Gibson is a name long synonymous with quality musical instruments and, along with its pioneering competitor Fender, forged the way for the birth of the electric guitar. Prior to the electric’s invention, Gibson was known for its acoustic guitars, many of which are still being built today. Highly sought after by players and collectors alike, one such model, the Gibson J-40, joins a host of other models in Gibson’s stable of offerings that have since been discontinued.
Experts say Gibson released the J-40 as a stripped-down budget model for beginner or novice guitar players. Retailing in the $300 price range, the J-40 is a more economically friendly version of the Gibson’s famed J-45. The J-40 made it to store shelves around the early 1970s, although Gibson was famed for not keeping its instrument serial numbers in any discernible order, leading some to believe the J-40 began production in the late 1950s. Regardless of the confusion, the model was a bare bones introductory guitar offering little in the way of features.
The J-40 is short scale model with a 30-inch neck. The body is constructed from mahogany and spruce, lending the instrument its rather “boxy” sound. Some models were available with a large pointed pickguard, while some models are reported as never having any pickguard. Most of the earlier J-40s had bridges that that were pinless, but later versions featured pins on the bridge, presumably due to poor sales. To keep production costs down, plastic saddles were standard versus those made from bone on pricier models, and the Gibson logo was screen printed on the headstock.
Out of Production
Gibson discontinued production of the J-40 model in the early 1980s, again presumably due to lack of sales, even though its higher-end acoustic guitars still sold well. Many J-40s can occasionally be found on online auction sites or even in pawn shops. Since the J-40 is a budget model, many devoted Gibson collectors doubt the guitar’s collectability.
The J-40’s big sister, the J-45, first released in 1942, is highly prized among collectors and players, although the 45 is constructed of premium-grade mahogany and red spruce versus the 40's cheaper woods.
Those who play the J-40 often recommend upgrading certain components of the guitar, such as replacing the plastic saddles with bone like the J-45 and investing in higher-quality tuners.