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  1. #1

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    Hi all,

    I’ve recently been looking at buying my first archtop, and this forum has been a wealth of information - so thank you all very much.

    I’ve been trying everything I can get my hands on (originally aiming at a <$2k budget...whoops) and I recently made the regrettable decision to try out a vintage Gibson L4-C. It smoked everything else I’ve tried, including the ones I previously thought were great. As soon as I played this guitar I knew it was a keeper, but I wanted to do a bit of research on these before going for it.

    Asking price is $3450 and it’s in great shape other than the fact that it had two small holes drilled in it for a lefty pick guard at one point, one on the top and one on the side (see photos).

    Beyond this, I know it was made in the mid 50s, and it was refinished (not sure when).

    Based on this info, is this a fair price? Do the holes or the refinishing devalue it? I don’t have much experience with either vintage guitars or archtops, so I’m hoping to hear from the experts who know about both! I’ve looked around online and the prices for these seem to be all over the map from what I’ve seen.

    Is there anything else I should be asking or looking out for?

    Thanks in advance!


    Vintage Gibson L-4 Advice-d85ebf9f-4e34-420b-9017-dcb04059e247-jpg

    Vintage Gibson L-4 Advice-f4d7def2-1fd4-45d2-93d2-704992cd0564-jpg

    Vintage Gibson L-4 Advice-e5913e17-1f90-4037-bf23-21b282e9a82c-jpg

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I'm sure you could do well with it. For a moment forget the market value. If the guitar seems to fit your needs and you keep it 20+ years, it's a great deal.

    Individual instruments are fascinating. But they can distract you from the mission of playing music.

    Decades later, I can think of many fine guitars I let go of in pursuit of others. Most often that's the wrong pursuit. I would have been a better musician if I kept the guitar I had as a teen and practiced and performed more.

    The L-4 is a superb instrument. If there are no structural problems, I don't see how you'd go wrong unless you need higher volume music. That guitar is interchangeable with any old school jazz box.

    I note that this L-4 has a thin top. I'll bet it sounds great.

  4. #3

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    Those L4C's are fabulous guitars, I had one years ago. But I think that one is priced way too high. Just search Reverb for Gibson L4 and you'll see several nice ones at a lower price.

    Gibson L-4C 1949 - 1971 | Reverb

  5. #4

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    Also, don't ignore the L4 models with built-in humbuckers; one will most likely be more practical in the long run, especially since you're just now getting into arch tops for jazz, unless you're not ever planning to play out with a group.

  6. #5

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    Kinda strange where those holes are, as if a left-handed pickguard was added a-la Steve Howe.

    Vintage Gibson L-4 Advice-various-shutterstock-editorial-2605154r-jpg

  7. #6

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    I have a '50 L-4c.....and its one of my favorites....

    I'm using an old McCarty pickguard/pickup on it and it make a great amplified guitar, but has a nice acoustic sound as well. Not sure it would be my first choice as my main full time acoustic archtop, but it has some good volume, tone and projection.

    I'm very tall and enjoy how my longer scaled 17" L-7's play at the perfect height when I'm sitting down....so when I pick this one up it feels like I'm wrapping myself around a parlor guitar!
    Not a bad feeling at all...I adapt....and amplified it really doesn't sound much different.

    The refinish would be the biggest hit on "market" value....but it looks nicely done and not too thick.
    The holes wouldn't bother me....have somebody plug'em up and play.

    I'd make an offer....maybe the seller will accept it or meet you halfway.
    If you really love it than do what you will if there are no other concerns......I've been known to pay too much for the right ones at times.

  8. #7

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    For that $ you can find an original example that'll be easier to sell down the road should you decide to do so.

  9. #8

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    Thank you all for the advice, I really appreciate it.

    Marty Grass - I think you’re right! I just picked it up and I think it will serve me well for a long time to come!

    @ronjazz, thanks for the tip about those, but I really want something that is going to be a beautiful acoustic and so I wanted a carved spruce top with no routing in it!

    I ended up getting it for $3150+tax just brought it home today. As you guys pointed out, I probably could have gotten a cheaper one on reverb - but I figure with these being handmade, there’s no two that will play exactly alike, and this one just felt like a perfect fit as soon as I picked it up. I know I’d have been super bummed if I went back and it was gone, so I went for it!

    I’ll make a NGD post later and link it for anyone who might want to see more photos. Thanks again for the advice!

  10. #9

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    Congratulations!

  11. #10

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    The refin and the holes should have been reasons to bargain down the asking price considerably. It has essentially become a player with no collector's value. I am always on the lookout for players that are great guitars and don't (or shouldn't) cost you an arm and a leg and this fits right into that category.

    Personally I would not have payed more than $2500-2750 for it and that's only because the refin is nicely done and looks good. But hey, if you're happy, then I'm happy. Congratulations, you got yourself a guitar for life, so what's a few 100 $$ extra in the end? Enjoy it in good health!

  12. #11

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    Congrats! It’s a beauty!

  13. #12

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    My experience is that when I buy the "right" item and maybe pay a little bit too much for it, five years down the line I simply no longer think about that. Congratulations on your new and lovely guitar!

  14. #13

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    I have bought and sold quite a few Gibsons over the years (I own 7 at present). It seems like they are better than money in the bank as they keep pace with inflation (and then some). Most of the Gibsons that I have sold are worth more today than what I sold them for.

    I suspect that in 20 years your purchase price will seem like a bargain. Congrats and may she inspire your playing for many years to come.

  15. #14

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    Congratulations on a gorgeous guitar and I think you did the right thing by following your gut instinct!

  16. #15

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    The L4C Gibson is a great guitar, my late Tutor , a pro BBC orchestra musician, had a 1949
    model with a De -Armond pickup, a tone to die for, his main instrument for years among
    his 13 guitars. Its successor ,the L4CES is also a fine guitar with a great tone , I had one
    for a number of years ,they're easy to play with a 24.75" scale, Good luck with your acquisition
    I hope that you have many years of enjoyment with it.

  17. #16

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    Happy L-4c day!

    I'll celebrate by getting out mine and putting something else away.
    Keeps the circulation going....very important when you have too many guitars.

  18. #17

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    Excellent! Enjoy that L-4 for many years.

  19. #18

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    Thank you all for the advice & kind words. I decided not to make a NGD post to avoid clogging the forums with a second post about the same guitar. Instead I attached some more photos to this post for anyone who wants to see.

    I've had the chance to spend some time with it and I could not be happier. It plays like a dream and sounds like one too. Easily the best guitar I've owned - I think I'll be keeping this one for a long time. I love the sound both acoustically and amplified, and its just fantastic through my Fender Pro Jr. This guitar is everything I hoped an archtop would be!

    cheers!
    Attached Images Attached Images Vintage Gibson L-4 Advice-5-gibson-l-4c-03-jpg Vintage Gibson L-4 Advice-4-gibson-l-4c-08-jpg Vintage Gibson L-4 Advice-3-gibson-l-4c-01-jpg Vintage Gibson L-4 Advice-2-gibson-l-4c-07-jpg Vintage Gibson L-4 Advice-1-gibson-l-4c-02-jpg Vintage Gibson L-4 Advice-7-gibson-l-4c-10-jpg 

  20. #19

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    She’s beautiful! Congratz!

  21. #20
    Wow! That is a beautiful guitar! It says "play me" all over it. Congrats!