Priced at $175, the Gibson L-10 was intended as an affordable alternative to the L-5 ($275), which up to this point had been the company’s sole f-hole archtop. Initially the construction of the two guitars was much the same, with a spruce top, maple back and sides, a maple neck and an ebony fingerboard. Savings were made by substituting an all over black finish, nickel-plated hardware, single-ply binding and a fingerboard with a squared-off end.
Though mentioned in a Gibson dealer price list of 15th November 1931 (Joe Spann adds: “My compiled serial number list confirms that L-10’s were shipping in November of 1931”), the L-10 didn’t appear in a Gibson catalogue until the following year (catalog U of 1932).
Gibson L-10 Serial Number 81807 shipped 1927
Interestingly, a number of L-10s have surfaced that were shipped several years before the model’s official introduction and at least one example (see picture below) boasts an L-5 style fingerboard with a pointed end and three-ply binding around the neck and body.
Photos courtesy of George Gruhn and Eric C Newell of Gruhn Guitars
Gibson L-10, serial Number: 88193 shipped in 1932
Though the label states this to be an L-10, it has the same maple neck and ebony fingerboard with pointed end as an L-5. The guitar’s owner, Tony Marcus, surmises that this L-10 was finished in black and sold at a reduced price during the Depression.
“This is quite obviously a leftover dot inlay L-5 that was finished black with nickel hardware, presumably because selling a guitar for $275 in the depths of the Depression was a daunting task,” says Tony. “By using a different finish and model number and reducing the price by $100 or so, Gibson found a buyer for this guitar.” However, vintage guitar dealer Laurence Wexer comments that he has also encountered 16-inch L-10s with an L-5 style headstock – complete with flowerpot – and a mahogany neck.
The truss rod cover and pickguard were engraved with the initial ‘E’ by the previous owner, who also scribed a line around the perimeter of the pickguard.
Gibson L-10 Serial Number 90107 shipped 1933
The L-10 pictured below (Serial Number 90107 and FON 305) was shipped in 1933, though details of it construction (maple as opposed to mahogany neck) and appointments suggest that it was built in the early 1930s. It is virtually identical to the instrument pictured in Gibson’s Catalog U of 1932 (see above). Note the nickel plated tailpiece and Grover tuners. The pickguard is a reproduction, made using the original hardware and outline.
Images above courtesy of Alex Whitman of TR Crandall Guitars
By 1934, the price of the L-10 had been reduced to $150 and the model now had a mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard with ornate L-12 style inlays.
In 1935 the L-10, along with the L-5, L-12 and L-7, was re-launched with Gibson’s new 17-inch ‘Advanced’ body size.
Gibson L-10, serial number: 92606 shipped in 1935
Note the double-handled vase and curlicue headstock: inlay, 19-fret rosewood fingerboard with picture frame inlays and Grover G-98 open gear tuners with butter bean buttons
The double-handled vase and curlicue inlay seen here was changed to an elongated diamond and curlicue design in late 1935.
Images courtesy of Arlan Ettinger of Guernsey Auctions and photographer Paul Schraub