Gibson has been using a consistent dating method since the late 1970s, but it is often more difficult to find the exact model number. If you can identify the type of guitar and the features that are original to the guitar, you can cross-reference that information with a Gibson guitar model picture book or website to determine the exact model you possess. With a little patience and help from the many experts in this field, you can determine the model number as well as the approximate value for selling or insurance purposes.
Determine the type of guitar you are investigating. Gibson makes many different types of guitars, including archtops, flat tops, solid bodies and acoustics. This will help you narrow down your search as certain models denote a type of guitar and you can rule out any models that do not fit within the type of guitar you are trying to identify.
Determine the year the guitar was made. Gibson guitars are all marked with a year dating method that varies but that can be determined quite easily. Guitars made after 1977 use the current YDDDYRRR method, with YY being the year, DDD the day of the year made and RRR the plant designation number. A serial number that starts with 82766 would have been made on October 3, 1986. This will help you narrow down your search as some models were not made in that year.
Determine the exact model by comparing its size and dimensions as well as the color used for the body. You can compare these specifications to pictures in Gibson guitar collector books. The fret inlays and body and neck binding are also great ways to identify the model you are investigating. The peg-heads will also help you determine what era the guitar is from, whether it is pre-WWII, during WWII or post-WWII, which will have a dramatic effect on the value as well as the model.
Check the parts to make sure they are all original. If some parts have been replaced, it may be difficult to accurately assess the model of guitar you are looking at as many people swap out parts for parts from different models. Often parts from later guitars will fit older ones, and collectors are sometimes fooled into believing the guitar is a certain model when in fact it is something entirely different. Check to see if the model you think the guitar is has the correct parts as well as the right serial number and model designation.
Remove the control plates and pickups to see if a model number is stamped on the guitar. Higher-end models will be easier to identify as many were ink stamped somewhere with that information. If it is a hollow-body guitar, look in the cavities of the body to see if there is a model number stamped within it.