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  1. #1

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    I have been on the lookout for a L5 for a while, but stumbled upon this one. 2000 Gibson Kalamazoo Award Blonde Archtop Guitar
    2000 Gibson Kalamazoo Award Blonde Archtop Guitar | Vintage | Reverb

    I am in the process of buying it, but first would like to seek approval from L5 fans. I know it’s essentially an L5 with bling. How is it regarded with L5 fans?


    I would want to try it first, but that is not possible in today’s situation.
    Last edited by znerken; 07-19-2020 at 04:09 PM.

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  3. #2

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    An $18.950,00 asking price. That is quite a lot of dosh. A Gibson LeGrand is about 33,33% of its asking and is functionally the same guitar with some of the abalone inlay bling.

    You could also look for the L5 Premier Reissue, which were made from 2013 to 2015, for under $6000.

    That K Award looks nice but strip away the ornamentation, it is basically an L5 Premier Reissue or a LeGrand. That oversized long headstock will give you grIef where a replacement case is concerned. You would have to adapt one made for the 18" lower bout Super 400. I am impartial to the volute.

    A Gibson Citation could be found used for about $10500 to $12500. It has a nicer looped tailpiece and a big headstock, too.

    I would pay no more than $8000 for that. And that is provided I like it very very much.

    PS For $18950, order a custom one with The Wedge from Linda Manzer.

  4. #3

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    agree way to much money for a guitar that many will outperform or equal. Not a fan of the inlay and extra pickguard inlay. The gingerbread does not cut it.

  5. #4

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    My KA was probably the most acoustic archtop I've owned, but it was nothing like an L-5, except for being similar in size. It's not "an L-5 with bling."

    It was a very nice guitar, though:

    Gibson L-5 Fans - How is the Kalamazoo Award Considered?-front-2-jpg

    Note that the one in the listing is not from the original build; mine was from 1980, the blonde is from 2000. I can't speak for that one.

    Danny W.

  6. #5

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    Good luck with the purchase. May every stumble of yours be as rewarding ! I own a L-5 WesMo but that being said, you sure don't need my approval.
    I agree with the opening up part, so play it and get used to the sound. After a while, I swapped my TOM for an ebony bridge saddle, which is not an uncommon change.
    But just all the best of luck and hope you are successful !

  7. #6

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    Buy an L5 or similar and save yourself 10 grand. Just my opinion.

  8. #7

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    Sorry, I neglected to look at the asking price. Hopefully ( there had better be ) some serious wiggle room there. If not, there are members here who currently have instruments in-process with contemporary archtop builders making superb instruments.

    Again good luck.

  9. #8

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    Gorgeous masterpiece ! Gibson's top gun. I say if you can afford it BUY IT. You only live once. Better than a Citation IMO. I played one many years ago and was floored by its beauty and tone. The one I played had a varnish finish instead of lacquer. I will never forget that guitar.
    Last edited by vinnyv1k; 07-19-2020 at 11:21 AM.

  10. #9

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    There probably aren't that many of us in this forum who could consider spending nearly $19,000 for a guitar. If it's what you want and makes your heart go pitter-pat, then you certainly don't need approval from me! For that money, I would look for a real D'Angelico but then I don't have any particular reverence or allegiance for the Gibson brand name. It is a lovely guitar. To my eyes it is not in the L5 family but looks more like the Johnny Smith/Citation line of guitars, although many of the differences there are internal (bracing, neck block, etc.). If you really want one that's acoustic, you could probably find an L5C rather than the L5CES forms.

    Also, I have always regarded Reverb asking prices for mid to high end instruments as being aspirational at best and rarely realistic. I would think you should be able to get a few thousand dollars off of that with a little horse trading.

    So good luck with your purchase and I hope it proves to be a very enjoyable and wonderful instrument.

