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  1. #1

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    I've been looking for a decent archtop for a little while, which is no easy task given the current UK market. Everything seems 'overpriced', and not much crops up anyway.

    When this 2002 L5 CES appeared at a shop I'm familiar with, I had to jump on it. It arrived this morning and I'm doing my usual belated due diligence...

    I was assured that the painted stinger on the rear of the headstock was centred correctly, and what I was seeing in product photos was a trick of the light. Seems I was right, they were mistaken - looks a tad worse irl:

    2002 Gibson L-5 - Catch or Release?-l5-stinger-jpg

    Next up we have some slight lacquer shrink around the rear centre seam - see directly under strap pin:

    2002 Gibson L-5 - Catch or Release?-centre-seam-l5-jpg

    There's also similar evidence under each headstock wing - hardly noticeable:

    2002 Gibson L-5 - Catch or Release?-headstock-wings-l5-jpg

    It's no case queen, here are the worst of the dinky do's:

    2002 Gibson L-5 - Catch or Release?-dinks-l5-jpg

    Other than little bits of dye creeping into the edge of the binding here and there, tarnished tailpiece (which I actually prefer) there's not much else I'm concerned about.

    Price? 5.5k Sterling. Only other one I can see available is 8k+.

    Came with original case but no COA. Labels all check out - Hutch signed etc.

    Before we get to NGD pics, sound etc, what do you think?

    I'm new to high end archtops and what expectations I should have, but am well aware of Gibson's patchy quality control.
    Could be worse!

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  3. #2

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    All non issues imo.
    You're going to get some settling of lacquer, especially after nearly 20 yrs.
    Enjoy the guitar....

  4. #3

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    I see nothing wrong with it. Looks clean, really.

  5. #4

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    Looks good and clean

  6. #5

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    Yea, price seems cheap, and looks like never had to work.

  7. #6

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    +1 to the above. I had a 2006 and it was a lovely guitar.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Amberville
    I'm new to high end archtops and what expectations I should have, but am well aware of Gibson's patchy quality control. Could be worse!
    I have a bracelet engraved with the thought that has kept me going through most of my life: “it could always be worse”. I wore it constantly for many years and looked at it whenever things were conspiring to depress me - and it worked!

    The cosmetically perfect old guitars I’ve seen in the 65 years I’ve played have (with a very few exceptions) all been redone, cobbled up, or such poor players that they sat untouched for years at a time in accidentally favorable conditions. The patina of use and practical maintenance is beautiful to me, and I agree with the others here that nothing throws a penalty flag for me.

    Having said that, it’s well worth paying a good luthier to check it over inside and out. As long as you set that inspection up beforehand and the seller agrees to take it back if there’s a significant problem, I’d grab it if you love it.

  9. #8

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    Second all the above, looks great and non-issues to me for a fair price. Any shots of the whole thing?

  10. #9

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    A very nice score indeed I second everything everybody says all the things you mentioned are really not issues the price is very good but now like the man says above would like to see some pictures of the whole baby and we want to know what do you think of her when you play it because that’s the most important thing congratulations

  11. #10

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    All normal Gibson issues. Nitro lacquer suck back happens to almost every guitar.
    The off set stinger is typical Gibson QC and barely noticeable.
    Looks like a nice specimen.

  12. #11
    Thanks for all the reassurance, chaps. I appreciate it.

    Not sure if this comes across online but the back flames quite nicely both ways:

    2002 Gibson L-5 - Catch or Release?-l5rear-jpg
    2002 Gibson L-5 - Catch or Release?-l5rear2-jpg

    2002 Gibson L-5 - Catch or Release?-l5-front-fuji-jpg

    2002 Gibson L-5 - Catch or Release?-l5headstock-jpg

    As for the tone. I don't want to be that guy who goes overboard.

    I plugged her into my Badcat Mini cat, somehow managed to get a clean sound and strummed a chord:
    It sounded like a choir of angels and for a brief moment I could see through time and space.

    Possible keeper.

