Up for sale, a 1991 Gibson J-185 in excellent condition, finished in Antique Natural with highly figured bookmatched flame maple back and sides. While the J-185 has recently come to prominence via a pair of high profile modern Gibson models, its genesis was as the sibling of the SJ-200 and was available for only a few short years in the 1950s.
This example predates Gibson's current focus on the J-185 by decades, and was an early vintage reissue model offered by Gibson's Bozeman, MT acoustic division in sparingly small quantities under the leadership of Ren Ferguson. Ferguson has become a legendary figure in acoustic guitar circles and deservedly so, as the longtime Master Luthier overseeing Gibson's acoustic production and the progenitor of the Master Museum Gibson acoustic models which command prices in the tens of thousands of dollars. And while this particular limited run reissue is noted as 46 of 100 on the serialized label, Gibson purportedly fell short of that total and fewer than the 100 promised guitars were produced.
With an X-braced Sitka spruce top, figured maple back and sides, and a one-piece mahogany neck capped with a rosewood fingerboard, this guitar is a rewarding strummer with a tonal profile very much akin to a J-200. With its 15 7/8" lower bout width and 4 1/2" body depth, the guitar offers ample projection and the detail, treble clarity, and shimmer afforded maple as a tonewood. The bass register is robust and snappy, with a balanced midrange and excellent string-to-string definition. The guitar weighs 4lbs 10oz, professionally setup here at Mike & Mike's Guitar Bar with fresh 12-53 strings, comfortable action, and accurate intonation.
The mahogany neck has a round medium C profile carve, almost inferring a very (very) soft V shape, yet with round, inviting shoulders in every register, measuring .845" deep at the 1st fret and .960" at the 12th. The bound rosewood fretboard features pearl split parallelogram inlay and original medium jumbo frets which have plenty of meat, showing virtually no wear. The guitar plays cleanly up the 25 1/2" scale with a straight neck and responsive, optimally adjusted truss rod. The nut measures 1 11/16" in width, and the headstock retains the original bolt bushing Gibson Deluxe tuning machines with greened tulip buttons.
On the ambered spruce top, the rosewood bridge sits flush on all edges with cross inlays on the wings and a compensated saddle which has good height. The Antique Natural gloss nitro lacquer finish is accented by the thin transparent tortoise guard which allows the top to resonate more freely than some of Gibson’s heavier torts. The natural nitro lacquer gloss highlights the curly maple on the back and sides, with broader deep flame figuring on the sides and tighter bookmatched tendrils of densely packed flame across the back. A strap button has been added to the neck heel, and a 1/4" endpin jack and undersaddle pickup has been installed as well. Visible through the soundhole, the white oval label is hand-signed by Ren Ferguson, who personally oversaw this short run Gibson model.
There are a few cleanly repaired cracks on top behind the bridge, with light buckle rash at the waist and on the lower bout on the back, with a few additional minor marks on the body as a whole. There is also a small spot central to the waist on the back where presumably either a case lining or guitar stand has caused a slight pinkish hue. The neck profile retains its smooth nitro gloss.
A Taylor-branded hardshell case is included.