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Guitar of the Month: 1966 Gibson Firebird V-12

An Extremely Rare Vintage Electric 12-String
1966 was a curious and bizarre year for the Gibson Guitar Corporation. Ted McCarty retired as the company’s president, the Les Paul as we know it disappeared from Gibson’s catalog, and the company introduced the first Firebird V-12—an electric guitar 12-string with the hip Firebird V body shape and appointments.


The V-12 guitar featured a solid body, dual humbuckers, individual volume and tone controls for each pickup, and a 12-string Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge. The fretboard sported dot inlays and was made of Brazilian rosewood with bound edges, despite the fact some other Gibson guitar models switched to Indian rosewood fretboards in ’66. The pickup selector was a three-position slide switch, as opposed to the typical Gibson toggle, and the guitar was made available in several Gibson Custom colors.


Historical Discrepancy

To this day, there is some debate over how many of these guitars were produced and when exactly they were built. The Firebird V-12 initially appeared in Gibson’s catalog in 1966, but some vintage models contain pots and electronics dated to 1965. This leads some to believe the guitars were built in late ’65 and didn’t ship until the following year. It is also possible Gibson bought parts in bulk and simply did not use them all before the calendar year had expired.


Gibson halted production of the Firebird V-12 in 1967, but due to poor sales, they were still being sold and shipped from backed stock as late as 1969. Despite its lack of popularity at the time, these guitars have become very sought-after due to their fast response, playability and unique function. It is estimated fewer than 300 of these guitars exist, which makes the Gibson Firebird V-12 extremely rare, collectable and valuable among quirky vintage guitar buyers.

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