  13. #12

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    I don't know, there appears to be a number of issues with this L-5 . . . I'll help you out and take it off your hands for $4,999.00

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Amberville
    Not sure if this comes across online but the back flames quite nicely both ways
    It's gorgeous! I don't think I've ever seen so regular a grain pattern so well aligned and consistent over an entire panel. And FWIW, I suspect that the fine dimpling in the nitro is mostly orange peel rather than aging - the headstock closeup shows this well. Nitrocellulose is the finish we used on hot rods and custom cars 50+ years ago. When you hear about "50 coats of hand rubbed lacquer", it refers to the process of rubbing out most of each coat after spraying. One of the reasons it took so many coats is that orange peel is almost impossible to avoid, and it's deep enough to make removal of most of each coat necessary in order to level the surface with the depth of the tiny "dimples". As a result, each coat ends up too thin to remain on its own. Cars require a lot more thickness of finish than guitars, so you rarely see 50+ coats applied to a guitar, because thinner finishes seem to sound better acoustically. But the only way to get the orange peel out is to spray - rub - spray - repeat until it's right.

    I suspect that failure to fully rub out and fully spray the finish was a reflection of that spotty Gibson QC we all discuss, loathe, and live with unless it's terminal. I bought a new L-5CN in 1969 and returned it in a few days. There was a splice in the top binding along with several cosmetic flaws. But the pièce de résistance was the bare wood under the Cupid's bow - thre was absolutely no finish at all on the wood for about a cm. And it just didn't sound great. My dealer agreed and wouldn't even have delivered it to me if I hadn't insisted on taking it home with only a glance into the case. I had a gig in a few hours and I didn't want to leave it at the shop until the next day. The guitar it was intended to replace was a '60 175DN, so I still had blind faith in Gibson

  15. #14

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    Now that you have posted pictures of the whole guitar...it's a real beauty. What a nice L-5CES. Looks like a keeper, for sure.

  16. #15
    I've just had a strum on her playing acoustic stuff and I like it better than my Martin acoustic. That's nuts.

    I've never believed that you have to spend money to get a decent guitar. And I only bought the L5 because I wanted a dedicated jazzer and there wasn't much available - so why not?

    Now there's not a huge gulf between my two strats, american original and squire, but apples and oranges aside - there's an ocean between this L5 and them. I need to break out my 335 out and start comparing them more closely. Oh and maybe sell some guitars...

    I didn't know the pickguard was translucent. cool. Must be cellulose?



    Soon this will all be nickel:


  17. #16

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    No need to over think that guitar. At today’s prices you stole it. Simply be happy you found a great deal in a very volatile market. Congratulations!

  18. #17

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    Looks like a great guitar! I'd be happy to own it and the price seems fair. I used to own a late 70s L5 CES. Wish I never sold it.

  19. #18

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    Happy NGD ! Sure looks good and if it sounds fine .... !
    You probably won't get less "issues" with a new one from Gibson for nearly double the price !
    Enjoy this beauty for many years

  20. #19

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    Catch.

  21. #20

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    I agree with the other comments about lacquer changes. The stinger is created by someone hand masking the wood. It will not be perfectly centered and I've seen and owned much worse.

    I'd play it a bit. If it sounds okay and feels okay, I don't see an impediment to buy it. It will sound and feel even better when you and the guitar get to know each other over time.

  22. #21

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    +1 mg

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark M.
    +1 to the above. I had a 2006 and it was a lovely guitar.
    Non-buyers regret!

  24. #23

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    If you don't want the guitar send it to me. It is a beauty for sure and what you are worried about is a non-issue. In fact it tells you this is a real guitar because if it was perfect in every sense of the word..................Well they play them in heaven............the deacon have some fun

  25. #24

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    FWIW, none of the issues mentioned would concern me - as the others have said. I have a 98 WesMo with similar issues - all of which are typical for an aging vintage guitar, especially Gibsons. Like you, I bought mine for a really great price, site unseen and unplayed. I was not disappointed. Seller offered a liberal return policy, and a very accurate description of the guitar. More importantly, it sounded and played exactly as I expected. So enjoy your new Gibson and be thankful you scored such as great guitar for that price. Play it in good health.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by DMgolf66
    Non-buyers regret!
    I still miss it sometimes, Darren. But, I don’t have any true regrets.