Serial # A-16593, FON Y6846. Gibson’s J-185 is widely considered the company’s finest post-war flat-top model, but with only 8 years of production and low numbers built, few of us have had a chance to experience what the J-185 is all about.
The smaller and slightly less expensive sibling to Gibson’s flagship J-200, the J-185 similarly featured maple back and sides, full sunburst finish, gold hardware and pearl ornamentation. The body shares the same outline as Gibson’s 16” archtops, and borrowed the fingerboard and headstock inlays of the Southern Jumbo. The belly-up bridge was fashioned with pearl Maltese Cross inlays in the wings – something Gibson hadn’t done since the pre-war GS classicals, and wouldn’t do again for half a century.
A remarkably balanced, comfortable, and responsive guitar, this J-185 is likely more appealing than a J-200 to most of us thanks to its 16” body and better mid-range focus. This is an early J-185 with scalloped top bracing, and has a wonderfully open bottom end and plenty of warmth. It offers exceptional strummed tone and attack but is equally fabulous for fingerstyle and ragtime blues style attack.
The instrument has just emerged from our repair shop with a neck reset and refret care of Mark Stutman, along with a few minor repairs. There is a cleanly repaired crack along the pickguard’s inside edge, relgued braces, and aged bone saddle. The tuners are original, but there were previously Grovers installed. There is very little evidence of the tuner-swap visible.
Original finish throughout, with playwear around the soundhole and between the bridge and pickguard. Some wear on the back of the neck, first position, and a number of dings, dents, and scratches throughout. Original white label, rare through-cut saddle bridge.
Rounded neck with full feel, 1-11/16” nut width, and 24.75” scale. Set up with 12-54 strings, full height saddle, and action of 5-7 64ths.
The case is an early 1950’s Lifton with brown interior and mottled brown exterior. No Gibson badge, but quite possibly original to the guitar. It is in excellent condition, and fully operable.
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