Gibson 1940 L-5

1939 Catalog AA

Gibson introduced the 'Advanced' model L5 in 1935. It had the new 17" body and a few new appointments, including a larger tailpiece.

In 1938 Gibson Catalog Z, the L5 was introduced with a newer, aesthetically better tailpiece as an advancement.

The largest improvement can be seen in 1939 Catalog AA. In this catalog, Gibson offered the L5, as well as the Super 400 guitars with a 'Premier' cutaway body, as well as a new 'natural or blonde' finish. These new advancements would change the overall look and playability, as well as add to the Gibson archtop legacy up to present-day.

The tailpiece from the preceeding year (1938) was advanced slightly, to include the all-new 'Vari-Tone' Control. The L5 shown is from 1940 and includes the natural finish with the new 'Vari-Tone' Control in the tailpiece.

1935 'Advanced' L5

1935 'Advanced' L5 from 1936 Catalog X.

1938 Updated L5

Note the tailpiece is the newer 1938 version, but missing the improvements of 'Vari-Tone' Control following in 1939.
Improvements on the new L5 in 1938 Catalog Z.
1938 Catalog Z offers new Grover Imperial tuners for the L5 and Super 400.

1939 Latest model until electrics added in 1951

1940 Gibson L5

According to Joe Spann, this 'L-5 (serial #96751 - FON 1083) was produced about mid-year 1940 and shipped only once, on March 19, 1941 to Sherman Clay & Company in a #600 case. The fact that it took nearly 9 months to ship after being produced is indicative of the slow pace at which such expensive guitars sold.'

1939 Catalog AA description of new L5 in regular and 'natural' finish. See photo at top of page for full description.
1940 Gibson L5
Jack Hotop with his L-5. August 1943.
Very similar tailpieces shared between 1940's L5 and short lived ES-300.

The above photo shows the very similar tailpieces used on the 1940 L5 and the short-lived ES-300 with the long slant pickup. The tailpieces are very similar but different. For example, the L5's features Vari-Tone hole, glod plating, heavy engraving and a nickel plated badge. The ES-300's tailpiece features nickel plating, no badge, no engraving and a hinge. To view all of photos of these two tailpieces, please visit Tailpieces ES-300 Vs. L5.

1942 Gibson Catalog BB
1939 Catalog AA; 'lefty' L5 with Grover Imperial tuners and a non 'Vari-Tone' addition to the tailpiece which would make this a 1938 model.
1940 L5 headstock with Kluson tuners.
1942 Gibson Catalog BB
1940 Kluson 'butterscotch' tuners.
1942 Gibson Catalog BB
1939 'Gibson System For Guitar'. Note the 'Blonde or natural' 1939 L5 and 1939 'Blonde or Natural' upright bass
New 1939 tailpiece with 'Vari-Tone' Control mounted on 1940 L5.
1939 'Gibson System For Guitar'. Note the 1939 'Blonde or natural' L5 cutaway and the 'Blonde or natural' L5
Plastic end-pin found in 1942 Catalog BB.
'Vari-Tone' Control tailpiece with 'PAT. APPLIED FOR'.
Original hang-tag introducing the new, state-of-the-art Gibson Vari-Tone Control for the 1939-43 L5 and Super 400
1942 Gibson Catalog BB
Back of 1939-43 L5 hang-tag
1940 Gibson L5.
An ad from March 1941 showing the new natural L5 and Super 400 archtops
Beautiful curly maple back.
1942 Gibson Catalog BB. 1940 L-5 pictured with 3rd generation EH-150 amp and a late '30's ES-150.
Serial # 96751 signifies 1941 because serial #'s 9600-96600 = 1940. Misconception because FON is 1083F. Letters are stamped in FON during actual batch production of the model. The serial number is added when it leaves the factory. Sometimes confusing.
1940 FON 1083F stamped inside body under treble side f-hole.
December 1941. Gentleman playing a Natural L-5.
June, 1941 ad with a natural L5.