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Quality of Gibsons in the late 80s early 90s?

De Lane Lea

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
441
I'm looking at 2 SG's, one I think is an 89 another is a 91 custom. I haven't seen them in the flesh yet but am wondering what the quality of Gibsons from this period were like?
 

Nada

Member
Messages
1,044
i've had great experiences with late 80s/early 90s gibsons. for context, I own or have owned 3 SGs and 7 LPs from this specific time-frame. none had any issues at all.
 

HayekFan

Member
Messages
1,526
These are good years. Gibson turned some kind of corner in the very late '80s. It's like they left behind the last vestiges of the Norlin years and entered the modern Gibson era. I'm not sure you'll see it so much in an SG but starting right around '88 Les Pauls went from three piece to two piece tops, and the sunbursts radically improved. There had been a slow drift through the '70s and '80s towards clowny looking bursts with wide color bands. That suddenly changed and the bursts reverted back to the early (like '50's) style with the narrow band. I think the top carves returned to the earlier deeper style around then too. It's such a distinct change that I can only conclude it was a very conscious managerial decision. It's like Gibson awoke from a dream and ditched the remaining quality issues from the '70s and the general weirdness of the '80s. In terms of basic quality, the late 80s early 90s Gibsons I've seen have all been excellent (in fact when I bought my Les Paul a couple years ago I specifically targeted this time period, and the '90 Standard that I wound up buying on eBay is superb). From what I've read there seems to be a general consensus that it was a good era quality-wise. I've spoken more of Les Pauls but I'm sure it applies to SGs as well.
 

RAILhead

(real name is Maury, BTW)
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
4,659
My '88 Les Paul Standard is a haus! I also have a 91 SG that killer. Solid, excellent build quality.
 

cmatthes

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,091
I've owned dozens of Gibsons from '50s Goldtops to current Reissues. The '88-'94 period is one of the best and most consistent for all of the production guitars I've owned, and that's at least 8-10 of them.

Thumbs up from me.
 

zumaboy

Member
Messages
324
My '88 335 is a total winner. As others have said, these are the years that the renaissance began and production had not yet skyrocketed to levels that make QC a challenge...
 

vortexxxx

Member
Messages
11,225
The only issue with guitars from that period is that the reissues weren't very historically correct.
 

De Lane Lea

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
441
Thanks for the replies, appreciate it. The 91 I'm going to look at is a 30th anniversary SG thats TV Yellow with 3 pick ups, It's meant to be a a 61 reissue I believe, I don't know enough about Gibsons to know what's incorrect about it though.
 

rastus

Member
Messages
1,531
Hi- I worked in the white wood machine dept at Gibson during 89-92. I served in a few capacities; neck fitting, routing and spindle sand, and neck fill- color selection. I also served as QC for both neck and body lines as well as white wood machine. I personally assembled the husks of all firebirds and thunderbirds during that time.
Gibson was a different animal at that time- we only built about 175-190 guitars in total a day at that time. Henry was struggling to bring the brand back to prominence. If it were not for guns and roses sweet child o mine and the brilliantly conceived Les Paul Classic ( designed by JT Riboloff) , Gibson might have been a much different ( and marginal ) company in the ensuing years!

To address certain points discussed here:
The finishes ( specifically bursts on Les Pauls) : there is a reason for this, world famous relic pioneer ( and dear friend) Tom Murphy was the lead painter back then, virtually living in the booth, and spraying all those guitars. He strove to make them more realistic, and in fact did the first realistic vintage style burst on any les Paul at the end of 89, on a reissue owned by yours truly. The second one was for Joe Perry of aerosmith, who saw mine on the line during the visit and wanted it. I said no dice. So, Tom and Edwin Wilson picked out one with a similar top ( I skipped lunch to fit the neck) and Joe got that one. Tom went on to perfect his pioneering style of relic work and later ( as his talent and importance to the company became perceived by management) worked quite closely with R&D to develop the historic program. These were stunning guitars!
Secondly- during that time our reissue les Pauls only differed from regular standards on these ways; the head veneer, which had a fifties script pearl ( oddly with no dot over the I) and the material they were made of, only the prettiest grades of maple, mahogany, and rosewood we had on hand- weight was not the biggest factor then. To note, these guitars featured the same rocker tenon as the regular production.
Third, QUALITY- sensible not afford dis satisfied customers, dealers , or warranty claims at the time. I destroyed many hundreds of guitars due to very minor issues during those years. There were no seconds, etc. We did let out minor flaws on guitars heavily stamped " artist use only- not for resale" on back of headstock. I personally stamped these guitars and serialized them whenever artist and repertoire dept needed something for a player . This was very rare. The guitars had only the most minor cosmetic flaws. I doubt a handful of these have ever made it to the public. Many times the artists were required to return them. I know I destroyed quite a few when they came back.

I believe that during that time we laid the groundwork for the great custom shop Gibsons that followed. Most of our equipment now resides in the CS, having been replaced by CNCs in the USA plant. I am very proud of what we did back then and treasure the guitars I bought directly from the factory at that time.
Sincerely, Mark
 

rastus

Member
Messages
1,531
I meant also to comment on SG guitars during that time, being the OP is interested in those. We stopped making the SG 62 in 89, replacing it with the thinner necked 61 reissue. This neck profile was derived from the Les Paul classic. The thinner neck was quite en vogue at that time due to hard rock, metal, and shredder styles. We adapted it to the reissue SG, firebird, 67 V, and 76 Explorer simultaneously .

The 30th anniversary SG Custom was identical to the regular production SG Custom reissue in all respects other than the inlay on the fretboard proclaiming 30th anniversary, and if course the TV yellow finish specific to that guitar model.