  11. #10

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    Its less an L5 and more in the Johnny Smith architecture, or Citation.

    at that price I would negotiate for A Benedetto Manhattan or Fratello. They will make any scale length your hand wants, add any bling you want, use wood binding if you want, let you select your woods and colors, etc.

    i like the Kalamazoo award, have poked around on one, but would not pay more for it than a good Legrand. The owner of this guitar is swinging for the fences.

    my two cents.

  12. #11

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    Just my opinion but here goes! I never thought much of Gibson Archtops from that period in the companies history. There are a couple of great sounding Johnny Smith guitars I've played from that period.

    I much prefer the 1950s and early 1960s. And then again Jim Hutchins and later Phillip Whorton era Archtops 2010 or so eras
    Both playability, aesthetic,wood choice, and tone most of all.

    That said for $20k asking price Is have John Buscarino custom build me a guitar!

  13. #12

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    One more thing, forum member Danny W has owned all of the high end Gibson archtops of the last 40 some odd yrs so has experience w K Awards and Citations.
    These are showpiece guitars but honestly from my experience they're as hit or miss as any L-5, though modern L-5's are parallel braced and KAs and Citations are X braced,, a matter of preference tonally. Price tag aside I still prefer an L-5's cosmetics, the KA's t.p is just a standard Gibson trapeze w an insert and inlay, the Citation's is the same as a Switchmaster and the torch and vase inlay of an L-5 is cooler than those imo. the only preference for me is the old style script logo in the headstock, I wish Gibson kept the old one but I understand why they changed it, to be more current in design after the war.
    If you really are set on a showpiece Gibson you can get a Citation for that much coin, the absolute top of the food chain.

  14. #13

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    Is the scale length 25.5 or 25?

    Whatever, you can always offer $11K to $12K take it or leave it.

  15. #14

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    Thanks for all the feedback!

    Here are some answers:

    • Scale length is 25.5.
    • I hate the finger tail piece
    • I only want a true acoustic with floating pickup
    • I was thinking of offering the seller 12k
    • I would buy the guitar to play it. I would bring it on gigs and jams. I do not collect instruments. I play them.
    • I have been on the lookout for a L5 with floating pickup for a long time, but never seen one.
    • The last NOS L5 I found was actually something like 8-9000 euro, so not too far away.
    • A new Hertiage Golden Eagle is 9800 euro now.


    I

  16. #15

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    If your looking for a nice L5 floater go check out this one from Larry Wexer. Larry is one of the most reputable dealers in the country.

    1958 Gibson L-5c Sunburst > Guitars Archtop Electric & Acoustic | Laurence Wexer Ltd.

  17. #16

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    The Kalamazoo Award is a dream guitar, and that's where it will remain for me. I love the thought and looks but wouldn't play it.

    Only a few Gibson employees worked on them. They used the best woods. The tops and backs were carefully tuned. The braces also got a lot of attention.

    My impression is that they were the sort of guitar that was put in a glass display case and only occasionally taken out to show others and to play a little.

    Some would claim that it is the ultimate Gibson guitar. But in reality those who built the Citations and Awards argued among themselves about the builds. No one tuned and braced the same. The "best woods" were judged mostly by viewing, not sound.

    One of the Heritage original builders, Ren Wall, has an early Heritage Johnny Smith. He played it out a lot and loved it. He claimed it was the best they ever made. I asked him how he had it built and tuned. He answered that it was just a production one without any special efforts and that sometimes the best instruments are born unplanned. The flip side of that is that some of the best plans and skills end up with very good but not great. That's how it goes in the land of opinion.

    The KA though is a beautiful instrument.

  18. #17

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    According to the seller:

    Previous owner was a well established collector. Most of my items are currently from his collection.
    The owner was one of the original owners of the D,Angelico Guitar brand

  19. #18

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    I'd go for it for $12K. All they can do is say no.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by QAman
    If your looking for a nice L5 floater go check out this one from Larry Wexer. Larry is one of the most reputable dealers in the country.

    1958 Gibson L-5c Sunburst > Guitars Archtop Electric & Acoustic | Laurence Wexer Ltd.
    \

    Agreed, Larry is a top notch fellow and he personally told me the Johnny Smith he has from 1963 actually sound better acoustically. That would be a great guitar too.

