If you have any vintage gibson guitars that are posted on this site ,you are always welcome to post a review,comment or detailed features ,im sure other guitar players who visit us would love to know ... Domenic

Important Note : Due to the overwhelming amount of comments on this blog i cannot answer all the questions although id love to . You can still post questions hopefully some of our viewers can help you out ... Thank You

Gibson Barney Kessel

Gibson Barney Kessel Custom ( 1961-1973 )
1967 barney kessel regular
Influenced by charlie christian , during the late 1950s barney kessell was one of the most popular jazz guitar players in america. The gibson Barney Kessel guitar was launched alongside the johnny smith guitar .

During the early 50s barney kessel played on the gibson es-350 , later on in the late 50s he endorsed 3 guitars from a company called Kay musical instrument Co.

During the same time gibson convinced barney kessel that they would match the deal he had with this company and build him a better guitar .

In late 1960 , gibson introduced a prototype guitar with a double florentine cutaway shape, very similar features of the gibson l-5 ( 17" wide ), it was cherry sunburst , laminated spruce top , laminated back and sides , and with an oversized peghead .

From this prototype in 1961 two versions of this guitar were produced , the barney kessel custom which featured fancy bow tie inlays on the fingerboard similar to their banjos , gold plated parts , maple neck ,bound f-holes , music note on peghead , and a tune o matic bridge .

barney kessel playing guitarThe barney kessel regular ( see top pic ) had a crown inlay on the headstock , mahogany neck , unbound f-holes , parallelogram inlays on the fingerboard , kluson tuners unlike the barney kessel custom which had grover tuners , the two guitars were made in cherry sunburst finishes and were equipped with 2 humbuckers .

In 1961 the barney kessel custom was not as succesful as expected due to other quality guitars such as the gibson byrdland which listed at the same price $599 and were considered by many as better looking guitars and more appealing .

However the gibson barney kessel regular was more succesful and popular because of the price difference ( $399 ) . Bk customs were discontinued in late 1973 and bk regular models were dicontinued in early 1974 , some speculate that they were both discontinued in 1974 .

Vintage Price Value For 2008 :
1961 - 1964 > $4500 to $4900 ( barney kessel custom )
1965 - 1969 > $3800 to $4500
1970 - 1973 > $2900 to $3800
1961 - 1964 > $3300 to $4000 ( barney kessel regular )
1965 - 1969 > $2800 to $3600
1970 - 1973 > $2400 to $3200

guitar price guideAvg Upward Trend Of 9% a Year since 2000 ( for both )

Note : Early Models with P.A.F pick ups can be sold for more .


  1. Those price estimates seem to be a little on the low side, for both the regular and the custom models. The Vintage Guitar Price Guide and ebay are seeing prices often quite a bit higher than those, especially for models which are original with low play wear (patent sticker pickup models). Early sixties models with PAFS are moving in the 6500 -7200 range. The BK's are guitars that are rapidly going up in the vintage market.....this is happening due to upper-line models - L-5 and Super 400 - which have sky-rocketed in price. In order to afford collectible models, vintage buffs are moving down lower on the food chain...and the Barney Kessl models seem to be next in line. A year ago I paid 1800 for a 1965 BK Custom. You cannot touch that price today....the same guitar easil;y brings over 3000. This is a great model that in earlier times was written off as 'ugly',....today many of us find them to be beautiful and collectible examples of Gibson 1960's Americana. Submitted by Jim Bastian -- super400@hotmail.com

  2. Anonymous8:15 PM

    Hi Jim Great Post,

    I have a barney kessel guitar myself and i love it.

    There was a few early 60s barney kessel guitars with paf pickups on ebay that were priced at $6000 but if you noticed these guitars did not sell.

    You are right,their prices are rapidly increasing due to the demand but $6000 ? $7500 ? thats a little far fetched at least for now in my opinion.

  3. Jim Bastian2:50 PM

    I have recently SEEN early 60's regular Barney Kessel models - with PAFS - sell for over 6000.00. (New York area). This does not seem at all far-fetched....a BK from that era even with all the parts changed will bring over 2000. PAFs by themselves can bring over 4000 per pair. It is logical that an all original Barney Kessel with PAFs can easily bring 6000. Here is the insanity of the present market: Why should a Les Paul or 335 with PAFs bring tens of thousands and the Barney Kessel model brings only 6 or 7? The BK with an arched top is more time consuming to make and certainly a better instrument in many ways. But the market has determined that - regarding collectibility - a 335 or Les Paul is more highly prized. There were actually far fewer BK's made. Shouldn't that make them more valueable because of rarity? We may see a change in this trend in the years ahead as people begin to value some of the guitars that have been previously disregarded. JIM BASTIAN super400@hotmail.com

  4. Anonymous9:36 PM

    I was very fortunate to have been able to purchase a 1961 Barney Kessell Custom for about $2600 in 2001. I have 2 L5 s, a Super 400, a 345, 355, and 330 and it is a tossup between the Super 400 and the Custom.

