The Gibson J-45 with its round shoulder body shape and classic Americana tone is an essential model for any collector, studio or serious player. Gibson named the model “J-45″ with the J to represent Gibson’s 16” wide Jumbo sized body and “45” to represent its introductory price in 1942: a staggering $45. The J-45 has remained in production almost seamlessly since 1942 but has changed in appearance and construction.

1943 Gibson J-45 2314 40-023

1942-1946

This time period is the most collectible of the production years. Often called “Banner Era” guitar, Gibson’s from this time period have a golden banner on the headstock with “Only a Gibson is Good Enough.” Wartime production numbers are a fraction of what they were in 1950s and 1960s so these guitars are very rare. Collectors report that these guitars are more lightly built and therefore more resonant. We’ve had two of these guitars come through the shop in the past year and we can attest that the tone is indeed fabulous. We are always on the lookout for banner era Gibson J-45 guitars.

1943 Gibson J-45 2314 40-032

1947-1962

1953 Gibson J-45-026This time period exhibits equally classic dark sunburst cosmetics but a bit more modern construction techniques. While guitars from this time period are not quite as rare as banner era guitars, the demand for them keeps collectibility and scarcity very high. The tone is still top quality but the guitars are built just a bit more structurally solid than earlier guitars.

1955 was a transitional year for all Gibson acoustic guitar models. The small teardrop shaped pickguards changed to a larger shape. The style of bracing also changed during this time period from scalloped to unscalloped bracing. The shape of the X and the girth of the bracing also changed. The tonal difference between the two types is not as vast as that of the difference when the Martin guitar company changed their bracing style. Gibson compensated but decreasing the mass of the brace. We are fond of both bracing styles here at True Vintage Guitar.

1953 Gibson J-45-006

1962-1968

1963 Gibson J-45-005

 

The 1960s saw many changes at Gibson in both the aesthetic and construction areas. The traditionally dark brown or black sunburst became a bright Cherry Red color that was prone to fading with sun exposure. The adjustable bridge became standard. The shape and width of the neck became smaller which suited younger players better. Gibson even experimented with bridge materials including plastic for a time.

The big three guitar brands at the time (Gibson Martin and Fender) all ramped up production around 1965-1967 because of a surge in demand. While this is great for the availability of vintage guitars, the quality of the build changed. These guitars still have great tone and are often a joy to play. Some of my favorite J-45s were made during this time period.

 

 

We are always looking to buy vintage Gibson J-45s made from 1942-1968. If you’re having trouble dating your Gibson guitar then use this page to send pictures for an evaluation. We can help date your guitar and may even be interested in buying your Gibson.

This article has 17 comments

  1. Mike H Reply

    Hi John – Did Gibson use any spruce other than Sitka on these guitars? Also, how does the adjustable bridge affect the tone, volume and collectibility of these instruments? Thanks

    • John Shults Reply

      Yes, the J-45 was introduced in 1942 when Gibson was using Adirondack Spruce exclusively. Wartime shortages included Adirondack Spruce so Mahogany was sometimes used. CMI bought Gibson in 1944 and introduced Spruce from Sitka, AK but Adirondack and Mahogany were sometimes used until 1946.

      The adjustable bridge does change the tone a bit but isn’t as much problem as most forums would have you believe. Some of my favorite J-45s had the adjustable bridge. Go figure!

  2. rex buell Reply

    I have a 1953 Gibson j45 in good condition am wondering about what it’s worth.

  3. Len Reply

    I have a Gibson J45 Acoustic that I would like to find out when it was built. I bought it used about 50 years ago. The serial number is U2256 14. What would be the current value??

    • John Shults Reply

      Hi Len! Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. I responded to you via e-mail. I’m looking forward to chatting with you about that guitar. –John

  4. Steph Reply

    I have a Gibson J-45 ADJ. BRIDGE guitar in good condition. Wondering what it might be worth. Can send pics. It has a hole-plug to hook up to an amp. 1950s?

    • John Shults Reply

      Hey Steph, I responded to you via e-mail. I’m looking forward to checking it out! –John

  5. Dean Reply

    Hey John
    I have been gifted a 1947 Gibson J-45. It’s in good playable shape and sound great. I have just had the frets replaced a new bridge installed and new tuners. other then that it’s all original I kept all the old pieces. The back story on this guitar is that was one of the backup guitars on the Grand Ole Opry. Any ideas as to the value of this guitar.
    Thank for your Time

    • John Shults Reply

      Thanks for leaving a comment Dean. I replied via e-mail –John

  6. Anthony Reply

    I have a Gibson j45 sunburnt 1968/69. Guitar is in very good condition in the Original velvet lined hard shell case. I purchased guitar in 1969 and always thought it was a ’69, but not so sure now.

    • John Shults Reply

      Hi Anthony, I think I can help with that. I responded via e-mail. –John

  7. Tom Reply

    Hi. There is a picture of a Gibson J45 acoustic online which I would like to know the date of, is this something you could help identify if I sent the picture?

    • John Shults Reply

      Hey Tom, I responded via e-mail. I’ll do my best. –John

  8. eric J W Reply

    hi there. my friend has a J45 from maybe ’65, the tag price was 157.00 if that’s any help. im also interested in another guitar he has which I cant get much info, it has a label in the body called an ‘olympia’, v old and both need srs body work
    wondering how to ascertain dates? thank you

    • John Shults Reply

      Hey Eric, I responded via e-mail. I’m looking forward to checking it out! –John

  9. George P Reply

    John: On a visit to Nashville earlier this year, I was lucky enough to rent an early/mid 60’s J45 for a couple of days. It was just a great instrument – loud and soulful at the same time – and understandably the owner was not willing to sell it (!). In subsequent discussions with a local collector here in CT, I was advised that not all 1960’s J45’s are equal; there can be a great deal of difference between the sound of one vs. another from the same month of the same year. As a consequence, a search for one should be done in person – not via eBay, Reverb or other websites. Have you too noticed the same differences between otherwise similar J45’s – where one has a monster sound and another sounds “like geese farts on a muggy day”?

    • John Shults Reply

      Hey George, great insight here! It’s certainly a benefit if one has the option to play through a selection of them to pick the one that fits them best. I too have noticed that these guitars can vary but I’ve found that they vary less if they’ve been properly preserved. I always select for properly preserved examples and you would be shocked at how consistent they are! Thanks for dropping a note!

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