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Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50

14 Apr 07 - 09:25 AM (#2025083)
Subject: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: Dave Ruch

I've had the opportunity to play a few older J-45s in the past 6 months or so, and have decided that it is THE guitar for me right now. Do any mudcatters have an old one lying around that they'd consider selling, or know of anyone who does?

14 Apr 07 - 10:16 AM (#2025130)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: wilco

I don't know where in the world that you are, but I'll give you some "inside advice" on buying one. I have an acoustic music store in east Tennessee, and I see a lot of these.
   The highest prices are paid on sites like e-bay, where you have an international market. I've found that I can get at least twice my store price on e-bay. So, shop locally.
    Lots of these are around as seconds with finish flaws. They are good buys.
    Most of those i see are from the 1960's, and you'll pay retail $550.00 to $850.00 for a good guitar.
    Many of these have multi-piece tops, so learn how to check them for cracks.


14 Apr 07 - 10:20 AM (#2025134)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: dwditty

from the Mandolin Brothers site (www.mandoweb.com)

15-5386 Gibson (used, c. 1944-1945) J-45 "Banner," ISI-1720, in very good plus condition with newer hard shell case.
This guitar fulfills the dream of every player – to find a guitar that sounds as big as a bulldozer, which looks as if it rode the trails with the major cowboy actor-singers of the 1940s. We have found such an instrument and we present it to you with all the work that is required done – ready to ride the rodeo circuit for another 61 years.
This is an instrument that shows normal plus (more than merely normal, through the finish, over the river and into the wood) playing wear on the bass side of the 7 crème and black rings that surround the 4" diameter soundhole. For those who want more, it shows additional wear on the treble side at the orifice, and above and below the tortoise shell teardrop pickguard. This is the Gibson traditional slope-shouldered jumbo with the 11 5/8" upper bout, the lithe 10 5/8" waist and the 16" wide lower bout, whose top and back are bound in crème celluloid, whose top is wide-grained spruce and whose back and sides are dramatically grained mahogany under a dark brown original finish. It has newer unsigned Kluson style striped squareback tuners; it was the recipient of a prior neck reset. It has two long repaired side cracks and one shorter one on the upper bout of the treble rim, another small crack at the waist on the bass side and yet another on the back on the treble side. The guitar has at least a thousand dings, scratches and scrapes including on the back of its neck, around the headstock, on the top and the back and, well, yes, the sides. It has crazing lines, some light, some deep. There is a small separation of the soundhole rosette at the 2 o'clock position, and 7 mother of pearl dotmarkers in 6 positions. It is assumed that the guitar was refretted since the Brazilian rosewood fingerboard is free of all but the most minor pitting. The bridge was replaced by our repair staff and fitted with a proper height bone saddle.
The headstock (oh, that stately center-dip weathered headstock) is emblazoned with a gold decal "Gibson" prewar script logo and there under the famous "Only a Gibson is Good Enough" gold decal banner with the twin art deco lines placed vertically through the center. This slogan appeared on Gibson models only from 1942 to 1946. That it has the adjustable truss rod feature (thank goodness) means to us that it is not a '42 or '43 and is more likely a '44 or '45 example. When we received it, every brace on the top and the back was loose and all have been properly reglued. It once sounded, tapping the back, like the noises that come out of a sealed coffin after an illegal exhumation under the full moon. It required, as well, a new bridge to be made and installed, accompanied by a new bridge plate. It came in with a cheap imported flattop case and needed to receive a good quality (Geib style) hard shell case. This was expensive work but we did it and we're glad we did it, and you will be too. There is an added nickel-plated strap pin in the treble side of the neck heel. Though worn looking and repaired this is an extremely handsome, supremely powerful, full-frequencied instrument whose place in the annals of American fretted instrument history is more than just assured, it is certified in the Book of the Good Ones. $7,732 or, at our cash discount price, $7,500.

14 Apr 07 - 10:41 AM (#2025149)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: wilco

The above is a good illustration of the international market. I sold a 1947 J45 for $1250.00 in my store. It was a good deal for everyone. Lots of times the big winners are the specialty stores that "make it" on the sizzle.

