Headstock Logos

Three Distinct Logo Types. The Center One seems transitional as it only lasted a few years.

Sometimes, when you think you know it all, you find out you don’t. There was a thread on the Les Paul Forum-which I started (the thread, not the forum) that dealt with a certain custom order ES 355 of questionable vintage that is currently on Ebay. There were a number of elements that called it’s actual year of manufacture into question. One of them was the Gibson logo. While other forum members were insisting it was an 80’s logo, I was insisting it was a late 60’s logo. I was wrong. Worse than that I was wrong, not because I saw it wrong or misinterpreted it, I was wrong because of a gap in my knowledge on the subject. That, readers, is embarrassing. As they say, I must have missed that class. Well, since I can turn this into a teachable moment, so can you. So today, we look at all the “Gibson” logos that have graced the headstock of an ES-335 from 1958-now. Since the bulk of my interest is in the vintage “Golden Era”, the good news is that the same logo was in use for that period. The first version which was used from 1958 until sometime in late 1968 is identifiable by the open “B” and the open “O”. Note also that the “o” connects to the “n” at the bottom. This comes into play later. This logo remained unchanged until what is usually called the “pantograph” logo comes into common usage in late 1968. You can still find the type 1 logo on much later guitars, so, once again, there is a period of transition that occurs throughout 1969 and into 1970. One of the interesting characteristics of the pantograph logo is that  it was usually (and perhaps always) a big flat piece of pearloid material inlaid into the headstock and the logo part was silkscreened in black over it so that only the letters showed through. As these guitars age, the paint tends to chip off, resulting in a non logo logo.  The earlier type 1 logo was actually cut into the Gibson letters and inlaid. Gibson went back to a real inlaid logo fairly quickly as the complaints poured in. Probably by 1973. The later logo was clearly a lot cheaper to produce and required non of the skilled labor that a true inlay requires. Another Norlin innovation making the world’s best guitars just a little less better.  Also worth noting, the disappearing dot on the “i” in Gibson. This occurred mostly in 1969, although it may be seen in late 68 and perhaps in 1970. Now, if you look closely, there are 2 different pantograph logos-one with the open “b” and “o” and one with closed. The identifying characteristic common to both is the rhomboid shape. The top and bottom of the logo are parallel to each other and the bottom and top of each letter is a straight line. . The type one has curved tops. A pantograph logo with open letters is a 60’s guitar-probably 68 or 69. A pantograph logo with closed letters AND the “o” connection to the “n” at the bottom is anywhere from 69 to 80. Here’s where my so called expertise failed me. While it’s still a pantograph style logo with its squared off letters and closed “b” and “o”, the connection between the “o” and the “n” has moved to the top. This appears to have occurred in 1981, although the earlier type can be seen well into 1982. So, I’m looking through Ebay for photos of the various types and I find a 69 Les Paul Deluxe with the logo that supposedly didn’t exist until 1981. I have no answers other than I’m not a Les Paul expert. However, what motivated me to do this post in the first place was that I was corrected about this particular logo type not existing until 1981. Somebody? Anybody? I know this is incredibly arcane and it seems like things like figuring out how to stop the Gulf oil spill should be taking up our time but I don’t know much about oil spills so I’d just be wasting both your time and mine trying to figure this out.

This is what happens when you cut corners, Norlin.

Pantograph later type from 81 until 1994 or so. High connection between "o" and "n"

And, here's an alleged '69 with an 80's logo. Sometimes I just don't have all the answers.

3 Responses to “Headstock Logos”

  1. very interesting; I have a 1969 Les Paul Custom with Pantographic logo just like the deluxe above only joining the o and n at the bottom. I would like to show a picture of this as you dont see many 69’s with this logo. The ‘s’ has kind of elongated arms linking both the b and the o – like the deluxe above. The s/n of mine starts 841*** not sure how to upload a pic, sorry

  2. OK Guitars says:

    Just attach a photo to an email to me at I’m not much of a Les Paul guy but I know my logos.

  3. […] and the logo part was silkscreened in black over it so that only the letters showed through." Headstock Logos | The Gibson ES-335 I'll try to get a photo of my DC Special this weekend. At first it looked like a decal but as it […]

Leave a Reply

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)