Gibson ES-5 Electric Archtop Guitar
Description: Gibson ES-5 Electric Archtop and ES5 Switchmaster guitars
Available: 1949 to 1962 (also recently reissued by Gibson)
Case: Brown hardshell case with a pink lining was the top-end
Gibson case. The mid-line case was a brown hardshell with a green or brown lining.
1961/1962 models may have a black hardshell case with a yellow lining.
Collectibility Rating: 1955 to 1960 models are the more desirable
than 1949-1954 model because of the volume/tone control layout and the switch.
1957 to 1960 models are better still because of the humbucking pickups (though
I still like the sounds of the black P-90 pickups used on pre-1957 models).
1961/1962 models with the sharp cutaway are less desirable because of the cutaway,
neck size, and more cherry-red sunburst.
Production: 1949-1956 sunburst:577, 1949-1955 natural:331,
1955-1961 switchmaster sunburst:334, 1956-1961 switchmaster natural:167
Second fanciest archtop by Gibson, just behind the L-5c. Made as a fully electric
version of the L-5c. A maple plywood top was used (instead of solid spruce) to limit feedback.
Unfortunately the plywood construction limits collectibility to some degree.
A low production guitar. For example, have seen a late 1954 ES-5 switchmater.
Body/neck made in 1954 (with a white A17xxx serial number tag) with 3-ply body binding,
but with a switch and six knobs (and ES-175 gold tailpiece).
Guitar was probably finished in 1955, nearly a year after
the body and neck were made.
If you need to figure out the exact year of your Gibson ES5 guitar, use the serial number.
This is located inside the body, on a white or orangle label inside the body's bass-side "f" hole.
See the Gibson Serial Number Info web page
for help determining the exact year.
If you have a vintage Gibson ES-5 guitar for sale, please contact me at
- 1949 Gibson ES-5 guitar introduction specs:
- 17" wide, rounded single cutaway, three P-90
pickups, three volume controls, one master tone control on cutaway bout, trapeze
tailpiece with pointed ends and three raised parallelagrams (like an gold ES-175 tailpiece),
pickguard, bound F-holes (a few early model with unbound F-holes), pointed-end
fingerboard with 5-ply binding, large block fingerboard inlays, single
bound peghead, crown peghead inlay, gold plated parts, brown sunburst or natural
finish. Three piece neck with two pieces of maple and a thin layer of dark wood between them.
- 1955 Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster specs:
- Six volume/tone knobs (separate volume and tone for each pickup),
4-way slotted switch on cutaway bout with a Telecaster style switch tip (labeled "1,2,3,ALL"),
gold tune-o-matic ABR bridge (with no saddle retaining wire) on a rosewood base.
Note 4 non-switchmaster ES-5 models were shipped as late as 1956.
- 1956 Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster guitar specs:
- 5 ply top and back binding, tubular tailpiece with double-loop design.
- 1957 Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster guitar specs:
- Humbucking pickups replace P-90 pickups.
- 1961 Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster guitar specs:
- pointed sharp cutaway, cherry red sunburst finish
- Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster guitar discontinued 1962. Reissued in the late 1990s.