SN:A16593. Hands down, Gibson’s best flat top model introduced in the 1950’s. Fancy adornments aside, it’s a fascinating and tonally successful design. Created from the 16” L-5 body mold, it has deep maple back and sides, spruce top, and almost a jazz style neck. Early years were X-braced with two gently scalloped tone bars. Later years have very short square braces. Both configurations sound great however most J-185 aficionados have a slight preference for the earlier ones. Two things stand out for me; the versatility of the tone and the comfort of playing it. The narrow waist positions the guitar perfectly in the lap. It feels like a Martin 000 with a dreadnought-sized body.
The particular one is very cool. It spent some time in a very fine shop in Canada where a very fine luthier provided a neck reset and refret. In my shop, it’s received a slightly taller saddle and a setup by Mark Tossman. The end pin hole had been enlarged but it’s been invisibly restored to its original dimensions and the original end pin reinstalled. I’m told the tuners had been changed out but the originals have been happily restored and there’s no sign that they’ve ever been off. Honest playwear galore but no abuse, cracks or wonky issues.
I think of this model as Gibson’s OM as it excels in many playing styles. It’s a balanced and smooth for accompanying singing; jazz chording sounds appropriately chunky and the maple gives it some cut when played with a heavy pick. I do think this would have been a long-lived model had Gibson put some marketing muscle behind it. But they chose to put the money behind the J-200, “King of the Flat Tops”. Size does matter. The J-185 had a good run from 1951-1957 and, while not super scarce like an AJ, they are somewhat hard to find now. People who have them hand onto them. For good reason.
This one comes in a gorgeous Lifton case that fits like a glove with brown exterior and a plush burgundy interior.
Band & Sides: Maple
Bridge & Fretboard: Rosewood
Appointments: Parallelograms, Maltese crosses
Nut width: 1-11/16”
String spacing: 2-1/8”
Body width: 16-1/8”
Scale length: 24.9”
Payment is by personal check or money order. Payment in full, including shipping and insurance, is required before shipment. Personal checks must clear your bank. Please specify preferred shipping method when you order the instrument and we will calculate the exact price for you.
We represent the instruments as accurately as we can. All instruments are shipped on 48-hour approval. If there is damage as a result of the shipping, please contact us immediately and we will deal with the insurance company. If the instrument is damaged in transit from you to me, then you are responsible for dealing with the damage and insurance. For refunds, all instruments must be returned in the same condition as we shipped them in.
All instruments are shipped on 48-hour approval. If there is damage as a result of the shipping, please contact us immediately and we will deal with the insurance company. If the instrument is damaged in transit from you to me, then you are responsible for dealing with the damage and insurance. For refunds, all instruments must be returned in the same condition as we shipped them in.