20 times rarer than a burst! - The Virginia V - 1958 Gibson Flying V


14th July 2023

On 5th September, Gardiner Houlgate will offer one of the 'Holy Grail' Gibson solid body electric guitars, a 1958 Gibson Flying V - "The Virginia V". With only 81 shipped in 1958 and 17 in 1959, the first year Gibson Korina Flying V is one of the rarest and most coveted Gibson guitar models. Nearly twenty times rarer than a "Burst" and incredibly futuristic for the time, the model is one of the most instantly recognisable, and copied designs ever. Originally seen in the hands of blues master Albert King, the model ended up crossing many genres and went on to inspire, and be used by many legends and contemporary greats including Jimi Hendrix, Billy Gibbons, Keith Richards, Lonnie Mack, Johnny Winter, Dave Davies, Slash, Lenny Kravitz, Michael Schenker, Tom Petty, Eddie Van Halen, KK Downing, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammet and Nancy Wilson, the list goes on.....

This guitar will feature as lot 121 in the next guitar sale on 5th September 2023 along with hundreds of other vintage and classic guitars. Full catalogue anticipated by 11th August 2023 via our website https://auctions.gardinerhoulgate.co.uk/ 

In the meantime, check out the catalogue previews via https://guitar-auctions.co.uk/ and via our Instagram and Facebook feeds (@guitarauctions).

Details and provenance of the 1958 Gibson Flying V as follows:

'The Virginia V' - a 1958 Gibson Flying V electric guitar, made in USA; Body: natural korina, refinished, green paint remnants in cavities, old Bigsby holes filled, small plugged hole to top on bass side point near to end (probably an old strap button positioning) light buckle marks and other minor imperfections, vacant strap button hole to neck heel; Neck: re-profiled, bass side wing of head repaired with dowels, refinished, head face appears refinished, serial no. font incorrect and likely reapplied following neck reprofile and finish; Fretboard: rosewood; Frets: mild wear, frets appear original; Electrics: working, original PAF pickups, pickup covers previously removed (during current vendors initial inspection of the guitar), unusual phonebook capacitor (appears original with solder untouched), original potentiometers, some rewiring / solder work evident; Hardware: original tuners with replaced buttons (original perished button dust included), replaced nut, later bridge and posts installed, original bridge included, original treble side bridge post has slightly sheared with remnants believed to still be present in hole (new post sits proud), small hole to original pickguard left over from previously installed Bigsby; Case: original hard case; Weight: 3.46kg

In 2001 Flying Vintage published the reference book ‘Flying ‘V’. The Illustrated History of this Modernistic Guitar’ by Larry Meiners. Page 9 of this book shows a list of 'Initial Flying V Shipments'. This guitar’s serial number is fifteenth on the list, showing it was shipped on the 30th April 1958 to the ‘Thomas Piano Co’ of Newport News, Virginia, USA. There are no Flying V ledger records after 25th June 1958.

The original owner, thought to be from Newport News, Virginia, USA, sold it to John Sprung of the American Guitar Centre, Washington in 1989. In July 2008 John, now at ‘Parts is Parts’ East Dover, Vermont, USA, commented, ‘I remember the guitar. Can’t remember where I got it. I do remember that I paid $1500.00
for it. Those were the days!!!’

In 1989, UK based guitar collector Julian Marsh purchased the guitar from John Sprung for around $3000, when it was then imported into the UK. Julian Marsh comments: ‘Hi, how very interesting. Yes this guitar did belong to me. I was in the American Guitar Centre packing up a shipment of guitars and amps I had bought from around the states and from a swap with John Sprung. (I used to swap Marshall and Vox gear with him in exchange for American Gear and go over for a few days each year. He let me use the shop as a base to collect everything together and ship it from). When it arrived from one of his clients, he gave me first option on it as it had had the neck skinned
down and knew I was into playing the guitars as much as collecting. I bit his hand off as they are so rare in any state. I never knew the name of the guy who was selling it.’

Shortly after Julian imported the guitar into the UK, he sold it to Newcastle based collector Jed Johnson, who in turn sold it to the vendor.

Having known each other through previous guitar trades, Jed offered the vendor a choice of two Korina flying V's, one from '58, the other a '59, sending him a letter and photos of both on 24th September 1990. A scan from the vendors guitar scrap book show this original letter, along with the original photos of both guitars that were sent to him. The vendor decided to take it further and view the guitars in person. During an examination, the vendor had the opportunity to take the guitar apart to inspect the internals. The vendors notes in the scrap book show that he had removed the pickup covers to look at the colour of the pickup bobbins, noting that they were both black. Preferring the feel of the re-profiled neck, the sound of the pickups and the fact that this one had its original case, he chose the '58.

Following this meet, a deposit was sent, with a receipt returned from Jed dated 20th October 1990. The balance was later sent, with a receipt from Jed dated 17th November 1990. These original receipts are included in the sale, along with a copy of the deposit letter that was sent by the vendor to Jed. The sale was complete and with the guitar now in the current owners possession, it is named 'The Virginia V', having originally been shipped to Newport News, Virginia.

Doug Chandler of Chandler Guitars inspected the guitar in 1990 shortly after purchase for insurance purposes, confirming it to be a genuine 1958 Gibson Flying V with the original case. The vendor had updated insurance valuations carried out by Doug Chandler in 1995 and by Charlie Chandler in 1998, valuing the guitar at £30,000 and £50,000 respectively. Copies of these insurance valuations are included in the sale.

In 1991 Dorling Kindersley published ‘The Ultimate Guitar Book’ by Tony Bacon. This guitar was photographed for ‘The Ultimate Guitar Book’ while in the care of Jed Johnson in Newcastle, who is referenced in the credits. It is shown in a small photograph on the inside back cover and in a small back and front view and large double page spread
across pages 86-87. This is a very good picture and can be easily identified as being this guitar by the grain of the korina wood and the plugged Bigsby holes. The present owner was invited to attend the book launch on 20th October 1991 at Chandler Guitars in Kew, Richmond Surrey. Tony Bacon kindly signed his copy of the book ‘Hope you enjoy a V good book. Tony Bacon 20/10/91.’ This copy along with the original book launch invite are included in the sale. 

In January 2018 the original Kluson tuners had the tulip heads replaced due to the typical disintegration of the originals. The original worn ABR-1 bridge was replaced with a gold Tone Pros Tune-O-Matic bridge. The broken bits of tuner heads and the original ABR-1 were retained and are included in the sale.

In terms of playability, this V is a delight to play, particularly for a guitarist with small hands, with a very slim re-profiled neck and lovely action. It sounds fantastic unamplified with a bright ringing sustain, as all great electric guitars should. Amped up, it has everything from classic blues leads and the soaring full-on rock/metal sound that you would expect, to a lovely warm jazz tone with the treble rolled off. 

Gardiner Houlgate is delighted to offer this guitar on behalf of the vendor. This is an extremely rare opportunity to obtain one of the most sought after guitars in history on the open market.

Contact department for estimate and further information.

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