Gibson L-2 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1930)

Gibson  L-2 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar  (1930)
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Item # 11348
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Gibson L-2 Model Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1930), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 9685 (FON), Argentine Grey top, dark mahogany back and sides finish, mahogany back and sides spruce top; mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard, black tolex hard shell case.

Gibson minced no words in their 1930 catalog when describing this novel flat top: "A New Gibson Guitar Triumph! A challenging beauty setting a new high standard for modern guitar decoration...an instrument to command the center of attraction in any company...a swiftly rushing flow of golden tones...capped with foaming crests of flashing silvery notes...such is the new and incomparable voice of the L-2".

While Gibson's scribe may have been working overtime, this is truly spectacular guitar, a very rare and wonderful Gibson seldom seen in the 21st century. The flat-top L-2 in general is one of Gibson's more ephemeral creations, offered in a confusing array of woods, finishes and appointments over a brief period between 1929 and 1933. This 1930 version has a 12 fret neck and utterly distinctive cosmetics mixing features from earlier and later eras with some rather off-the-wall decorative touches to create a totally unique package. This L-2 has the elegant look of the 1920s Gibsons blinged up with some banjo flash all on the larger body of a "modern" 1930s flat-top guitar.

Over this short 3-4 year production life several different L-2 designs were issued, as if the company could not decide on a permanent design for a $75 flat top model, second only to the $125 Nick Lucas Special in the line. Some were rosewood, some mahogany, some had tailpieces, some pin bridges and the cosmetics varied seemingly with the wind. They all share the then-new nearly 15" wide, less round-bottomed body introduced in 1929 replacing an earlier, smaller design built on Gibson's 1910's L-1 archtop pattern. An X-braced spruce top was also consistent, first employed around 1928 on L-model flat tops. These features would continue to be used on large numbers 14-fret L-series guitars throughout the 1930s.

This early 1930 model neatly matches the Gibson catalog listing from that year. The body and neck are mahogany, the top is tight grained spruce. It features *exceptionally* light construction, even compared to other pre-war Gibsons like the common mid-1930s L-models. The X bracing is quite delicate, with thinner main braces than Martin used at the time.

"The striking finish is an original tone of Argentine Grey, flecked with glints of gold allowing the natural pattern of the selected woods to penetrate through in a pleasing manner. Heavily inlaid with double lines of black and gold inlay." is how Gibson described the look. The top has a beautiful 1920s-style hand-rubbed sunburst finish in this new "Argentine Grey" shade which is in fact, neither. The fanciful name may be related to the Argentine Grey Fox, or just something someone at Gibson thought up! It IS a sort of greenish tint added to the light brown sunburst; quite short-lived in 1930. Gibson revived it as an optional finish at the end of the 1950's, also to minimal response.

More striking in actuality is the trim, a flashy gold sparkle celluloid inlaid around the top and soundhole. Oscar Schmidt offered Stellas with a similar look around this time, so perhaps someone at Gibson saw that. Gibson was already using this on high-end banjos, perhaps there was excess sitting around the shop and someone suggested trying some extra bling on a guitar. It proved another short-lived feature, but gives this L-2 a totally distinctive character. Multiple W/B/W binding on the body and single binding on the fingerboard and soundhole further dresses up the look.

The truss-rod equipped neck is very slim with a shallow round-backed "C" profile specific to this era, worlds away (and far more comfortably "modern' feeling) from the heavy "V" standard in the 1930s. The strings have noticeable taper towards the bridge making an ideal fingerpicking guitar. A pearl script "The Gibson" logo sits above a quizzical pearl inlay on the headstock, sometimes described as a flame, or a Jester's head; sort of a guitar Rorschach test. The tuners are strip Waverlys with engraved plates.

This L-2 was built in only very limited numbers, as a very expensive flattop released at the onset of the depression the market was pretty slim. Several other variants were offered over the next few years but this 1930 edition stands out as the most striking looking. It also happens to be a wonderful playing and sounding instrument, with VERY light construction throughout and a huge but engagingly sweet tone. The 1930 Gibson catalog was really not going too far afield in their colorful description!
 
Overall length is 40 in. (101.6 cm.), 14 3/4 in. (37.5 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 4 3/8 in. (11.1 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/4 in. (44 mm.).

This original L-2 is not absolutely pristine but extremely preserved for an early Gibson flat tops. These 1930-era instruments are *very* lightly constructed and most survivors are heavily worn and/or rebuilt. This guitar has some very finely executed maintenance repairs but remains completely intact and an excellent player.

The all-original thin lacquer finish has some typical checking, especially to the back and back of the neck and heel, which shows some small flaked-away areas. Overall the finish presents nicely with very good color and only minor dings, dents, scrapes and general handling wear. There are none of the heavy pick marks usually seen on older flat tops, just a couple of minor scratches.

The very lightly built X-braced top is beautifully solid, with just some typical light arching behind the bridge. There are no cracks to the thin top, back or sides, which is little short off extraordinary. The small rosewood bridge is original, with a few tiny spots of chipping visible where it came up and was reglued. There appears to be a tightly sealed split through the lower pins. The thin maple bridgeplate is original and untouched except for small sealed up hole in each end; these and faint tiny patches on the bridge wings reveal someone once put screws through them, now neatly restored. Apart from this internally the top is original, including the very slim braces. The neck may have been reset but if so it is one of the cleanest jobs we have ever seen; this is not an easy instrument to achieve that on!

The original tuners are intact including with the composite white buttons, and the machines still work well. The guitar has been very cleanly refretted with a close approximation of the original small wire. It plays sounds fantastic, with plenty of volume even when played lightly and a powerful even tone. As early depression-era Gibson flat tops go this is a fantastic example of one of the most desirable of them all, a looker for sure but also a truly fine instrument ready for another 90+ years in a well-fitted modern HSC. Overall Excellent Condition.