The Gibson J-160E is probably the most recognizable acoustic-electric guitar in history since John Lennon adopted it as his signature instrument in the early 1960s. While the specs changed constantly over its 25-year original run and several subsequent re-issues, this 1970 J-160E Custom John Lennon is one of the most famous configurations, with a square-shouldered dreadnought-style body and a single external pickup. And of course they have all had the huge sound for which vintage Gibsons have been famous for decades, in this case amplified to add even more impact to any performance.
This guitar has serial number 738887, which pretty reliably dates it to either 1967 or 1970; this date is reinforced by the "Made in USA” embossed on the back of the headstock, which started in late 1970. My assumption is that it was 1970 when the cherry sunburst may still have been considered a “special order” or “custom” finish, but I guess the “Custom” designation on the label could be due to some other variation in the specs of the time. There is no evidence of sanding or re-finishing on the top, back, or sides, and the binding shows no sign of manipulation; this finish is the way this baby was born, as far as my luthier and I can tell.
It has a spruce top with tone and volume control knobs in the lower bout and a single-coil pickup at the end of the fingerboard, which works well. It also has mahogany back, sides, and neck; a rosewood belly-down bridge; a 15/19-fret bound rosewood finger board with pearl trapezoid inlay and a 24 ¾” scale; and a smaller pure black pick guard. It has full body binding, top and back, with multi-stripe purfling and a multi-stripe rosette. The blackface headstock features a pearl inlaid crown and logo backed by Grover enclosed tuners.
There has been some very professional work done—for example, the original bridge has apparently been re-set or replaced, as there is a footprint around the edges. There are several repaired cracks in the top below the bridge, glued and cleated cracks at the sound hole, and some hints of cracking beneath the tuning knobs; I suspect that somebody set something heavy on the top of the knobs which transmitted the weight unevenly. Most importantly, there is black overspray at the back of the neck joint; generally, this indicates a neck re-set, but this repair is so smooth that I can’t tell how extensive the presumed work was—or if it even existed. The good news is that for a player it is stronger than “original”; the bad news is that for a museum or collector it may be less “collectible.”
Generally, the dramatic cherry sunburst finished top is now in very good shape, and the mahogany back and sides show only a few small dents and dings (no cracks, repaired or otherwise), although there is a patch of “buckle rash” on the back. There is relatively little crazing in the finish anywhere, the fretboard shows a bit of wear but is quite playable, and the inlaid pearl trapezoid position markers are gorgeous. In other words, it looks like what it is: a great Gibson acoustic-electric guitar which has been playing the hard-driving music for which it was made. This is a player’s guitar, and I sincerely hope that its next owner is someone who will play it hard, well, and often, no matter how collectible it might be.
The new hard shell case is obviously not original, but the exterior is in great shape, the hardware naturally all works ( including the keys), and the fuzzy black plush interior fits the shape of this J-160E perfectly. It certainly offers excellent protection for this classic guitar. I suspect that if you plan to play out with this beauty, you will definitely appreciate a lockable hard shell case, because everybody’s gonna want to play it.
Buyer pays a flat rate of $55 for insurance and shipping to the lower forty-eight states; shipping costs elsewhere will be negotiated as necessary. Payment by Paypal is preferred; cashier’s checks are acceptable, but checks must clear before the guitar will be shipped.
I have tried to be perfectly clear and accurate in describing this vintage instrument, so its return will not be accepted unless it can be shown that it was egregiously misrepresented in this listing. Please check out the pictures and ask any questions you might have before offering to buy it.
Thank you for your interest in this great vintage Gibson.
Payments by Paypal, cashier’s checks, money orders, or personal checks are acceptable, but all payments must clear my bank before the guitar will be shipped. I will CONSIDER reasonable offers, even including installment payments and trade-ins, but generally since I already attempt to price my guitars very competitively, unusual deals must be unusually sweet.
From henceforth [that's how retired English teachers talk], insurance and shipping to the lower 48 states is $55 due to constantly rising shipping costs unless a specific listing says otherwise; shipping costs elsewhere will be negotiated as necessary. I have sold guitars to Russia, Japan, Australia, and over 50 other countries, as well as almost every state in the USA. Since some of my guitars travel thousands of miles, I take care to use lots of packing materials, protect the neck inside the case, and of course de-tune the strings.
I make every effort to describe and illustrate each guitar and case with scrupulous accuracy. However, many of my instruments are well-played vintage items which are many years old, and I am not a luthier. One should assume that any guitar will require some set-up to satisfy your personal requirements, and that not every flaw or ding will be seen/recognized/described in the listing. Thus the return of an instrument will not be accepted unless it can be shown that it was egregiously misrepresented in this listing. Please read the listing carefully, check out the pictures, and ask any questions you might have before offering to buy.