Gibson Man

Guitar players usually have a specific preference, they like one brand of guitar above all others. I’m a Gibson man, they just feel right to me, and if you hand me a Fender I just can’t play it right. My favorite guitar is a 1961 Gibson L-2 three-quarter size guitar, it was a hand-me-down from my sister, my parents bought it for her to take guitar lessons when she was about 8 or 9 years old. I especially like it because I have an unnaturally short pinky, and the 3/4 size fretboard makes it easy for me to hit the notes. I’ve looked around for many years for another suitable 3/4 size guitar, but nobody makes a decent model because 3/4 size guitars are designed for little kids, and nobody spends serious money on guitars for kids.

But today I was astonished to learn that Gibson reissued the L-2 3/4. It’s a serious guitar, it retails for $2995 but sells for around $1600. Ouch! Here’s a picture of the reissue, it’s only made with an ugly finish they call “vintage sunburst” but is more commonly known as “tobacco.” Mine is a real sunburst, which is a reddish color, and much more attractive.

Gibson L-2 3/4

The story behind the reissue is rather interesting. The L-2 3/4 is part of a set called “The Father and Son Guitars” after Woody and Arlo Guthrie. Gibson reissued a copy of Woody Guthrie’s favorite Gibson Southern Jumbo guitar and also Arlo’s first guitar, an L-2 3/4 given to him by his father. There’s a rather heart-wrenching tale about how Arlo acquired the guitar, and how he lamented to Gibson about how the guitar had deteriorated over the years, so they made a new one and gave it to him, and repaired his original. I had no idea my little beat up guitar was a Guitar Of Legend.

There are a few problems with 3/4 size guitars. A full-size guitar fretboard is designed with “tempered tuning,” every fret is mistuned a tiny bit, but overall it has good tuning. Unfortunately, at 3/4 size, the tempering is off, so it’s really hard to get the strings in tune, the intonation is a bit off. The body of the guitar isn’t very large, so it doesn’t produce a big sound. But that could be an advantage if you just use it for practice and don’t want to annoy the neighbors. For me the big advantage is that the frets are 1/4 easier to reach with my short finger, and the strings don’t have as much tension so they’re easier to press down than a full size guitar.

I’d sure like to own a new L-2 3/4, but since I already have a vintage model, that doesn’t make much sense. So I decided to get my old axe repaired and put back into shape, it needs a little adjustment, and it wouldn’t hurt to have the dent in the side fixed. But there’s a limit to how much money I should sink into this guitar. To estimate its value, I searched around the web and found a 1950 L-2 3/4 for sale in a guitar shop in Tokyo, selling for almost $2500US. Mine’s in better shape but not as collectible since it’s not as old, so I guarantee it’s not going to be worth anything like $2500, I’d be surprised if it was worth more than $250. The last time I took it into a shop for repairs, they laughed at me for liking such a junky old guitar and told me to be glad it’s even playable at all.

3 thoughts on “Gibson Man”

  1. I have a guitar that looks exactly like the L2 with the short scale. Its made in 1954 as it has an X at the beginning of the serial #. The problem is it does not have X bracing, it has the ladder bracing. Is it an L1. Did they have that exact body shape and come in 3/4 size?

  2. I took my old L2-3/4 to a guitar shop for a repair estimate, the repairman looked inside with a mirror and he says it has ladder bracing. He also told me he wanted $1500 to fix it! Ouch!
    The 1950 model I saw on the web had the same shape as my model (I think mine is a 1960). Gibson went through a lot of different methods of generating serial numbers so your X serial doesn’t surprise me.

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