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 L-1

Gibson L-1 Archtop ( 1902-1926 )

1918 gibson l-1 archtop The Gibson L-1 was first introduced in 1902 as an archtop guitar , it had a single bound top and back , bound soundhole , ebony fingerboard with dot

inlays, orange natural top finish, dark mahogany back and sides (see pic) , during the 20s they started making them in brown finishes . Discontinued in 1926 .

Vintage guitar price value for 2009 :
1902-1925 > $1400 to $1600
( seen some 13.5 " wide L1 guitars sell at $2500 )

guitar price guideAvg Upward Trend Of 3% a Year since 2000

Gibson L-1 Flat top ( 1926-1937 )
robert johnson playing the l-1 guitar
In 1926 Gibson reintroduced the L-1 guitar as a flat top , worth about $50 at the time , in 1926-27 they were made with maple wood back and sides , 25" scale length , had 3 rings around the soundhole , and were made in sheraton brown finishes .

From 1927 and on they were made with mahogany wood , one ring around the unbound soundhole , and were made in sunburst finishes . In 1932 a tortoise pickguard was added . The L-1 was discontinued in 1937 and reintroduced in 1991 to 1995 .

This guitar is the guitar that the great bluesman robert johnson played with , the style and tone of these L-1 guitars in particular helped invent what we call the american blues .

Vintage guitar price value for 2009 :
1926 - 1937 > $4000 to $4500

guitar price guideAvg Upward Trend Of 5% a Year since 2000

View all used & vintage Gibson L-1 Guitars For Sale on ebay , if your lucky you can get a great deal however they don't have them all the time .

Gibson L-1 Robert Johnson Acoustic ( present )

gibson l1 howard johnson In the late 90s or early 2000s , gibson introduced the L-1 robert johnson acoustic guitar model , the guitar features the historic small L-series body design (25" scale length) , ebony bridge with carved pyramid wings, 3 3/4-inch soundhole diameter , and a Robert Johnson signature inlay at the end of the fingerboard.

The body is like the original Gibson L-1, has mahogany back and sides with a spruce top, guitar has the same warm tone sound but is built more sturdy with the robert johnson signature inlaid in the fingerboard . Still In production .

Buying advice for new Gibson L-1 Guitars
( compare prices )

1. Gibson L-1 guitars for sale at Musicians Friend
Gibson L-1 guitars for sale at Guitar Center
3. Gibson L-1 guitars for sale at Music123


  1. Anonymous6:00 PM

    I really love this guitar!!

  2. Anonymous6:25 PM

    You mention that the Gibson L1 signature reads "Howard Johnson." I'm pretty sure you mean 'Robert'.

  3. Anonymous10:22 PM

    yes, not many people noticed that typo mistake . thnx for posting

  4. Anonymous4:23 AM

    I have a blonde L1, probably 1913ish, restored. It is SO beautiful, I keep admiring the undulating curves - just like a fit woman's belly! It's quite easy to play, but sadly it doesn't sound quite as good as it looks. I like it though - it's loud but a little flat and rough, which I like. USELESS for slide - sounds awful.

  5. Anonymous7:19 PM

    Totally agree , these guitars are more for keeps and not for players , i have an l-1 too and it sounds like a $30 dollar guitar you'd buy at a dollar store ... but i would never sell it due to its historic value .

  6. Anonymous6:24 PM

    I have a L1 S/N 30424 in bad need of repair.can anyone help me on this,???

  7. Anonymous8:54 PM

    why dont you take it too a luthier , i dont see how anybody can help you without seeing a picture .

  8. @JEFF You are very wrong! If you play period music like me, an L1 sounds way more authentic than contemporary gear. I own an l1 (1917 ish) I bought in NY and it is by modern standards unplayable due to its fat neck, but it sounds like haeven when you play it. You CAN hear the difference compared to the stuff from Sears, although that's fun too :-)

  9. What is the significance of "The Gibson" logo on the peg head instead of just Gibson? My dad has had this guitar for all of my lifetime and it came to him very old. I'm 43. He's always wondered. Thanks.

