1931 Gibson L-5 Guitar
Appraised Value: $10,000
IMAGE: 1 of 1
Appraisal Video: (2:48)
Vice President & Department Head, Musical Instruments
GUEST: It was my mom's guitar. I have one picture of her when she was about 16 years old playing it, so I know she probably had it for a couple years before then. She used to love to play piano, guitar.
APPRAISER: And she bought it here in Florida?
GUEST: Oh, New York.
APPRAISER: In New York.
GUEST: My grandparents probably bought it for her in New York.
APPRAISER: Coming across the room I saw it on its way. You carried it in without a case, and my mind was quickly clicking and I'm trying to tell what kind of Gibson it is, and I knew that it was a Gibson of really great quality, because first and foremost, the quality of the wood. The story of Gibson guitars and archtop guitars in this period, when this guitar was made, is about volume. Guitar makers are trying to make guitars louder, more articulate, because they're trying to be heard over big bands, and it was this guitar, the model L-5, that really excelled. The guitar was made in 1931. Guitars of this quality made by Gibson quite often carry a label, and internally, the guitar is labeled, bearing its serial number. That's one of the ways that we date these guitars. The other way is the attributes of the instrument. It was the most expensive guitar that Gibson made in 1931.
GUEST: Oh, wow.
APPRAISER: Players like Eddie Lang played the L-5. Country-Western players like Mother MayBelle Carter, the L-5 was her instrument. The finest materials used. Amongst guitar collectors there's a lot of lingo, what kind of inlay is on the neck, what kind of inlay is on the head. We look at this one, and it's called a "snakehead," because of the way the peg head is formed. It's got a flowerpot inlay, and they refer to these as the "block-neck," as opposed to the "dot-neck," and that refers to the large block pearl inlays. These archtop guitars were carved out of solid pieces of wood. And the only thing that was bent and fabricated were the sides. They're spectacular pieces. And by 1936, these guitars are sort of outdated because along comes the ES150; it's the first electric guitar. And volume now becomes superfluous with electric guitars. It's an instrument that survives in really spectacular condition-- no cracks on the body, it's got original finish. It has lost some originality with the pick guard-- that's a later addition. The tailpiece is a later addition, though I don't think it's going to adjust the value all that much because these parts are sourceable. You know, you could find a vintage tailpiece and replace it, as well as either an aftermarket pick guard or a vintage pick guard. Value: I would insure it at a value of $10,000.
GUEST: Wow. Okay.
APPRAISER: It's a great piece and a wonderful guitar and deserves to be strung up. It probably sounds like a house.
GUEST (laughing): Right.
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