Auction Item: 1982 Gibson Moderne Winning Bid: $510 It’s an early ’80s Gibson reissue of the Moderne—a model originally designed in the 1950s by Ted McCarty’s team at Gibson, who also brought us the Flying V, Explorer, and Firebird. Legend has it that the original Gibson Moderne prototype (reportedly worth between $100,000 and $500,000) is still floating around somewhere like a ghost, occasionally surfacing to excite collectors worldwide.
This is one of the strangest guitars I ever purchased on eBay.
As I’m fascinated by the Moderne’s futuristic shape—which is a cross between a Flying V and a great white shark—I’ve always wanted to own one. Most reissue Modernes on eBay go for $1,400 to $2,000, depending on the condition. This particular one was listed as a “player’s guitar,” which is always a sign of trouble.
The auction description said it had a Korina body that had been painted over with a refrigerator-white primer (another sign of trouble), and the bridge, tailpiece, and neck pickup were taken from some old, undisclosed 1969 Gibson guitar. More bad news: a broken headstock (that had been professionally repaired), a missing Gibson logo, various parts of the body “filled in with wood filler,” [Figure 1] and “bullet holes” in the upper neck that had been filled in with rosewood dowels [Fig. 2]. The bridge pickup was a ’58 Gibson PAF reissue, with new Gibson pots, tuners, and a selector switch thrown in. That was the good news.
Everything I read should have sent me packing, but there was something about the guitar that kept me hanging on. It was relatively cheap (staying in the $350 range for most of the week), and it looked like it needed, well, someone to love and restore it to its former glory.
After scoring the guitar for $510 (and $20 shipping), I decided to sand off the ugly white primer and repaint the Moderne in a faded, ’50s-style Gretsch White Penguin hue. When the old primer was stripped off, I was shocked to see that the entire guitar had been sawed into three separate pieces, and later glued back together. After a little investigation, I learned that Gibson used to take their reject guitars and cut them up to discourage dumpster divers from reconstructing them. Obviously this guitar had a will to live.
To my surprise, my painter friend did an amazing job. He only charged $250, and he even put a Gibson decal on the headstock before clear coating it. What a guy! I also had my repair guru, John Wescott, do a much needed setup—which raised my total cost for the Moderne to $840.
So is it a keeper? Absolutely! The neck plays like a 20-year-old Gibson that has been broken in nicely, and the pickups sound awesome with lots of warmth and punch. This started out as a rescue mission, but now I have a guitar with a good story behind it.
Contact Will Ray at firstname.lastname@example.org, and watch for his G& guitar clinics at a dealer near you.