Gibson Reissue ’58 Flying V

The Phantom V
The Phantom V

A number of years ago I purchased a reissue/limited edition Gibson Flying V constructed in the 1958/59 configuration (strings through the body type). Upon inspection, I took note of the serial number and the fact that the guitar was constructed of Honduras mahogany. It had a brown pink-lined case with the Gibson logo inscribed in gold on the lower right-hand corner of the outside lid. Included with this instrument was all the proper paperwork for this year/era of guitar, the keys to the case, as well as the added bonus of a 1983 Gibson catalog.

Early in 1980, I heard that Gibson was toying with the idea of reintroducing the 1958 Flying V (string-through) in korina as a limited edition; but, when I looked at my reissue I thought, “Well Gibson did it again, they promised a limited edition in korina, but delivered it in mahogany instead”.

What I mean by “Gibson did it again,” is that Gibson announced in 1976, that they were going to do a limited edition of the Explorer in korina, even though the prototype instrument on display at the Frankfurt Trade Fair (in early 1976) was made of mahogany. Well, the Explorer subsequently went on to be reissued in mahogany rather than korina, until the second reissue of this instrument (1983), made this time of the promised korina. So I thought the same thing that had happened with Gibson’s first reissue of the 1958 Explorer also happened to their first reissue of the 1958 Flying V, introduced in 1981, which was made out of mahogany as well. Being a ’59 Les Paul Standard and Les Paul Standard (SG) aficionado, I put the guitar away and didn’t think much about it. That was, until I started seeing the second reissue ’58 V made out of Korina (1983) with the ink stamp alienation A *** through F *** Series.

Before I go any further, let me explain my terminology of string-through Flying Vs: first reissue/limited edition, second, etc., (“string-through” is the key word here). The 1958 Gibson Flying V is the original issue, as is the 1963 Flying V with the nickel hardware, those made out of left over 1958 unfinished korina bodies (two beautiful examples of these, one ’63 and one ’58 can be found on page 27 of Mac Yasudas’ book The Vintage Guitar Volume II). The first reissue/limited edition ’58 string-through V came out in 1981 made of Honduras mahogany (this is the one I own, and will explain its existence in the body of this article). Gibson’s 1983 catalog introduces the second reissue/limited edition string-through made out of korina (these are the A through F Series ink-stamped horizontally on the back of the headstock toward the tip of the point, example: A 007). And, the third and final string-through ’58 korina wood reissue/limited edition to date is the present day Historical Series Flying V introduced in 1994.

Writing this article has two purposes; one, to share my research on this little known reissue; and two, I was becoming quite irritated with the individuals who kept insisting that what I had was an aberration, a forgery, or a nonexistent instrument. First of all, there are three axioms that hold true when it comes to the Gibson Guitar Company: (1) Gibson doesn’t give instruments away (endorsements excluded); (2) they don’t throw instruments away if they can finish them and sell them at a later date (the 1963 Flying V korina string through and some of the 1968 Gold Top Les Pauls are two good examples of this); and (3) they are famous for prototypes and one-offs that never make it to production, but mysteriously escape from the factory. For instance, take a look at Ian C. Bishop’s book The Gibson Guitar From 1950. On page 63 is a picture of John Entwhistle’s 1958 Discoverer Bass