14 Apr 07 - 11:13 AM (#2025170)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: Dave Ruch

Wow, thanks Steve for the great advice. I am in Buffalo NY, but willing to travel to check out guitars. Please let me know if you see anything along these lines, and otherwise I may be in touch with you with other questions if that's OK?

Dwditty, thanks for the listing. I actually played that guitar a few weeks ago! It was a sweetie, but the price is...let's say...premium. I also played a slightly newer one at Mandolin Brothers about 6 months ago (1949 or so?) that was a great player and sounded fantastic, but it was $6500. Stan Jay at Mandolin Brothers believes they are worth every penny of that, however, it seems to be the absolute top of the market in terms of price.

14 Apr 07 - 03:24 PM (#2025352)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: wilco

    In 2004, when I first opened my store, every guitar trader within 150 miles came by to "get the inside track" on old guitars. By and large, they expected you to really take advantage of peoples' ignorance, re-sale it for a nice profit to a guitar trader, who would hope to sell it into an over-hyped market for a bigger profit.
    Every day, I send someone to Elderly Instruments (ext #3 is their appraisial department) to get an unbiased opinion of value.
    I would check Elderly's vintage website every day.

15 Apr 07 - 01:31 PM (#2026023)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: Dave Ruch


15 Apr 07 - 03:09 PM (#2026086)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: bigchuck

I would concur with wilco's advice, based on my own experience. Also I've heard relatively few j-50s that I think sound better than average, but J-45s are often very nice guitars. Also Gibsons built in the 70's tend to be rather dull sounding because of being double braced.I assume you keep an eye on Bernunzio's store.


15 Apr 07 - 03:19 PM (#2026092)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: Big Al Whittle

Ralph McTell has mentioned from the stage several times that he has bought several in the last few years on e-bay.

Apparently he started his career playing one, and he wants to go out playing one - having spent the last 20 or so years playing yamha made for the stage type guitars.

I think he's looking for 'the' one - so maybe so,mee of the ones he bought didn't work out. Why not e-mail him from his site - see if he's got any to sell.

we're not all as fussy as Ralph!

15 Apr 07 - 03:40 PM (#2026112)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: bubblyrat

Did Alex Campbell ( famous Scottish folk-singer, guys in USA ) ever recover his "Old Gibson Guitar " that somebody stole ?? I would like to think so !!

15 Apr 07 - 03:48 PM (#2026119)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: Richard Bridge

For what it's worth, I am of the view that the thinner finish on the J-50s usually results in a livelier guitar, more to my taste.

The adjustable bridges were real tone-robbers, and well worth either avoiding or retro-removing!

16 Apr 07 - 08:26 AM (#2026665)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: Dave Ruch

Thanks to all for the wonderful feedback.

Wilco48, I will be checking in regularly w/ the Elderly website.

Sandy, yes I do look at Bernunzios quite often, though I must say he seems to charge absolute top dollar as well for vintage guitars.

Weelittledrummer, thanks for the "lead". I will email Ralph McTell today.

Richard Bridge (and others), do you know what years Gibson used the adjustable bridges on the J-45s/J-50s?

16 Apr 07 - 09:30 AM (#2026720)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: wilco

Dont let the adjustaable bridges scare you. It's a real cheap retro-fit: take the screws off and shim the saddle with thin strips of plastic.
Wilco 48

16 Apr 07 - 09:51 AM (#2026752)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: pirandello

The J45's and 50's coming out of the Bozeman, Montana plant are probably the best that Gibson have made since the first were built in 1942.
Avoid 60's and 70's square shoulder 45's with double 'X' bracing which is a tone killer. 1968 was the last year of the original slope shoulder 45's and you won't go far wrong in either a 45 or 50 (basically identical other than the natural finish of the 50).
Personally I would get a new one; I have three recent Gibson acoustics, an Advanced Jumbo, SJ200 and J185 Koa and all three are fabulous sounding, well-built guitars.

