebird brochure that provided customers with many color choices for the finish. Gibson also gave us the ‘Thunderbird’ II & IV basses which had the same body as the Firebird, and considered by many to be the best electric basses Gibson ever made. Other basses like the EB-2, EB-6 and Double Bass (a double-neck with a 6-string guitar neck below a 4-string bass neck), were also added. Of special note: The electric guitars previously known as the Les Paul, were now called the ‘SG’ and NO Les Paul model was available. Thankfully, Gibson rekindled its relationship with Les Paul himself, and re-introduced the 50s-style LP in 1968.

Below left: The cover of Gibson's 1962 catalog. Below right: The 'Double Bass" a double-necked bass & guitar combo.

1963 Gibson guitar catalog1963 Gibson guitar catalog1963 Gibson guitar catalog
Above: Some of the new models for 1964 L-R: The Tal Farlow, Firebird VII, Firebird V, Thunderbird IV & Thunderbird II basses.


1964: Gibson a few new acoustic guitars to the 1964 lineup including the ‘Hummingbird’ and ‘Dove’ large-sized dreadnaughts (The Country Western was changed from a round-shoulder J body to the large dreadnaught body); The Everly Brothers 16” flat-top with double pickguards in an all black finish; The ‘B-25’ small acoustic & B-25 ¾-size; The ‘FJ Folk Singer” dreadnaught also with 2 mirrored pickguards; The ‘F-25 Folk Singer’ LG-size acoustic, and another 12-string acoustic, the ‘B-25-12’, as well as some additional classical guitars.


Above: The front and back covers of Gibson's 1964 catalog. The back cover showed the tenor guitar models ETG-150, TG-25N, and the TG-0.

Below: New acoustic guitar models from L-R: The 'Dove' - 'Everly Brothers' - The 'Hummingbird' - "J-160E" (The J-160E was actually introduced in 1955).


 

1964-1965: The following black & white catalog could be dated to '64 or '65 and only contained some acoustic guitars, mandolins and ukuleles, plus Gibson's lap & pedal steel models. There is no overlap vs. the 1964 catalog, so it's probably just a companion brochure showing the rest of the full-line of instruments.

1964 1965 Gibson guitar catalog1964 1965 Gibson guitar catalog

























Above left: The cover of the 1964-65 black & white catalog. Above right - L-R: The Super 400-C, The L-5CN, and the L-7C (C=cutaway - N=natural finish).

Below left: The new 8 pedal Electraharp, Multiharp, and Electraharp EH-160 (top to bottom). Below right L-R: The Uke 1 (soprano ukulele), the TU-1 tenor uke, and the Baritone Ukulele. Plus "Popps Music Store - Dayton, Ohio stamped in red ink.


























1966: There was apparently no catalog issued in 1965, but Gibson’s 1966 catalog with the tree silhouette cover contained some major model & design changes. Gibson introduced 2 “artist models” named after Trini Lopez, the ‘Deluxe’ that was similar to the Barney Kessel, except for its Fender-like peghead design & diamond-shaped sound holes, and the ‘Standard’ that had an ES-335 body with diamond sound holes & a Firebird-style peghead. The Firebird guitars & Thunderbird basses got a complete make-over (personally, a huge mistake by Gibson), but it was in response to lagging sales of the 1964 versions. Gibson also introduced a 12-string version of the ES-335. 16 pages

1966 Gibson guitar catalog1966 Gibson guitar catalog

 

























Above left: The cover of Gibson's 1966 catalog. Above right: Promo shot of the Super 400 CES with parrot & pelican (fly, pelicans, fly...).

Below L-R: The Trini Lopez 'Deluxe' & Standard', and the redesigned Firebirds VII - V - III.
1966 Gibson guitar catalog

1968: Ted McCarty left Gibson to run the Bigsby Company, also in Kalamazoo, as Gibson and their parent company were in financial trouble. They cut down the number of models they were producing and only issued some small color brochures, but no real catalog. There are no other brochures that can be accurately dated to 1967, but the sample pages below seem to date to the 1967-1969 era, considered by most as the end of the ‘Golden Age’ of Gibson.

Below left: One of the covers of Gibson's 1968 small brochures. Below Center: New amp models (top to bottom) - The 'Skylark' & 'Skylark T' - 'Hawk' guitar amps, and the 'Thor' & 'Falcon' bass amps.1968 Gibson guitar catalog
1968 Gibson guitar catalog
1968 Gibson guitar catalog1968 Gibson guitar catalog Les Paul

 
























Above: Special 1968-69 re-introduction Les Paul flyer cover and inside layout after it had been discontinued in 1960. Hard to believe that Gibson make the 'Paul' for such a long period of time in the 60s.


1970: CMI (Chicago Musical Instruments) sold Gibson and Epiphone to a company called Norlin, and although Gibson’s workforce was still pretty much the same, the change in management caused a steady decline in Gibson sales, quality, and certainly innovation. Gibson did introduce some new models, like the ‘Citation’ which looked more like an Epiphone archtop electric; The ‘Crest’ a customized ES-335-style electric; The ES-150DC, ES-340DNand a couple of new bass guitar models including the EB-3L slot-head bass.

1970 Gibson guitar catalog
Above: Some of the new 1970 Gibson models - The 'Citation' - 'ES-150DC' double-cutaway - 'EB-3L' slot-head bass guitar.

 

Note: Dates that appear on the pictures on this website were added for visual reference purposes only.  


1970s: Here are a few samples of brochures Gibson (now owned by Norlin) issued in the 1970s. It may not be considered the greatest era in the company’s history in terms of innovation and design, although Gibson did make some good basses, including the ‘Ripper’ and ‘Grabber’ models, plus some others listed below - some great - some NOT.

1970s Gibson guitar bass catalog

1970s Gibson guitar bass catalog1970s Gibson guitar bass catalog
Above right: The not so great looking Les Paul 'Recording' model, but also the interesting Rickenbacker-style Les Paul 'Signature' model. Above left: Keith Richards who's in an obscure band called The Rolling Stones (or something like that).

Below: A sample of guitars from Gibson's 1975 catalog. Top row L-R: RD Artist, Les Paul 55/78, LP Special Double Cutaway, The 'Paul', L5-S, and S-1.

Bottom row L-R: The awesome ‘Kalamazoo Award’, Super V CES, JSD Double pickup, Howard Roberts Artist, Howard Roberts Custom, Les Paul Triumph bass.






1980 Gibson guitar catalog1980: Gibson issued a larger catalog for 1980 with some models that headn't been seen in years including the Explorer (now called the Explorer II) that was introduced in 1958, but disappeared soon after, and the Flying V (now called the Flying V-II) that was also introduced in 1958, but hadn't appeared in a Gibson catalog since the 1960s. The J-45 acoustic guitar  model also made a comeback and is still being manufacturer today. Hats off to whomever was responsible for re-introducing these legendary models. Gibson also introduced some not-so-good guitars called the 'Sonex' models that were made from a composite material of sawdust & resin.























Note: Dates that appear on the pictures on this website were added for visual reference purposes only.
  

 

 

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