The Gibson J-45 Model Through the Years
Posted on December 07 2020
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.
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.
1947-1962This 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 by decreasing the mass of the brace. We are fond of both bracing styles here at True Vintage Guitar.
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.
1968 in Black
This 1968 Gibson J-45 with black finish and white pickguard came through the shop recently directly from its original owner. I wasn't able to find a black option in the 1968 Gibson catalog or price list, so it's possible that the black finish was done to cover up flawed wood. One supporting feature would be the four piece top instead of the typical two piece top.