    The Super 400 and th3e L5s have crisper, ringing bell highs but the Kessell has a very sweet wood tone that the it's carved top relatives don't.

  5. kessel guitars will be worth much more in the future , they are extremely hard to find in demand ... above all, they sound awesome .. been looking to buy one for some time , never had any luck ...

  6. Just recently heard about one of these. A friend of mine called me on the phone and said his grandma had one. He called to ask if it was worth something. He said it was a 1962 Barney Kessel guitar, never played. At that point I knew it had to be worth something. It still had its original receipt with it. She had it tuned once somewhere fifteen years ago and the store owner offered her 2000 for it. Now, I see a guitar like this is EXTREMELY valuable and worth hanging on to.

    Thanks for the info guys. It helped out a lot.

  7. Anonymous9:09 AM

    your very lucky , barney kessel guitars are extremely hard to find nowadays ... hang on to it .

  8. Anonymous2:50 PM

    Hi, I am Gordon Davis, from Beaverton, Oregon, and I have a BK, from I think 1967; it has just the fattest, juiciest tone - the 65 TAL FARLOW that sits beside it has a more smoother, modulated sound than the BK's punchy, kick-you harder approach, but the BK - --- a monster with strings on it ..
    to call it "ugly"?? I would ask, since when ?
    Perhaps, beauty is ! in the eye...for my two cents worth, I regard it as one of the best looking guitars I ever saw, the colors, the shapes, the way it holds around my neck, what's not to like ? When I play it, I feel like I'm the baddest dude there is, [big laugh, now ... ] and the SOUND ..... well, Gibson made a lot of other models, and they have their own sounds, but it's a funny thing, that my BK has a "sound" of its own, it's hard to precisely describe this, but, its a huge fat sound ... keep on playing, you'll hear it yourself, and if you are lucky enough to have your OWN BK, then, PLAY ON, play on ..

    anyhow - for my small hands, the narrower neck of the Farlow is rather easier to play - but the BK has its own tones that are just UNIQUE to the BK, to say nothing of the "tonk" out of phase sound - of those few acts who have used them, it meant they had their own sound that could be traced, at least to the guitar-parts, to what comes out of the BK ...
    too bad Barney himself didn't like it; I talked to him once, and I told him I had one of them, so he gave me what I think was rather more in just a few sentences than what I got in a 4yr BA Degree there at San Jose State, near where this concert transpired, just months before his awful stroke ..
    he said something about " instead of trying to copy someone else, look into your own soul, and when you find it, do what you find, because that's who you are " ....
    wow, my BA degree taught me some, but NOTHING like that, so
    R.I.P, Barney, mister Monster ..
    I'm working on a webpage, with a video, and some other stuff, and the BK will be a part of it ... so, watch for me, gang, I am
    oh, take a look here, while you wait, would you believe , I am also a symphony oboist? in not one, but TWO orchestras, right here in Portland ??
    bcsym.org - check it out, and then, hillsborosymphony.org - do same
    PLAY ON, BK-people, he was the BEST of all of us, and NOBODY did it better ...
    G Davis, Portland, Oregon US A

  9. Anonymous8:32 PM

    I have a 1969 Barney Kessel regular with the original paint, however it is a solid black color. Would this influence the value of this particular instrument? Any information you may have would be appreciated.

  10. Hi, I have a BK that I inherited from my uncle who passed away in 1977. The guitar hasn't been played since then and has remained in its case. Based on the serial number of 62952, I think it's a 1963. It has a plate on it that says "Custom" but from descriptions I've read I think it's a regular. I don't play and don't know much about guitars, so I'm trying to figure out the value before putting it on ebay. It's in excellent condition as it's been in a case for 30 years. Any advice?

  11. Anonymous1:21 PM

    I have a 1968 BK regular in a black finish...all original. The original owner worked at Gibson here in K-zoo. It is a beautiful guitar and has very little play time. He recently changed the original strings before selling it to me. I'm not looking to sell it, as I love to play, but am interested if anyone has an idea what it might be worth.

  12. Anonymous11:36 PM

    A LOT.

    those black bk's are rare and look awesome as hell. there's one at chicago music exchange and i bet its about $9k. reason is because i know where they got it, and that person wanted about $6k. plus, CME has a black fender starcaster for $6500, so go figure...

  13. Anonymous9:11 AM

    Anonymous said above...
    to say nothing of the "tonk" out of phase sound - of those few acts who have used them,

    Anonymous: what do you mean by "tonk" out of phase sound comment above? If he doesn't respond, any ideas anyone? Is it the center position switch sound that it's known for? Or just the humbuckers? And what about the amp combinations w/a Bk. What do you guys play them through and why?


  14. Eric Hilton9:15 PM

    In 1964, Barney Kessel & Herb Ellis were my Idols.
    I went to Sam Ash on Long Island to order an ES175D. Then, saw a Barney Kessel custom hanging up and fell in love…..it was sunburst red, and I was in love. I never saw the BK before, and I love red.