As to quality issues- all guitars produced during those years were held to the same very strict standards. From the Les Paul Jr to the Super 400, all had to be top quality to pass final inspection. All of our electrics were treated the same- SG guitar of all models were quite in demand at that time, we made many hunndres of them. The 30th Anny model was quite expensive new, the top of the model line. All materials and workmanship were of absolute best quality.
 

De Lane Lea

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
441
Hi- I worked in the white wood machine dept at Gibson during 89-92. I served in a few capacities; neck fitting, routing and spindle sand, and neck fill- color selection. I also served as QC for both neck and body lines as well as white wood machine. I personally assembled the husks of all firebirds and thunderbirds during that time.
Gibson was a different animal at that time- we only built about 175-190 guitars in total a day at that time. Henry was struggling to bring the brand back to prominence. If it were not for guns and roses sweet child o mine and the brilliantly conceived Les Paul Classic ( designed by JT Riboloff) , Gibson might have been a much different ( and marginal ) company in the ensuing years!

To address certain points discussed here:
The finishes ( specifically bursts on Les Pauls) : there is a reason for this, world famous relic pioneer ( and dear friend) Tom Murphy was the lead painter back then, virtually living in the booth, and spraying all those guitars. He strove to make them more realistic, and in fact did the first realistic vintage style burst on any les Paul at the end of 89, on a reissue owned by yours truly. The second one was for Joe Perry of aerosmith, who saw mine on the line during the visit and wanted it. I said no dice. So, Tom and Edwin Wilson picked out one with a similar top ( I skipped lunch to fit the neck) and Joe got that one. Tom went on to perfect his pioneering style of relic work and later ( as his talent and importance to the company became perceived by management) worked quite closely with R&D to develop the historic program. These were stunning guitars!
Secondly- during that time our reissue les Pauls only differed from regular standards on these ways; the head veneer, which had a fifties script pearl ( oddly with no dot over the I) and the material they were made of, only the prettiest grades of maple, mahogany, and rosewood we had on hand- weight was not the biggest factor then. To note, these guitars featured the same rocker tenon as the regular production.
Third, QUALITY- sensible not afford dis satisfied customers, dealers , or warranty claims at the time. I destroyed many hundreds of guitars due to very minor issues during those years. There were no seconds, etc. We did let out minor flaws on guitars heavily stamped " artist use only- not for resale" on back of headstock. I personally stamped these guitars and serialized them whenever artist and repertoire dept needed something for a player . This was very rare. The guitars had only the most minor cosmetic flaws. I doubt a handful of these have ever made it to the public. Many times the artists were required to return them. I know I destroyed quite a few when they came back.

I believe that during that time we laid the groundwork for the great custom shop Gibsons that followed. Most of our equipment now resides in the CS, having been replaced by CNCs in the USA plant. I am very proud of what we did back then and treasure the guitars I bought directly from the factory at that time.
Sincerely, Mark
Wow, very interesting story mate, thanks for sharing.
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
39,371
awesome!

as for those guitars, the only thing i can complain about is the 300k pots, or even 100k tones some of the '80s ones had.
 

HoboMan

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
17,957
I have a 1990 SG Reissue and it's an AMAZING guitar.
I used to have an original 1961 SG so I have a point of comparison.
This 1990 is a top notch quality build.

I just bought a 1986 SG Reissue from the emporium.
Getting it next week.

Here's my 1990:

 

HoboMan

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
17,957
I meant also to comment on SG guitars during that time, being the OP is interested in those. We stopped making the SG 62 in 89, replacing it with the thinner necked 61 reissue. This neck profile was derived from the Les Paul classic. The thinner neck was quite en vogue at that time due to hard rock, metal, and shredder styles. We adapted it to the reissue SG, firebird, 67 V, and 76 Explorer simultaneously .

The 30th anniversary SG Custom was identical to the regular production SG Custom reissue in all respects other than the inlay on the fretboard proclaiming 30th anniversary, and if course the TV yellow finish specific to that guitar model.

As to quality issues- all guitars produced during those years were held to the same very strict standards. From the Les Paul Jr to the Super 400, all had to be top quality to pass final inspection. All of our electrics were treated the same- SG guitar of all models were quite in demand at that time, we made many hunndres of them. The 30th Anny model was quite expensive new, the top of the model line. All materials and workmanship were of absolute best quality.
Very cool info.

Mine is a 1990 and I couldn't tell if it was a 62 reissue or a 61 reissue.
Lot of conflicting info on the web.
From your post I'm thinking mine is a 61 reissue.
 

serial

Member
Messages
2,252
In my experience (7 guitars from that period, mostly LPs), these are very good guitars. The single exception for me was my 30th Ann SG/LP Custom. It was beautiful and I loved the neck, but that guitar put me completely off of SGs for 15 years. Neck was VERY wobbly and the thing would not stay in tune if you soldered the strings to the bridge and nut after tuning! After wanting and searching for one for several after they came out, it was such a hassle that I dumped it within a few weeks. That never happens.
 

De Lane Lea

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
441
In my experience (7 guitars from that period, mostly LPs), these are very good guitars. The single exception for me was my 30th Ann SG/LP Custom. It was beautiful and I loved the neck, but that guitar put me completely off of SGs for 15 years. Neck was VERY wobbly and the thing would not stay in tune if you soldered the strings to the bridge and nut after tuning! After wanting and searching for one for several after they came out, it was such a hassle that I dumped it within a few weeks. That never happens.
The TV Yellow one?
 

papa john

Member
Messages
112
I have a Les Paul Custom manufactured in 1988. It is a fine instrument, a bit on the heavy side, but a great player. The fit and finish are outstanding.
 






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