  21. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by QAman
    If your looking for a nice L5 floater go check out this one from Larry Wexer. Larry is one of the most reputable dealers in the country.

    1958 Gibson L-5c Sunburst > Guitars Archtop Electric & Acoustic | Laurence Wexer Ltd.
    Plus, I'd take a played in vintage over a closeted collector's wall candy any day. An instrument that's been used becomes a soft pair of seasoned leather gloves, as close to invisible as can be. They take something that the player gives it and they learn how to respond.
    Didn't Wexler used to have a place on Music Row 48th street NY? Think that's where I played his D'Aquistos. Those were the days, when you could play the most amazing examples of the art of lutherie, all on one block. One could get a total education in what a guitar can do. It's there that I learned that it's not what anyone else says is good, it's the one that makes you play things you never imagined. Wexler and Rudy had back rooms where they kept the "good stuff". Like the modest Exel that could outplay the New Yorker. The truth is in the playing.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy blue note
    Plus, I'd take a played in vintage over a closeted collector's wall candy any day. An instrument that's been used becomes a soft pair of seasoned leather gloves, as close to invisible as can be. They take something that the player gives it and they learn how to respond.
    Didn't Wexler used to have a place on Music Row 48th street NY? Think that's where I played his D'Aquistos. Those were the days, when you could play the most amazing examples of the art of lutherie, all on one block. One could get a total education in what a guitar can do. It's there that I learned that it's not what anyone else says is good, it's the one that makes you play things you never imagined. Wexler and Rudy had back rooms where they kept the "good stuff". Like the modest Exel that could outplay the New Yorker. The truth is in the playing.
    Larry worked at Mandolin Brothers many years ago. Hes been on his own for over 20 years. When it comes to vintage Martins or high end Archtops, there is no better authority. Many dealers and auction houses consult with Larry.

    Larry and I have been good friends since the eighties.

    Hes played the finest , most expensive instruments in existence, so when it comes to advice or comparison opinions......hes the guy. Hes also a very accomplished, guitar, mandolin and harp player.

    Sent from my GT-N5110 using Tapatalk

  23. #22

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    The finest Gibson acoustic guitar I ever played was a 1980 blonde KA. It was way above any L5 or Super 400 I had ever played.

    Truly an acoustic archtop for the ages.

  24. #23

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    Seller keeps saying it is worth the price, so I guess there will be no deal. I offered him 13 000 USD, which I actually think would be a good deal for him.

  25. #24

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    I noticed his website doesn’t seem to indicate he’s an archtop specialist, which is my convoluted way of me saying do check out Larry Wexler. Although I don’t know him personally there are few better than Larry. (I had a mutual friend with Stan Jay whom Larry worked for at Mandolin Bro’s so I worked with Stan.)
    Stan probably forgot more about archtops than any of us know, and Larry was there learning, so definitely recommend you have a chat.
    Hey anybody remember Stan’s crazy catalogs?
    And good luck with your quest znerken!

  26. #25

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    The offer you made seems right for a KA, IMO. And, yes, they are superb guitars. I have always regretted not buying the one I had in my hands. Ultimately, it was purchased by John Sprung of Fender Amp history fame.

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by jazzkritter
    I noticed his website doesn’t seem to indicate he’s an archtop specialist, which is my convoluted way of me saying do check out Larry Wexler. Although I don’t know him personally there are few better than Larry. (I had a mutual friend with Stan Jay whom Larry worked for at Mandolin Bro’s so I worked with Stan.)
    Stan probably forgot more about archtops than any of us know, and Larry was there learning, so definitely recommend you have a chat.
    Hey anybody remember Stan’s crazy catalogs?
    And good luck with your quest znerken!
    Well I knew Stan a bit and he sold me my D'angelico New Yorker 1937 back in about 1982. Glad I bought it and still have it. For the record I know Larry much better and on a more personal note. He is a fantastic guitarist too and one of the best players I know who is also a dealer. Larry can hold his own playing the guitar and to me that also is why is is such a great resource and wealth if information.