16 Apr 07 - 10:04 AM (#2026768)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: pirandello

Addendum to my post. 1956 was the year an adjustable saddle was offered as an option. Tone and volume suffered as a result. Another thing worth mentioning is the bridge plates on '60's models; the earlier and smaller design of solid maple plate was discarded in preference for a huge laminated plate. The idea was to try and improve stability whilst still using light materials.
The problem was that the laminates didn't have the tensile strength of the solid wood and many de-laminated themselves rather than flexing with the top. Again, avoid. Good 45's and 50's aren't exactly rare so finding a great example shouldn't be that hard.
Good luck and have fun in your search.

16 Apr 07 - 02:00 PM (#2027068)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: PoppaGator

One thing that I found quite interesting, reading dw's quote from the Mandolin Brothers, was that this very desirable old Gibson features a mahogany body, rather than the always-much-more-expensive rosewood option.

As the proud and happy owner of a 38-year-old Martin D-18, I was glad to see such a high value for a mahogany guitar. The 18s have always been the least expensive of the Martin dreadnoughts, not only because of the absense of fancy trim, but because of the use of mahogany for the body. (The D-28 and D-35, etc., are all made of rosewood.)

I am not mentioning this to start a Gibson-vs-Martin argument, but I would be interested in anyone's comments regarding mahogany-vs-rosewood. Is the one truly "better" than the other, or do they just produce "different" audible results?

16 Apr 07 - 02:12 PM (#2027082)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: pirandello

Poppa, from my point of view it's all about different flavours of tone; chocolate or vanilla are both nice!
There has been a perception in some quarters that rosewood is, somehow, a 'superior' tonewood. This is manifestly not the case; I have often played high-end rosewood bodied guitars which, quite frankly, were dogs. The same applies to mahogany and, of course, the converse is true.
The fact is that there are superlative guitars, average guitars and pigs regardless what they are made of.
I currently have guitars in maple, rosewood and koa; all sound great and very different from each other and none is 'better' than any of the others.
You are forunate to have such a classic and iconic guitar in the D-18. I have owned many Martins and the plain vanilla D-18 was among my favourites.

16 Apr 07 - 03:20 PM (#2027136)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: Wesley S

When I bought my 67 D-18 back in 1969 I thought I had settled on a guitar that was less desireable than the D-28. I've changed my mind since then. For what it's used for the mahogany was the right choice.

16 Apr 07 - 03:46 PM (#2027151)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: wilco

In my store, in "most" product lines, I consistently get better sounding mahogany guitars, rather than rosewood, in certain price ranges. From entry level to about $1000.00 suggested retail, you are much more likely to get surprisingly good mahogany guitars. I don't know why, but that's what I routinely see.
    I carry several lines of guitars: Ventura, Wechter, Stanford, Eastman, and Santac Cruz. The entry level Venturas are good examples of this.

16 Apr 07 - 05:23 PM (#2027256)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: PoppaGator

One thing I might have mentioned earlier: I've heard the opinion that the mahogany box allows you to hear the notes of each strings separately, in comparison to how the rosewood instrument tends to emphasize the chordal sound of all six strings together.

This is not necessarily my opinion, just something I've read/heard.

If it's true (or even, for that matter, if the exact converse is true), it would have some relevance to the question of which guitar is better for fingerpicking and which for full-chord comping/strumming.

I've never fully understood discussions where someone describes a certain instrument as "better" for fingerpicking and another for flatpicking, especially when they address questions of physical setup ~ size, length or width of neck, etc. If you own a given instrument and develop your picking technique through years of playing it, your fingers/hands/arms will conform to its characteristics readily enough.

However, if a particular guitar, or type of guitar, produces better sound from a given technique, well then, that would make sense to me.

Mahogany is much more abundant than rosewood, and therefore less expensive regaredless of any question of objective "quality." It also bears mentioning that Brazilian Rosewood, once the standard high-end tonewood, is now either insanely expensive or simply unavailable at any price. These two factors probably contribute to the easier availability of "good" mahogany guitars within any reasonably affordable price range. What rosewood is available nowadays is quite rare compared to mahogany, and therefore more expensive, but the rosewood you can buy at all is still arguably second-best in comparison to the once-preferred and now-unavailable Brazilian strain.