  10. To tnbobedwards. I can help you with restoration of your L-1 if you need/want that done. I'm a luthier with 35 years experience, designated a Master Luthier by the State of Georgia. Contact me at scottmorgan83@hotmail.com if you would like to discuss this matter further.

  11. i would like to know about L60's. hard finding info. any help?

  12. ARKANSAW-SLIM. I purchased an IMMACULATE L-1 w/ ORIG. cOFFIN CASE @ "REAL GUITARS" in San Francisco, CA Circa 1988, for $500.00. IT HAD A BEAUTIFUL TONE, WAS LOUD & PERFECT INTONATION, I carried it CROSS COUNTRY, into CANADA on the FREIGHT TRAINS, it went to PRISON with me, and finally was STOLEN by a Hippie Punk Faggit from BERKELEY. You people that gripe or say it sounds bad: YOU ARE NO TALENT CREEPS. Play for 50 years, then you can make ANYTHING sound good.

  13. Anonymous5:23 PM

    1916 L1 archtop, absolutley Great!, if you guitar sounds like a 30 dollar one then it must be busyed inside or somethan, Id have ta go with Slim on this one...

  14. Anonymous8:31 AM

    I own a 1929 Gibson L1 and I just love the sound it makes. I am making two replicas of it and I noticed that the scale length is exactly 24.25" not 25" as stated in this article. This makes a big difference to the way this guitar sounds and feels. The strings bend more easily (which is why it is a great blues guitar) because a smaller scale length means less string tension. The body is very thin and the top even more so. The weight is 1.2 KGs with strings on!

  15. Randy4:36 PM

    I got my 1918 L-1 from my grandfather in 1967 after it sit in an attic for 35 years. I agree that it TOTALLY captures the sound of that period. Every time I open the case it smells like an antique shop. The V-neck makes it interesting to play and I played it a lot in the last 60's. True, it's not a really collectible Gibson, but it's fun to look at as it hangs on the wall

  16. Anonymous12:25 AM

    Whom ever thought L meant learner is way off. It either means long scale, 25", 24" was very common back then, or lute/luthrie. Although this is an American guitar I think there was a lot of influence from Europe. At the time these came out the trade guilds in Europe had been going round about who could make what. Cabinet makers were making guitars, and the Luthrie guild was not happy, but the agreed to let cabinet workers do flat top guitars, and luthiers did arch top bowed instruments. This fight was mainly present around Germany. I have a couple old German parlor guitars, and the look and play fantastic. One has flame back and sides to die for.

  17. Anonymous12:33 AM

    I am looking at a decent L-1 and bid 1500 on it, but I though I was bidding on an L-4. It is a 1918 13.5" wide lower bout, and has the pick guard clips, but no pick guard. I think I have a template for that pick guard. Aside from that it has some scuffs on the back, the top looks quite clean, and there are no cracks.The nut needs to be glued back on, but I can do the in my sleep. I bid 1500 and won, but since it was misrepresented I have the option to opt out, or I can have it delivered, and probably still opt out. I bid on an L-4 not an L-1, but is it worth $1600 with shipping. No original case, but all other stuff is original. Any advice? I am wanting to wash my hands of the deal, but if I can resell it and just make $70 or $80 for my trouble.

