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Vintage Gibson non-reverse thunderbird bass troubles

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by TheFenderBender, Mar 10, 2013.

  1. TheFenderBender


    Jun 27, 2012
    So, went down to good old emerald city guitars with my old man to look at a non-reverse thunderbird he had been looking to buy. When I was looking at it, I noticed that there was no serial numbers, no logo, or anything. Upon further inspection, dscovered a scarf joint on the neck. As most know, the massive headstock with the tiny neck causes a lot of lost heads. So, my dad said they might have put it back on, but, based on the missing serial numbers and such, I think they just crafted a new one. Obviously, I was then concerned whether or not this whole thing was just some knock-off. It currently priced at $1800-$2000 range(the guy is willing to negotiate), and I am not sure what to do, it still plays nice, and is really cool, but should I take it or leave it?
  2. Leave it. 100%. Order a new one if possible online with a returns policy.
  3. BawanaRik


    Mar 6, 2012
    New Jersey
    A broken head stock is the Kiss of Death. And TBirds get that kiss very often.

    I would walk away. Without a SN who knows what the story is.
  4. I'd be curious to check out the code numbers on the potentiometers at least. If they completely swapped out the headstock then of course it won't have a serial number. There's a chance everything else is still original. Those original t-bird pickups are hard to come by. If you can negotiate a decent price it might be worth it. The pots should give you a somewhat better idea if your looking at the real thing if you can read the numbers.
  5. lavmonga

    lavmonga Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2007
    New York, NY
    I wouldn't buy any instrument for 2 grand that didn't have a serial number on it.
  6. Hi.

    What's the going price of a NR with a repaired headstock these days?

    I have (or have had) a few Gibsons that I have made new headstocks to, and a few that I cafted a piece to go between the neck and the headstock just to retain the serial number, so I'd say it's not too uncommon to find one like You possibly did.

    A repair like that, if there's a way to confirm it's a Gibson indeed, usually cuts the price in half. A repair done using the old headstock cuts the price about 30%.

    A one piece, angled headstock mahogany neck IME shatters pretty badly pretty easily, so a new headstock is sometimes the more feasible repair option.

    Vintage NR's are not that easy to come by, so if it plays well, there's the correct markings on the PU cavity and the parts and the rest of the bass can be authenticated, I'd try to haggle a bit.

    I wouldn't neessarily buy that kind of an instrument for that kind of money on a parking lot, but a reputable shop, definitely yes. If they sell it as a Gibson and price it accordingly, there's AFAIK very little that You (or Your old man) can lose.

  7. mordechai


    Dec 8, 2007
    According to this site, there were only around 700 NR Thunderbirds made. http://www.flyguitars.com/gibson/bass/Thunderbird_1966.php

    I've only seen a couple for sale online, and I'm pretty sure they were closer to the $4000 range.

    Is this being sold as any specific year? Also interesting is that the scale length was longer than 34". I'd definitely pull a ruler out and measure from the nut to the 12th fret.

    Try to find some photos of cavity routing and such on originals, and what the heel looks like. These are things that can usually a tell a counterfeit from the real thing.

    If it's what the seller claims, the price seems about right for something with a broken/new headstock.
  8. Showdown

    Showdown Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2002
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    While a repaired broken neck does devalue a bass (and this bass may not be worth what they are asking), it isn't the kiss of death. There are many Tbirds with necks that have been broken that are good, usable basses. I have a '76 Tbird that has a repaired broken neck, and the neck is extremely stable. I haven't adjusted the truss rod in nearly 5 years.
  9. One Drop

    One Drop

    Oct 10, 2004
    Swiss Alps
    Not only is not the kiss of death, a well repaired one will be stronger than the original vintage one and resist future breakage more easily b
  10. RickC

    RickC Supporting Member

    Jun 9, 2005
    Plus it's "already been broken". One less thing to worry about. Like getting that first scratch on your new car.

  11. One Drop

    One Drop

    Oct 10, 2004
    Swiss Alps
    I own one of them, the lousy H/S repair became undone during shipping and I have to make the tough decision as to how completely I want to restore the instrument.
  12. Webtroll

    Webtroll Rolling for initiative

    Apr 23, 2006
    Austin, TX
    +1 to the repair not being the kiss of death and +1 to not paying that much for a bass with no S/N (that always makes me wonder if it had been previously stolen, bad karma).
  13. I have a line on a vintage NR Gibson Thunderbird, all original parts save for the bridge, which needed replacing. It was made in 1966. Do these sound like a classic T Bird, or are they a different animal?
  14. godofthunder59

    godofthunder59 God of Thunder and Rock and Roll Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2006
    Rochester NY USA
    Endorsing Cataldo Basses, Whirlwind products, Thunderbucker pickups
    Slow down people. I have been playing nonreverse Thunderbirds almost exclusively since '77. Repaired or replaced headstocks are common. At the moment I have 5 60's NRs all either repaired or replaced. Over the years I have had several unbroken ones and they always stayed home I didn't wan to take them out. If the work is well done the bass will play fine and last a lifetime. Price? 1,500-1,800 would be a bargain. If you don't want it I do! One of my stage beater NRs with replaced headstock, btw apprised at 3,500 JOHNNYSMOKEBuffaloNYwaterfront8-19-13057. JOHNNYSMOKEBuffaloNYwaterfront8-19-13032. Video of beater NR note at end where I have the headstock up against the cab for feed back I do this every night with no breakage ;) https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=OUZ5R6eMuz8
  15. godofthunder59

    godofthunder59 God of Thunder and Rock and Roll Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2006
    Rochester NY USA
    Endorsing Cataldo Basses, Whirlwind products, Thunderbucker pickups
    Any Pictures? Is it a II or a IV ( one or two pickup) ? Original finish?
  16. Original finish, well worn. I can get photos in a week or so. I can't remember the PU configuration. I will get more info. The PUs are originals.
  17. Two pick ups.
  18. godofthunder59

    godofthunder59 God of Thunder and Rock and Roll Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2006
    Rochester NY USA
    Endorsing Cataldo Basses, Whirlwind products, Thunderbucker pickups
    NR Thunderbirds are a bit hotter than the earlier '63-'65 reverse Thunderbirds. The '76 don't sound like Thunderbirds at all weak and brittle and the post '89 way to modern sounding. Original Thunderbird pick ups have excellent mid and top end response with a hint of inherent overdrive. Hope that helps
  19. smcd


    Jun 28, 2009
    Boston, MA
    They say up front the neck has been refinished and the headstock repaired.



  20. RickC

    RickC Supporting Member

    Jun 9, 2005
    The NR is very much a Thunderbird, tonewise. The NRs I've come across have always had a slightly bigger neck profile than the reverses, which I always considered a plus. I've owned my first one since 1973 - still my favorite bass ever after all these years. I've also owned a couple of reverses, never liked em as much. I had a long talk with Allen Woody on this very topic back when he was still working at Gruhn (and before he was ALLEN WOODY) and he felt the same way.


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