16 Apr 07 - 08:16 PM (#2027380)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: pirandello

As you say, Brazilian RW as a tonewood is arguably 'better'. Pretty much all you'll get these days is swirly stumpwood with dubious long-term stability so you can effectively take it out of the buying equation.
Honduran mahogany is in short supply too and will soon be on the CITES register; so much so that Martin now build their guitar necks with 'wings' on the headstock in order to use narrower neck blanks and thus conserve timber. They are also specifying 'select hardwood' in most of their spec for necks below the style 40 guitars. These can be mahogany or Spanish cedar; it's the luck of the draw as to what you get; Martin won't spec the wood used in each individual guitar.
Madagascar Rosewood is probably as close as you'll get to the tone of Braz.

What you say about different woods being more suitable to different styles of playing certainly rings true; a ragtime player, for example, might not want to hear a wash of harmonic overtones which you find in rosewood and might prefer the greater clarity and better note separation of the fundamental notes in maple or mahogany.

Something we haven't mentioned is the huge contribution that the top wood and the way it is braced makes to the tone of the instrument.
Cedar will generally impart a warmer and less bright tonality. Adirondack spruce has a reputation for a bright, hard tone while Sitka spruce falls somewhere in the middle.

17 Apr 07 - 12:41 PM (#2027897)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: PoppaGator

Thanks for the opinions about different top woods. All I've known about tops is that they're usually spruce; I've never heard any discussion of the diiferences between Adirondack and Sitka, let alone any other alternative such as cedar.

I have gotten the general idea ~ maybe true, maybe false ~ that Adirondack spruce might be the most desirable, since it was once used almost exclusively for top-of-the-line guitars, and the alternatives have become more popular only after the Adirondack has become relatively rare and expensive.

The fact that the material used for back-and-sides is called "tonewood" sort of mitigates against serious consideration of the tonal attributes of the top wood ~ I'm sure that jumping to such a conclusion is quite wrong.

17 Apr 07 - 02:19 PM (#2027990)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: Dave Ruch

Thanks again to all. I did email Ralph McTell or a representative and was told that he is not interested in selling any of his guitars.

Pirandello, very interesting comment re: the J-45s & 50s being made by Gibson today. I was told this past weekend by an acoustic instrument shop owner that Gibson has "gone over the deep end, I wont deal with them, there's only about 3 stores that will anymore" etc.

Anyone else have experience with the new Gibson flattops?

17 Apr 07 - 02:58 PM (#2028025)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: Big Al Whittle

Bet Ralph's pissed off, he'll have to think up a new story to tell now about his compulsive guitar buying.

17 Apr 07 - 06:25 PM (#2028288)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: pirandello

Dave, the problem with Gibson is that they have a strange retail policy now. Dealers are required to keep minimum stock levels of around £25,000 or they lose their dealership. That's a lot of money to tie up on stock. This means that it's unlikely you'll find a new Gibson of any sort in a small shop.
Doesn't affect the quality of the guitars though; I sold all my Martins to finance my Gibsons!


17 Apr 07 - 07:08 PM (#2028336)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: GUEST,under60000miles


17 Apr 07 - 07:48 PM (#2028369)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: Dave Ruch

Thanks Bob! I just left messages on both of your numbers. Please call me collect at 716-884-5327, and I will be trying you again later this evening.

17 Apr 07 - 09:57 PM (#2028473)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: wilco

Regarding Gibson retailers, and Gibson's new retail policy.
Long term, Gibson's policy of "minimum inventory requirements" might prove to be thesmartest move that Gibson could hame made.

ALL of the large guitar names are committing retail suicide, where most retailers don't even want to market their products. With the internet, outfits like MIRC, and the factt that the manufacturers don't enforce MAPP prices, most of these guitar lines have absolutely no future. The biggest screw-up is Martin. They include Alvarez, Taylor, Takamini, Fender, Yamaha, Ovation, and many others.

Most of these guitars come out of Asia now, and their is no proprietery protection of their production methods.

Gibson saw the "handwriting on the wall," and Gibson tried to protect their product line.

