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Type One: 1923 to December 1924
L-5s built prior to December 1924 have both Gibson ‘Master Model’ and Lloyd Loar signature labels, the latter signed and dated by Loar himself (for more on Lloyd Loar, click here). Typical features include a single bound 20 fret fingerboard with a pointed end and pearl dot inlays, a diagonal The Gibson logo, silver-plated hardware, a tailpiece in which the strings pass through and over the crossbar, a birch back with maple sides (by late 1924 some featured maple back and sides) and a Virzi tone producer suspended within the body. Early examples are distinguished by an unbound pickguard.
Type Two: 1925 to early 1929
Master Model instruments built after Loar’s departure no longer carried his signature, though in most other respects they remained more or less the same. Cosmetic features from this period include a triple bound fingerboard with a black line along the side and gold plated hardware. By 1925, both the back and sides of the body were constructed from maple. Post-Loar L-5s were rarely fitted with a Virzi tone producer, though there are some exceptions (for example, L-5 Serial Number 80585, which was shipped in 1926, is fitted with a Virzi). 1927 was the last year for the ‘Master Model’ label and from this point both diagonal and horizontal headstock logos can be found. Some examples from the late 1920s were fitted with backward facing banjo style tuners.
Type Three: early 1929 to August 1935*
The L-5 now has a block-inlaid fingerboard with a square end and 19 frets (examples dating from this period but with Type Two features appear in the Type Two Gallery). The transition to ‘Gibson’ logo (no The) took place over the period 1928 to 1934 and varies by model. Examples with both type of logo appear into the mid 1930s. From August 1935, the L-5 switched to the new Advanced 17-inch body size.
*Please note that a number of post-1934 L-5s were shipped with a 16-inch body (see 'L-5 in Detail') for shipping totals).