Vintage Gibson J-185 - USA 1952
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The Gibson J-185. The Smaller brother of the famous J-200. A lesser-known acoustic from Gibson, that is argued by many to be the greatest acoustic guitar Gibson ever made. The J-185 was designed to offer guitarists a different sound and feel to the J-200. The slightly smaller body and shorter 24 ¾” scale length exuded a warmth and balance that the big, bellowing J-200 did not have. The maple back and sides with sitka spruce top help retain top end detail. The result was a beautifully balanced tone right up and down the neck, which opened up the possibilities for the player.
Only 918 examples of this guitar were made from 1951 to 1959, making an original J-185 exceptionally rare. Unfortunately, the first digit of the serial number on the badge has been torn off, making dating this guitar complicated. However, with its 19 frets, scalloped bracing, white badge and remaining serial numbers it is believed to be from 1952.
This guitar is in great condition. Plenty of honest checking all over the body and headstock, however rather minimal wear on the back of the neck indicates that this guitar hasn’t been played all that much. The frets are also original.
The sound from this guitar really is exceptional. The warm low mid-range coming from the smaller body lends itself to a light, articulate style of playing. The top is nice and flat, and the scalloped bracing really lets the top breathe. Jazz chords sound great on this instrument, as do the open cowboy chords you have come to expect from a Gibson Jumbo. The neck is medium profile – certainly thinner than a late 50s Les Paul and is very easy to play with a nice low action. A thin 1.5mm seam of maple has been spliced into the back between the back panels to repair a split that looks to have occurred a long time ago. There is no evidence of overspray on the back and the repair has held up over the years. The only additional modification to the instrument is an LR Baggs electric pickup system, which has enlarged the rear strap button for a ¼ jack input. The battery sits in a pouch behind the neck block.
These original J-185s don’t come up very often, with only 126 being made in 1952, get in quick to own this visually and sonically fantastic, highly versatile acoustic guitar from the golden age of Gibson.
Scale length: 24 ¾”
Fretboard Radius: 12”
Action at 1st fret: 0.5mm
Action at 12th fret: 2.3mm
Neck depth at 1st fret: 22.8mm
Neck depth at 10th fret: 25.7mm
Nut Width: 43.5mm
12 fret width: 53.14mm
Neck material: Mahogany
Fretboard inlays: Parallelogram
Body: Sitka spruce top, maple back and sides
Total guitar weight: 2.1kg
Body size at lower bout: 16”
Pickup: LR Baggs
Tuners: Kluson “No-Line”
Bridge: Brazilian Rosewood with Maltese Cross Pearl Inlay