  18. Anonymous12:56 AM

    As for sound. These sound like what they are, and they can sound divine with the right touch, and choice of music genre. It is not a bid dreadnought folk box, nor a nylon string classical. The bass strings are a little odd sounding on some, and more so on others, but they have a cool percussive effect, and go with finger style rag, and blues tunes. I came into a set of instruments from a family that played in the 20s. They are all black tops but one sunburst L4. The model 0 is really weird, and there is a 10 string mandola or cittern. I have barely got time to glue on loose nuts, and fix other stuff on other instruments. But calling a sound cheap, or poor is unfair. Sometimes a sound like the one that is being criticized fits into a song like a piece in a jig saw puzzle, just make sure it is the right piece from the right puzzle. Remember Dan Electro? Those could sound decent for some stuff, and I have an old plywood and masonite guitar that is a great rhythm guitar. It cuts right through the mix without being either overpowering or muddy. After playing for 37 years I am a lot less critical. Instead I look for something new in the mess of SOS ou t there. I apprenticed for 7 1/2 years as a luthier, and saw many people come in and spend 3 or 4 times what their guitar was worth to fix it, and when you handed them the guitar you understood why. I can fix the L-1 if it is not in need of having major parts re made from scratch. My shop space is way way too small. That is why I concentrate on amps. I am too spoiled to work as a luthier without all the large wood working equipment, and dust control, jigs templates etc. I just have no room for it all. We lost our shop to the bank. Our landlord was a crook, and took rent, but failed to pay the mortgage. We just showed up, and there was a sign on the door. GET OUT.

  19. Anonymous8:32 PM

    I am going to build a '30s flat top Gibson L-1 copy. I am picking out my wood right now. Does anyone have a dimensioned drawing of these? I have been unable to locate an L-1 design, anywhere on line. If necessary, I would love to have an accurate tracing of the body, and some dimensions of the hole location, diameter, neck dimensions including head stock and angle. I want to be as accurate as possible. The real ones are too expensive.
    Can anyone help me? Thank you.

  20. Noah Shull9:42 PM

    by the way to Anonymous' post 5 up, The L in the name stands for Lloyd Loar I do believe.

  21. The L in the model designation does not refer to Lloyd Loar. These were in production for twenty years before he was in charge of production of arched top instruments, and under his leadership the company got away from the round hole small body archtop and went to the F hole archtops.

    The L1 was a reasonably large guitar for its time. Popular music was quite different and guitar was not one of the main instruments for popular music until into the 30's. The tone of the original L1 was actually quite powerful and dynamic for its time. Most guitars were small parlour guitars and not expected to be loud. Just as he had with mandolins, Orville Gibson believed both the mandolin and guitar could be used for many more types of music than was originally thought. He was quite creative with his designs and attempted to make both instruments capable of being used in the music of the day. The larger bodies and arched tops, he thought, would give the guitar and mandolin more of a violin type cutting power. It certainly changed the course of both instruments and these elements begun by Orville Gibson were altered as time went on and he left the company (he sold it in 1902). When Lloyd Loar came on board he felt his refinements could take the mandolin and guitar to an even higher level for the music of the day.

    We have restored a number of these, and I have one in the shop now nearing completion on the restoration. While these are not likely the best guitar for modern bluegrass, country, or rock and roll, they are very nice guitars for certain styles of music as well as music of that period. The are very sturdy guitars when in good condition and should be very playable.

  22. Noah Shull8:34 AM

    In 1918 (two years after Orville left the company he founded to move back to Franklin County in upper New York State) Loar got a job at Gibson as acoustical engineer and also became responsible for various business management functions. After a six month stint in early 1919 to support the American Expeditionary Forces as a "concert entertainer" in Europe during WWI, Lloyd was employed by Gibson in June of 1919 working primarily as a design consultant...

  23. Anonymous6:55 PM

    I'm trying to find the value of Gibson L-1 Guitar
    built at Gibson Mandolin Guitar Co in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It has dates of Feb 3, "98 and another date of March 30, '06. The guitar was given to my father by a favorite aunt and uncle in 1941. It had been theirs for many years before gifting it to him. The Serial number is: 26957

  24. Anonymous6:08 AM

    What the "L" is going on? I tried contacting the Gibson company with the quiry of "what does the L stand for in many of the Gibson models" I haven't heard back from them. I like the idea above that it could stand for the "Luthrie" model or one of my guesses would be simply "Large". Gibson as we know started as primarily a mandolin company, perhaps the L was for Large mandolin shape. Gibson's later shapes include J for Jumbo.

