Hi all,

I’m looking for some advice on what to do with what appears to be a 1965 Gibson Non-Reverse Firebird guitar (I’ve researched the serial number, which is a six digit number (starting with 5) pressed into the back of the headstock, and no “Made in USA” visible). It’s a six-string guitar, not a bass guitar. I purchased it in the early 90s at a used guitar store in a small northwest town when I had dreams of being the next kurt cobain. The dreams never materialized; for starters, I really suck at playing guitar. :-(

Anyway, I picked up a ’73 Fender Mustang a couple years later which fits me much better, and after years of not knowing what to do with the Firebird, I’m finally going to try and sell it, but my research isn’t turning up a whole lot about it, other than it seems to be kind of rare. The few of these guitars I can find for “sale” are several thousand dollars or more. However, while mine appears to be in acceptable shape physically (no signs of actual breaks, cracks or anything like that in the body), it has lots of wear both front and back, it looks like the pickups have been monkey’d around with (the middle one doesn’t look original?), and there’s either something wrong with the pickups, or there’s a loose wire, because it cuts in and out when connected to an amp. The original tremolo isn’t shown in the photo, but I have that stored in the case.

I live in a large US guitar-friendly city, and there are some good reputable guitar shops around… but before I take it to a professional, I’m looking for some advice so I don’t waste money fixing it up to sell it, or sell it for a fraction of what it might actually be worth.

1. Have I identified this guitar correctly as a “Non-Reverse Firebird” guitar (most Firebirds have a number after the name)? It’s pretty hard to find photos of Firebird guitars that match mine.

2. Is this really a rare/valuable guitar (assuming it's genuine)? Not that it means much, but I’ve seen prices anywhere from $3K to $10K for really nice vintage non-reverse firebirds, and a recent reissue on sale for over $1K… mine's not nearly as nice looking.

3. If you think it is a rather (potentially) valuable guitar, does it make sense to invest a few hundred bucks (or more) just to turn around and sell it? Or am I unlikely to get the money out of it? I originally paid about $500 for it.

4. What’s the balance between keeping original parts and replacing parts as far as vintage value goes? For instance, the pick guard has a crack at the top forward screw… is it better to keep the original pick guard, or, if it’s still possible to get a new one, replace the old one? How about the cracked/worn-away finish, especially on the back? Or what to do about that middle pickup that looks out of place?… or should those things remain as part of its unique character?

5. Any advice about approaching a professional buyer, i.e. a guitar shop (I have no plans to try to sell it to a private party myself)?

6. Maybe you have other suggestions or advice? I’m all ears.

Feel free to point me to other threads if some of these topics have already been covered a million times. Really appreciate any feedback - Thanks!
Your best bet is to sell it as is. Collectors want original stuff, if they replace damaged parts they do it with NOS parts or buying parts from guitars sold in parts on eBay. Players who want the guitar to play might want parts replaced, but they won’t pay you anywhere near what you put into the guitar to sell it.
I wouldn't change parts. IMO the finish looks just fine. Worn finish just looks more vintage.

The middle pickup doesn't look like an original one. I think the three-pickup Firebird comes with three P90 pickups. Yours has two P90 and a humbucker (also, I've never seen a guitar with two P90s and a middle humbucker). But I wouldn't do anything about it.

And I agree with the post above - collectors want original stuff. They also know which parts need to be replaced (if something needs to be replaced). So you shouldn't worry about that. If you go and replace some parts with new parts, it will reduce the value. For example I wouldn't want to buy a modded guitar. If I wanted a modded guitar, I would mod it myself.
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can you take some better images? if you could shoot the serial number as well as inside the cavities it could be helpful.

the pot codes are going to be the best way to date it, imo. gibson and serial numbers in the late 60s-early 70s were of no use as far as dating the guitar goes.

what code number is on the pots? it should start off with 137xxxx? what are the "x" numbers?
Thank you all so much for the responses... that's super helpful!

I've attached a few more images. Unfortunately, when I upload the images, it tells me that they're limited to 500 pixels and 100KB, so that's as good as they get. I smudged the last few digits of the serial number because I'm a little uncomfortable posting the full SN on the internet.

Thanks for pointing me to the pots - I didn't know to look there. In the pots image, you can clearly see some of the numbers, but there's a lot of solder. It's 137653x (I can't quite make out the last digit - there's solder on it). As I now understand it, the first three digits are the manufacturer (137 = cts), the next two digits the year ('65), and the last two digits the week of the year (30-something).

So, I would take from that between the serial number and pots that it's very likely a 1965 Non-reverse Firebird.

it looks nice.

yeah the pots can be a good way to date them but i'd say it looks like there's been activity in there since they added the middle bucker. obviously pots can be changed as part of faking a guitar but i don't think that's a fake. i'd wager those are original. so a 65 or a 66 would be the likely years. if the pots were made late enough in 65 its likely they weren't used until some point early in 66.

that said i'm no expert on vintage firebirds. one who is could id it based off of the tuners, switches and everything else non-experts wouldn't notice.

depending on how the routing was done on the middle pup it may not hit the value too bad if you put it all back to stock with a proper un-harmed middle p-90 and correct unmolested guard. any routing takes a pretty big hit against the value though so expect some losses in that regard.

that aside it's a killer piece to play for sure. vintage mojo all over the thing.

you can upload pics to photobucket or image shack etc, then link the tags so the pics are larger.
Last edited by gregs1020 at Nov 28, 2013,
middle pickup is a standard humbucker and not original which pretty much kills the collector value. the seems to be a line where the body and neck joins which seems odd to me as I believe that firebirds are a neck thru design. . the guitar isn't in great shape either. don't expect anywhere's near top dollar for it.
Thanks again for the replies!

The guitar does have (what appears to be) a very subtle neck join. I just googled it and found a close-up photo of another "1965 non-reverse firebird I" with the same neck join (also in the same case as mine). It's way nicer shape than mine, but they're asking $6K for it (though who knows if they'll get that).

Since everything's not original, sounds like that probably kills some of the "collector" value, so does that mean it's probably not more valuable than a "new" one? Or do you think there's still *additional* value in that it's "old" that would make it worth more than a new one (at least to folks who appreciate guitars and want a Firebird)?

Because the crux of this is how much it's worth investing to get it working and cleaned up for sale... when I know someone can go out and buy an almost brand new one for ~$1,200. I've got the impression that keeping it to a minimal is probably the best approach.

I'll find out soon enough (I hope) when I approach some local guitar shops (for all I know, they're members of this forum and are reading this right now). I just want to be at least a little bit prepared. I'll update this thread if I get anywhere with it.

Last edited by calvin0987 at Nov 30, 2013,