    If I had spare money his 1963 Johnny Smith he has for sale nowI would buy right now. For sure they will never make another Johnny Smith GIbson and it was made within about 8 years of the Guitar pattern it came from Johnny;s 17 inch Dangelico New Yorker. THe OP might do real well to save the extra coin and buy this Gibson. Then you still have over $3000 to spend on something else

  28. #27

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    Good comments sir and agree anyone with that $ to spend right now should have a great pick of the litter.
    A box of all of Mandolin Bros catalogs has got to be big and weight a half ton)))
    We had no idea back then how lucky we were close by them and 48th street, or that it would all disappear.

  29. #28

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    I bought a brand new L5P/BJB with warranty from Wildwood for $7K. It was VSB though.

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by Greentone
    The finest Gibson acoustic guitar I ever played was a 1980 blonde KA. It was way above any L5 or Super 400 I had ever played.

    Truly an acoustic archtop for the ages.
    Makes ya wonder, WHY? Did they put more effort into carving it differently?

  31. #30

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    Just joined the forum, so my comment might be outdated while typing it ...
    Spending such an enormous sum for a "working" guitar - you still intend to take it to gigs? - sounds a bit strange to me. Personally, I am always looking at the value that I get for a given price. I own - and regularly play - three Gibson models (ES175, L-5, S-400), all of them are "gigable" but of different sound characteritics. The smallest and cheapest one offering the lowest sound quality - but still good enough for pure jobs of accompaniment. The L-5 is my favorite, I bought it as brand new in 2017 and it's the perfect instrument for any stage, for a more acoustic sound I'm using the S-400. None of the big ships cost me more than 10k, and I can be sure they could be re-sold any time without financial loss.
    So why buy a Kalamazoo Award Gibson at twice the price? For sure, these instruments are the best sounding Gibson archtops - ideally suited for collectors and players. But if your priority is playing gigs and sessions I'd leave this precious piece of craftmanship at home and take a solid workhorse to your gigs.

  32. #31

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  33. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by GTRMan
    Its less an L5 and more in the Johnny Smith architecture, or Citation..
    The Kalamazoo Award has a different body size, different rim depth and different f-holes than the L-5C.
    It had the dimensions of a Johnny Smith / Citation, with a 25 1/2" scale length.

    Quote Originally Posted by Danny W.
    My KA was probably the most acoustic archtop I've owned, but it was nothing like an L-5, except for being similar in size. It's not "an L-5 with bling."
    Quote Originally Posted by Marty Grass
    Only a few Gibson employees worked on them. They used the best woods. The tops and backs were carefully tuned. The braces also got a lot of attention.
    My impression is that they were the sort of guitar that was put in a glass display case and only occasionally taken out to show others and to play a little.
    Some would claim that it is the ultimate Gibson guitar. But in reality those who built the Citations and Awards argued among themselves about the builds. No one tuned and braced the same. ...
    Quote Originally Posted by Greentone
    The finest Gibson acoustic guitar I ever played was a 1980 blonde KA. It was way above any L5 or Super 400 I had ever played....
    Having played a few of them, I think the original Kalamazoo Award guitars were head and shoulders above the other fully carved 17" archtops of the day that Gibson produced. I can't speak to the reissue discussed above, but IIRC it has the same dimensions and scale as the recent Gibson Legrand.

    FWIW, the Heritage Golden Eagle is based on the Kalamazoo Award, not the L-5.
    Attached Images Attached Images Gibson L-5 Fans - How is the Kalamazoo Award Considered?-gib-kzooaward-heritagege-png 
    Last edited by Hammertone; 03-09-2021 at 05:56 PM.

  34. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by Danny W.

    Gibson L-5 Fans - How is the Kalamazoo Award Considered?-front-2-jpg
    Call me shallow but I love the looks of this guitar. If it plays well and sounds great, those are pluses.