  25. Thanks for the info! Got a 1919 L-1 gibson and love it! Was wondering if anyone knows how to find replacement parts i.e. the pick guard. thanks!

  26. Anonymous8:16 AM

    We have a Gibson archtop guitar that resembles the L-1. The label inside the sound hole appears to have "R-1" or "L-1" handwritten in pencil on the label. The letter is cursiff and it is difficult to say whether it is an "R" or an "L." The label number is 22404. The neck block number is 2406. The tuning pegs are black instead of white.
    Did Gibson ever produce an "R-1" archtop guitar? I've never seen a reference to one.
    Does anyone have an idea when this one was made?

  27. Hey, nice site you have here! Keep up the excellent work!

  28. Danny Cohen Cacho2:03 PM

    nice blog

  29. I have a 1914 L-1 Gibson with label number of 18910. It plays very nice. The floating bridge at the bottom makes it a pain to set up. I had a guy restring it for me and he loosened the strings and cut them all. The bridge of course fell, and I was left retuning the base line. The thick neck feels awkward to most players I've come across, but all agree the sound quality is extremely nice. It is by definition a 3/4 guitar. The archtop and back amplify the sound extremely well.

    They also have a smaller hole than the standard. So refitting a pick up in there is not really possible. They did make a pickup that attached to the outside of the unit that works quite well. If you want to hear the volume thunder at you, play with the guitar off of your chest and it will almost double in volume.

    My Grandma played this guitar in Central Mo in the 50s playing for square dances. Thanks guys. Nice site.

  30. I love Gibson guitar, Nice info... thanks for sharing :)

  31. Anonymous7:12 AM

    I have a Gibson but didn't know what year or model it was. I sent pix to Gibson. They said it was consistent with a 1967 model L-1. I didn't think Gibson made L-1s in the '60s. Anybody have any thoughts about this?

  32. Anonymous4:10 PM

    I just picked up a 1915-1916 L1 based on the FON, and other info.She was filthy with no original hardware, but how many people in their late 90's have all their original parts. It was a great find an I'm enjoying learning about this guitar. The straightest neck I've ever seen on a guitar!!! I cleaned her up and put on some silk and steels tuned down a whole step(recomended by a local shop) and she's making music again. Supposedly someone from the N G Dirt Band enjoyed playing this box at one time while on visits to a cabin in California back in the 60's-70's?

  33. Anonymous7:04 PM

    This is a great place to get some info on the L-1!! I bought my 1911 L-1 on Ebay when it was just an infant on the net. I had bid $50.00 and no one else bid on it. Well to make a long story short, I won the bid and did get the guitar for $50.00! Plus the woman paid to have it packed up and shipped to me via Fedex. I sent an email to her asking for her phone number and then called her to say the guitar was worth much more than that and what would she really take for it. She said a winning bid was a winning bid and went on to say it was her husbands and he bought it new at a music store in NYC back in 1911. The only bad thing is that the pickgard crumbled in transit so I am looking for an orgiginal or an aftermarket guard that is proper to the guitar. I can be reached at clearyr95@gmail.com if you have one or know where one may be purchased. Thanks in advance..

  34. Anonymous11:55 AM

    I have an L1 with a ser # of 6563 then a space and 31. tortoise pick guard, white binding, white pins and the kind of block letter Gibson on the peghead. How can I date this?

    thanks, as I may need to sell it sometime

  35. I have a 1928 l 1 (sorry for bad English I'm from quebec) and it best guitar acoustic I ever play. But maybe it just a good one. I'm thinking maybe kind f like modern gibsons

  36. Wondering if anyone has an opinion on the material used for fret dot inlays on a 1905 Gibson L-1? A shipper is claiming they are mother-of-pearl and wants me to pay $195 for filing a US Fish and Wildlife Services Form 3-177 before shipping it to Australia.