Gibson Firebird V Medallion Solid Body Electric Guitar (1972)

Gibson  Firebird V Medallion Solid Body Electric Guitar  (1972)
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Item # 12039
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Gibson Firebird V Medallion Model Solid Body Electric Guitar (1972), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 617157, sunburst lacquer finish, laminated mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, original black tolex hard shell case.

This is a very fine example of one of Gibson's first and best early re-issues, the 1972 Medallion Firebird. These were produced in a limited run of 366, one for each day of 1972 (which was a leap year, hence 366 instead of 365!). 351 were shipped out in 1972, the remaining 15 in 1973. Supposedly there is some tie-in to the 1972 Munich Olympics, but that connection is obscure at best today. A small gold plaque set into the upper body designates the limited edition status, this one is #87 of the run.

The '72 Medallion Firebird is a VERY close reissue of the first-run 1963 Firebird V, with the first-generation two-piece mahogany neck as opposed to the 9-ply Mahogany/Walnut version adopted for late '63-'65 models. It also lacks the red embossed Firebird on the pickguard, again correct for the earliest examples. The pickup covers are marked with an embossed "Gibson" as was standard on 1972 Gibson electrics, but are otherwise identical to the 1960s originals, which after all had still been in use through 1969! The pots are dated to the 11th week of 1972, and "Made in USA" is stamped on the headstock rear, as is typical in the '70s.

The original "reverse" body Gibson Firebird had a sadly short-lived run, introduced in mid/late 1963 and discontinued after the mid-1965 NAMM show. By 1972 they were already sought-after pieces since being replaced by the more conventional "non-reverse" versions, themselves discontinued in 1969. The original Firebirds were seeing some high-profile use as killer rock guitars along with the equally scarce Flying V's, so both were the subject of a limited edition reissue; sometimes even the Norlin-managed Gibson got something right! Folks sometimes confuse these Medallions with 1976 Bicentennial Firebirds, but those are not nearly as close to the originals and made in far greater numbers.

The Firebird V was the most desired of the original 'birds, with the full set of professional features. The original through-body neck with "wings" glued to the sides and fluid body shape with a longer lower cutaway horn were accurately reproduced. The neck is bigger than the contemporary '72 SGs with a comfortable round-backed profile and faired-in heel; this one is a bit slimmer back-to-front than most '63-4 versions. All original fittings were retained including the special Firebird mini-humbucking pickups, long Lyre-cover Vibrola tailpiece, Tune-O-Matic bridge and the unique "backwards" headstock with individual Kluson banjo tuners. Most of the hardware is even accurately nickel plated.

Like their original ancestors some of these limited edition 'birds have suffered cracks in the headstock area over the years; this one has completely escaped that fate. This clean all-original 'bird is a splendid survivor more than 50 years old now, now as then a great all-around guitar with a unique and powerful sound and a really distinctive visual and musical statement.
 
Overall length is 45 in. (114.3 cm.), 13 1/2 in. (34.3 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 1 1/8 in. (2.9 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 11/16 in. (43 mm.).

This 'bird has survived in very fine condition, with the finish showing only some very minor wear with some dings, dents and scuff marks overall but no notable loss. The back shows some very light buckle wear into the finish. The mostly nickel plated hardware has some typical occlusion, but overall is also very well preserved as well with no worn through spots. The gold limited edition plaque has minor corrosion as well. The pickguard has some light staining and a large differently faded area in the center where some sort of decal or sticker must have been for some time. None of this is particularly conspicuous and the guitar presents extremely well.

All hardware is original, intact and unaltered. The original large frets look to have been crowned down a bit flatter than stock, but show no subsequent wear and play very well. This is a truly excellent example of this fairly rare 'bird, one of Gibson's best-ever early re-issues and a signature piece in its own right. It is housed in the original purple-lined HSC, which is very solid with some external wear and one partially missing latch. Overall Excellent Condition.