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Forgotten Gibson: 1983 Map Guitar


Probably best played when standing.

I talked about a forgotten Fender model recently, so here's a forgotten Gibson from the early 1980's, the Map Guitar.

Obviously, this guitar was meant only for show. As far as I'm aware, there were fewer than 200 of these made, and I've only ever seen them in Natural finish.

What is interesting however is what changed from what you see on the cover of the 1983 Gibson catalog (above) compared to what was actually made.


Above is an actual better-than-mint museum quality example of this guitar being sold right now on Reverb by seller The Atomic Punk out of Nashville TN. His listing is here. You would think something this rare would sell for well into 5 figures, but it's nowhere near that. And again, bear in mind this is a museum quality example.

What you will immediately notice is that compared to the catalog photo, the pickup selector, knob type, knob placement and rear strap button placement are different. This is normal. What was shown on the catalog cover was a prototype. All of the Map Guitar models you will see for sale look exactly like the one seen above.

You'll also notice that the prototype had neck binding and the actual model does not, and the prototype had a Les Paul style bridge and tailpiece while the production Map guitar had a "harmonica" style installed on it. This bridge style was typical for Gibson electric models of the era.

I can't really say anything good or bad about this guitar because it was made purposely as a showpiece. But it leaves me to wonder... did Gibson ever have plans to put a finish on this other than Natural, such as the United States flag, or red-white-blue stripes or some such?

We may never know.

[UPDATE] Yes, there was a stars & stripes version made in 1985


A reader emailed me and told me about this (thank you!), so yes, mystery solved, it does exist. This is the Reverb listing for it.

According to the listing, it's only 1 of 9 ever made...

...but does have some interesting quirks to it.

Rear strap button is moved down to its original position as seen in the prototype.

Tuner buttons are plastic keystone style, most likely for weight reduction.

Three knobs instead of four.

Pickup selector moved yet again, this time closer to the bridge.

Traditional Les Paul style bridge + tailpiece and not the harmonica style, similar to the prototype.

Still no neck binding on this one.

No plate on the output jack.

Knobs are transparent clear instead of gold or black.

Pickup rings are white. The body color most likely matched the pickup ring color originally, but has darkened from age.

It's very interesting how the stars & stripes were done, because it's not specific to the United States flag nor any specific US state.

Both the Natural and the Stars & Stripes versions of the Map guitar are cool. Which would you take?

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