18 Apr 07 - 07:22 AM (#2028737)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: pirandello

What I find hard to understand is Gibson's policy of not allowing online advertising.
I may be completely insane but surely the more exposure a product gets the more likely it's ging to be seen by more people resulting in more sales?
I can't see how Gibson's restrictive policies are helping them achieve more sales if the retail outlets are becoming so limited.
Taylor recently reversed the 'no internet' ruling; perhaps they had a commercial reason.
Martin's problem is that they need to get their advertising to appeal to a broader spectrum of buyers; their ads are so old-timey and traditional-looking that you can see that they're aiming at baby boomers. Baby boomers are getting older...
But, yes, competition is no tougher than it ever was and the quality of Pac-rim built instruments is getting very, very good.
US manufacturers have no answer to this on pricing and wages; the only alternative is to move manufacture off-shore, use cheap labour and kill a tradition of excellence and a cultural heritage.
Anyhow, I still love my Gibsons and I won't have an Asian-built guitar in the house; not for reasons of quality or cost but purely tradition.

Now, regarding the '56 J45. Be aware that this was the year an adjustable bridge was offered as an option for the first time. They don't help much in the tone department so if it has one I'd think twice.
The '56 will also have the large pickguard, same as that found on the J185.
And, as always, especially with something as venerable as a 50 year old acoustic check it over very carefully-especially the neck set.

18 Apr 07 - 12:32 PM (#2029020)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: wilco

The key phrase you used was "... achieve more sales...."
In Gibson's case, if they maintain their profit margins, they can sell a smaller number of instruments, and they can be even more profitable.

19 Apr 07 - 03:50 PM (#2030303)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: Dave Ruch

OK, I've been getting my feet wet playing a few new J-45s this week, and will be looking at some other new models as well as older ones over the next few weeks in Toronto ON, Rochester & Ithaca NY. Perhaps elsewhere as well.

My interest in an older one stems from the simple fact that, in my experience, they feel and sound superior to the newer ones. It is that great sound and playability that I'm after, if I can afford it. However, the vintage guitar market, with so many considerations that affect the guitar's value & selling price, is all new to me.

I would love some advice on how to consider the following features. In other words, how would you rank each of these factors in terms of how they affect the value of an instrument:

* repaired cracks
* repaired seam
* new/non-original bridge
* new/non-original finish
* new/non-original tuners

19 Apr 07 - 05:27 PM (#2030431)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: pirandello

Dave, for a COLLECTOR originality and condition is paramount and in that market any deviation will adversely affect both desirability and price.
However, in the real world of practical guitar playing a well-repaired crack is quite acceptable and a not-infrequent occurence on a guitar which may have experienced extremes of dryness and humidity.
Tuners frequently wear out and you can look on them as consumables-like car tires.
I prefer to see an original finish irrespective of condition and I would also prefer an original bridge.

Structurally, the most crucial thing to look for is the neck to body angle; elderly guitars frequently need a neck reset-although if the guitar was played regularly by a knowlegeable musician, a reset may have already been done.
If not you will have to factor in that cost in order to have the guitar play to an acceptable standard-as far as the action is concerned.

Might I suggest you buy Vintage Guitar magazine; it's crammed with ads from vintage dealers and will give you a good idea of prices and availability.
Feel free to ask if I can help in any way; Gibson guitars are a bit of a passion of mine!

19 Apr 07 - 07:59 PM (#2030560)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: Richard Bridge

If you want a guitar for sound rather than (i) your pension fund or (ii) ease of playing, I'd have thought a 1936 (model, not year) Advanced Jumbo (which , oddly, is a dreadnaught) might have been a better bet, but the longer scale length will make it harder work.

20 Apr 07 - 07:23 AM (#2030870)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Gibson J-45 or J-50
From: pirandello

Richard, I have an AJ and it is, without doubt, the finest dread I have played in over 40 years-and trust me I've played and owned many!
Tonally, however, it's a very different guitar from the J45/50.
The biggest difference, as you point out, is the longer scale but being rosewood as well as having a different bracing pattern also gives it a distinctively different tone.
The J45 is smoother and warmer; more restrained to my ears while the AJ is loud and quite forceful in its delivery.
The extra 1/2" of scale isn't really noticeable to me as far as comfort goes and I'm comparing it to my J185 with its 24 3/4" scale. It's all in the set up.