Flea Market Find: Pre 1961 ABR-1 Bridge

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Steve D, Mar 25, 2019.

  1. Steve D

    Steve D Well-Known Member

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    So I stumbled across this old Tune-O-Matic in an old looking original box for a couple of bucks and I jumped on it. After the fact I did a little research and it looks like it's from 1960 or earlier. Reasons:
    • The markings say "Gibson ABR-1" and have the foundry mark, that means it predates 1964, when they changed it to just have the patent number instead.
    • On the side with the intonation adjustment screws, there are no holes for the retaining wire. That was introduced in 1961. The thingys (technical term) that you adjust are metal, not plastic. And they are held in place with an old brittle piece of masking tape since there is no wire and no strings to hold them down.
    Anyone know if I got all that correct?
     

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  2. Steve D

    Steve D Well-Known Member

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    One more pic, showing the metal saddles (under the tape which I am not removing right now) and the lack of holes for the retaining wire.
     

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  3. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

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    Excellent find!
    Which guitar do you plan to install it on?
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2019
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  4. Steve D

    Steve D Well-Known Member

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    You know, I bought it without even being able to look inside the box, I just thought it looked cool with the old gibson box I could put on the shelf where my guitars are, a cool decorative piece that was Gibson branded and vintage. Just part of my coping with not having a vintage instrument of my own, for a couple bucks I could have a vintage decorative item. Anyway I assumed it was some old rusty thing inside, probably from the 70s or something because the box was so pristine. So I bought it for the box mostly, thinking there was a slight chance it might have value but not much. I mean, it was under $10 so what did I have to lose? Then after I bought it I looked inside and was like "whoa, this might be special".

    So the irony is I have something that I am beginning to think is from either 1958 or 1959 (Production started in 1958 I think and I have conflicting reports that the saddles went nylon starting in 1960) unused, complete, in the original box and I don't have a guitar it will fit on. Now I just want to know more about it. Right now my Gibson collection includes two items: a 2018 SG and a 1958-1960 bridge that might be worth as much as the SG. For some stupid reason I don't want to sell it though! Maybe someday I'll have a vintage guitar to put it on!
     
  5. Bob Womack

    Bob Womack Active Member

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    Well done!

    Bob
     
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  6. Steve D

    Steve D Well-Known Member

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    For what it's worth, production started in 1954 or 1955, but they were thinner initially. I think in '58 maybe they thickened them up to the current height because they were not holding up properly at the original thickness (according to some random website!). So my statement that production started in 58 was not correct. I hate when I'm wrong but at least I own up to it!
     
  7. Steve D

    Steve D Well-Known Member

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    Thanks. This thing is looking likely to be either 1959 or 1960, complete with all parts and probably worth some coin. At this point I'm getting the sense that an unused 1960 or 1959 ABR-1 is rare as hens teeth. The saddles are sharp at the top and the notches barely there, for example and that's just not seen often. My wife is saying "so your'e going to sell it right? where can you sell it? what do you think you'd get for it?" and I'm more of the mind to keep it because I'm stupid that way I guess. Once I sell it, the money is "ours" but as long as I own it, it's mine! Now all I need to do is convince her to let me buy a matching 1950s goldtop to put it on...
     
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  8. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    Hey, when you have a rare vintage item like that, it only makes sense from an investment sense to restore it with the missing guitar that should have been attached!
     
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  9. Chubbles

    Chubbles Well-Known Member

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    Exactly. You may be able to buy a newer Gibson with the money you get for that. I'd sell it on ebay for a bazillion. Somebody may need it for their 60s Gibby.
     
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  10. Steve D

    Steve D Well-Known Member

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    I already got an offer for it elsewhere and it's not even for sale. I think it was too low but even as it was, it was close to what I paid for my 2018 SG Special., and I think it's really worth more than the guitar. Crazy, one old part can be so valuable.

    I was explaining this to my wife, that guitar players are a superstitious lot. I say that jokingly but my point was to help her understand that there are so many things that people will swear by in chase of tones that people who don't play guitar can never understand and will swear make no sense. But to a guitar player it makes sense even if they respectfully disagree on something. The wire in the post 1962 ABR-1 to most people would seem like nothing, how could that tiny piece of wire make a difference enough to make the ones with it worth half as much from one just a year earlier that doesn't have it. And yet, go look at prices. It just does. Part of it is tone (that little wire will vibrate and add high frequency harmonics that I guess some people can hear), and part of it is not wanting to put the "wrong" parts on a high end guitar that is otherwise original condition, which I also totally get.

    I don't know, I may sell it, but if I hold it for 10 years it won't lose value. By then more old bridges will have bent and there will be fewer vintage replacements around. So there's no reason to rush into selling it. In the meantime it's the only vintage Gibson item I own now and that by itself is cool.
     
  11. Steve D

    Steve D Well-Known Member

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    Yes, it's a shame to have a bridge and not have the accessories that went with it, like the guitar and the case. Anyone could see that!
     
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  12. Steve D

    Steve D Well-Known Member

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    Well I sold this thing to a guy who was going to actually use it. I listed it online at what I thought was stupid money expecting it to sit around and then I'd drop it, etc. It sold within 24 hours. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what's called "the winner's dilemma", when you get what you wanted in a negotiation but it was so easy you are left wondering "could I have gotten more?" Anyway, here's hoping the buyer doesn't find some secret "made in china" stamp somewhere that I missed or it'll be back in my hands really soon and there won't be any more isses with a winner's dilmma! But since I went over every detail of this almost with a microscope, I feel pretty confident that won't be an issue.

    On an unrelated note, if anyone has an old ABR-1 bridge in a dusty old orange box they'd like to get rid of, I have some space so I'd be willing to take it off your hands, you know, maybe even give you a $5 or $10, can't beat some beer money, right!? :smile:
     
  13. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

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    My 2000 SG Special and 2001 SG Standard have ABR-1 bridges with threaded posts that screw directly into the wood. I was not aware that they started using Nashville threaded inserts on newer guitars equipped with ABR-1 bridges. I zoomed in on a 2019 Standard '61 online I saw what looked like a threaded insert flange underneath the thumbwheel.

    Looks like a step in the right direction to maybe help prevent the ABR-1 from leaning forward.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2019
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  14. Steve D

    Steve D Well-Known Member

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    Yes, it helps the lean issues I'm sure. On the other hand, the purists say that this arrangement reduces the resonance of the vibrations into the tonewoods and that it dulls the sound. I don't know, neither my hearing nor my playing are good enough to really denote a difference even if I had two appropriately configured guitars to test it out on.
     
  15. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

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    I don't mind having SG with Nashville or ABR-1, or have any preference if they are installed with inserts or directly to the wood. It makes no difference to me if others have a preference of one over the other. I think it's great when changes are made to improve things.
     
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  16. Lunacy the Faded

    Lunacy the Faded Active Member

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    Winner winner chicken dinner
     

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