    Since the BK regular was not in stock (and less money) I ordered it and waited over 6months. When it finally came in, it had an upgraded, beautifully grained carved spruce top (most were laminated maple), and a thinner neck than the custom I played.

    When I arrived at the store to pick it up, I found some cool black dude playing amazing chords on my new BK regular. He said what a fine axe, is this yours kid?.................It turned out to be Freddy Green from the Count Basie band. I still have the guitar and love it. I just wish it played as well as my 1977 Johnny Smith guitar, but I still think my Kessel is one beautiful looking and unique guitar. I feel very special paying it, and people always give it an approving stare.

  15. Anonymous11:53 AM

    I love my barney #44123 it has a big baad asss sound :)

  16. Anonymous11:33 AM

    I have a BK from the 70's Riviera brand ( i'm pretty sure, cause it was made in japan), but i don,t know if i can compare it with the price you show on your site. She look like a bit the red one, some detail are different and i got splitted pickup (kind of cool, but don't always work:)Di you thing this is the same value than the price up there (2400-3600)One thing i'm sure, wathever it's a real collection or not, i paid it 100$ so i'm glad to have it anyway Thank and have a good days. By the way i love the sound of the guit.

  17. Anonymous3:14 PM

    please visit my new web page on the BK models and click on The Gibson Barney Kessel Pages
    The site is:
    jazzguitarhardball dot com

    Jim Bastian

  18. Hey Jim, Cool site, very informational. just was shocked when I saw all the BK's standing in a row like soldiers. awesome!!!!I wish I could revive my old BK some way.

  19. I just bought a 1969 black BK. I have a 1964 SG I bought new and have always wanted an archtop Gibson. The BK is terrific. It plays like a dream and the sound is beautiful. An earlier post talked about the "tonk" sound. Does anyone know what that is? With my BK in the middle toggle position, the sound is quieter and not nearly as pure as the other two positions. Someone told me the BKs are wired out of phase and this is normal. Do any of you out there have the same experience?

  20. I am looking to REPLACE my BK as my ex wife, (before our divorce) took a hammer to it, it was in great mint condition,with bow tie in lays etc, I still have it but with hammer holes in the body.WHERE CAN I CEN ANOTHER ONE? PLEASE ADVISED. SIGNED: holed!!!!! Email: GolfDudeNYC@aol.com

  21. Anonymous7:13 PM

    Hi Ken - Out of curiosity how much were they asking for your Black BK? Thinking about having mine converted to lefty knowing what it's worth would help me in weighing my decision.

  22. On the BK models, the middle pickup position is purposefully wired out of phase, so that is the tonk people are talking about. You likely will find that if you take the two pickups off of their harness, they will be out of phase with each other. I assume this was done intentionally at the factory. I had a '59 es-175 with PAFS that were out of phase in the middle position and I think in that case it was a factory error.

  23. Anonymous12:43 AM

    I was able to get my ex back after I followed the instructions at www.saveabreakup.com I totally recommend this site, saveabreakup.com helped me a lot, all I can say is big THANKS!!! I'm so happy now...

  24. Anonymous5:51 AM

    Hi, this is Rudi from Austria, Europe. Although I have known the BK model since years, I just decided to buy one last year. And as some of you said above: I fell in love immediately with this very special Gibson archtop. I have played L-5 and Byrdland, the very fine Legrand-model and almost half a dozen ES-175er, I had an ES-347 for long years and after that an ES-335 dot, also sometimes a Les Paul Goldtop from 1974 ... but I never ever had an archtop with such a great funky sound like my BK from 1962!!! In the meanwhile I bought another one from 1963 with original PAFs and rosewood bridge. Simply great!
    And - none of Gibson's signature archtops have had this range of different artist who used the BK: Trini Lopez (also pictured on the original cover of the hit single "La Bamba"), Sister Rosetta Tharpe, T. Bone Walker, Boogaloo Joe Jones, Marc Fosset (with Stephane Grappelli - MF used it as a left hand archtop!!!), and at least Barney himself in the studio and as an appetizer on 2 or 3 LP-covers ...
    The BKs - and I do prefer the original version with the long neck heel (the short one has to be interpreted together with the design of the Trini Lopez archtop-model after 1964!) - is a genious synthesis of a 335, a SG, a Super 400 and a L-5 and to me it is one of the great examples of Gibson's guitar design.
    P.S.: I was told that Gibson had the BK already as a prototype around 1960 and searched for an endorser. They suggested Barney Kessel to sign the endorsement ... Obviously he never was involved in any planning or designing "his" archtop!?

  25. Anonymous8:35 PM

    I want to thank you all for your comments and education on the BK subject. I recently aquired a beautiful BK which has Barney Kessel Kay signature on the inside serial number sticker. Could this be what you are calling the "endorcement"? I have serial number 346167. Does anyone know what year this is?