Gibson Acoustic Guitars – My 1968 Gibson J45-ADJ

If you read my post, Acoustic Guitar Lessons For Beginners –  Definite Yes!, you know I love acoustic guitars. It seemed appropriate that I share my story about my first “high quality” acoustic guitar.

Way back in 1970 when I was 17 years old, I spent the summer cleaning rooms at the junior high school. Well it finally paid off and I was able take my hard-earned $225 to buy a brand new Gibson Acoustic Guitar from a local music store in Ravenna, OH. The model was a Gibson J45 – ADJ (adjustable bridge).

Forty eight years later she is still with me. A little worn and dinged up from playing in a few bars over the years, but even more sweet sounding than the day I bought her. Gibson has such a rich history and the Gibson J45-ADJ is kind of the odd duck of the family as it goes with Gibson due to the adjustable bridge.

Gibson J45 – A Brief History

With a 70-year history, the Gibson J45 is considered the benchmark for acoustic guitar design. Introduced in 1942 at a list price of $45, it replaced the inexpensive J35. The J45 became the standard for building dreadnought guitars for Gibson and remains essentially unchanged to this day.

Nicknamed the “Workhorse”, the Gibson J45 has more recording time and been a key instrument for live performances than virtually any acoustic guitar. World renowned for its full, balanced expression, warm bass and excellent projection, the J-45 is one of most technically advanced guitars of its time.

The Gibson J45 – ADJ was introduced in 1956 and was offered as an option to the fixed bridge. Many have the opinion the adjustable bridge of lesser quality than the fixed bridge and is detrimental to the sound quality. More of an opinion than fact based on my personal experience.

When Was My Guitar Built? – Gibson Serial Numbers

When I originally bought my Gibson J45-ADJ I wasn’t interested in when Gibson built my model. It wasn’t until years later when a friend and fellow Gibson lover asked me. I had no clue but to say “well I bought it in 1970 so it must be a 1970”.

Now we just had to find the answer, so we started our research. It should be easy right? Find the serial number, google Gibson, and BOOM there it is.

Not So Fast!

We learned early on identifying Gibson instruments by serial number is tricky at best, and downright impossible in some cases. I discovered a very helpful but incredibly boring publication called Gibson Acoustic Serialization published by Zachart R. Fjestad.

According to Mr. Fjestad, the best method of identifying when the guitar was manufactured is to use a combination of the serial number, the factory order number and any features that are particular to a specific time (i.e. logo design change, head stock volutes, etc).

Really? Sounds like finding Waldo.

I found my serial number located on the back of the head stock. You can barely read it, but it is 988233. One piece of the puzzle solved!

Where the heck is the Factory Order Number?

I searched all over inside and outside of my guitar but there were no factory order number or anything resembling a number to be found.

So I am screwed, right?

Thanks to Google I started to search for where to find the FON on a 1968 Gibson J45 – ADJ. I ran across an amazing website called Guitar Insight. They just happen to have a nifty searching tool that would easily find the year manufactured by entering the serial number.

Mystery Solved!

I entered my number and learned my guitar was built in 1968. My head stock does not say Made in USA so it was not built between 1970 – 1972. I also learned the range of the FON was between 503010 – 503109. Based on the FON range, only 100 Gibson J45 – ADJ guitars were built in 1968.

Hmmm, that’s interesting, only 100.

What Is My Guitar Worth Today?

Remember I bought the Gibson J45 – ADJ for $225 and we now know there are only 100 built in 1968. Turning to Google once again, I entered “1968 Gibson J45-ADJ” to see what might be out there for sale.

Oh my, the results opened my eyes.

eBay had several 1968 models with the prices ranging from $3,000 to $7,000. All had the adjustable bridge but the styles varied by finish and the pick guard covers looked nothing like mine so it was hard to compare to my guitar.

My model is a sunburst finish with a relatively small pick guard. Nothing offered on eBay matched my model.

At the end of the day, the value is largely determined on the condition of the guitar. At another site I found a Gibson J45-ADJ, sunburst finish, good condition, but not the same pick guard as mine. They were asking $1,899.

My guitar, as I mentioned earlier, has a lot of wear and tear over the years. To me, each mark or scratch has a story and surface blemishes certainly do not diminish the sound quality.

Since I am never selling mine, the value is more important to document for insurance purposes. God forbid if anything were to happen to it. The range I believe is a fair representation is between $1,800 and $2,500 or about 10 times greater than the original purchase price.

How Much Is A New Gibson J45?

Gibson discontinued my exact model with the adjustable bridge making it impossible to find a new Gibson with the same exact features. What I did find is Gibson irecently released a model called the Gibson Acoustic J-45 Vintage 2018 – Vintage Sunburst .

This model looks amazingly like my 1968 Gibson J45 – ADJ with its vintage sunburst finish, Adirondack spruce top, Mahogany back, sides, and neck, and Rosewood fingerboard.

It is stunningly beautiful and sells for a healthy $4,749.

Wrap Up

I really enjoyed sharing my instrument with you and I hope you found it interesting. Beside the Gibson J45 – ADJ, I own a Gibson Songwriter Deluxe Studio. I plan on reviewing that model in an upcoming post.

To Your Guitar Success!





2 Comments on “Gibson Acoustic Guitars – My 1968 Gibson J45-ADJ”

  1. Hey Rick, loved your story about your guitar. So rewarding as a young person to work and save to buy your own things!
    Sometimes those boring old publications can come in handy but truly the internet has changed things so much. I often wonder how value was determined before we had access to global pricing.
    Sounds like your guitar turned into a very valuable investment, especially on the personal side. One day you will be able to pass it on to someone deserving and at least you now have all of the info about it to share.
    Thanks for the post.

    • Jill,

      Thank you so much for enjoying my story. You are right, it is rewarding to earn the money to buy a very special guitar. Yes, someday it will be passed on to a deserving soul.

      Take Care!


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