1982 Gibson Moderne Korina Heritage

CRAVE Guitars says…

Thumbs up: Unique, rarity, unusual colour, light weight, OHSC

Thumbs down: Basically a hybrid Gibson, divisive body and headstock aesthetics, high vintage value

Decree: A real idiosyncratic Gibson. Close your eyes, however, and it could easily be an Explorer or Flying V

Model Description:

The original futuristic Gibson Moderne was designed in 1957 and patented in 1958 by the president and chief designer at Gibson, Ted McCarty. While the other models in Gibson’s radical ‘modernistic’ solid body electric range, the Futura (renamed the Explorer) and Flying V went into limited production in 1958, the Moderne seemingly did not get past the design stage. According to folklore, the Moderne was not actually put into production. If it was, it was probably made as a prototype in very small numbers for exhibition purposes and it was certainly never made available to dealers or the general public. Only the original patent drawings (minus the controls) are testament to the original 1950s design. No-one has, to‑date, ever produced an original Moderne for authentication. Until one is discovered and validated, its existence remains a nebulous mystery. As there is no tangible evidence to confirm whether any original Modernes were ever built, an original 1950s Moderne represents a priceless ‘Holy Grail’ in the vintage guitar collecting world. The Moderne has a certain visual ‘shock value’ that sets it apart from the usual roll call of standard guitar shapes out there. The bass side of the body looks like half of a Flying V while the treble side of the body and the so-called ‘Gumby’ headstock with multiple string tees and embossed gold plastic Gibson logo are peculiar and unique to the Moderne. Apart from the bizarre body shape and headstock, the Moderne features standard Gibson appointments, such as dual humbuckers and Tune‑o‑Matic Bridge and stop tailpiece. The Moderne was eventually manufactured (rather than re‑issued, as it was never released in the first place!) in very small numbers between 1982 and 1983, with only around 500 (planned) and 143 (actually shipped) Korina Heritage models ever made. Even the early 1980s models are rare and are now highly sought after by collectors. Although purists may prefer the more common natural finish, a few Modernes were made in black or white. The Moderne has advantages over Gibson’s other ‘modernistic’ models; for instance, it is comfortable to play while seated (unlike the Flying V) and is easier to lean on a stand (unlike an Explorer). Recognising that the Moderne was a potential asset, Gibson re‑issued the Moderne in 2012, including a limited edition Zakk Wylde signature model (the 2013 ‘Moderne of Doom’), as well as budget Epiphone versions. Ironically, the Moderne has featured in the popular ‘Guitar Hero’ video game series. The mythical Moderne and its physical descendants represent a fascinating, unusual and significant part of Gibson’s long and diverse heritage. Values for the 1980s original‑run Gibson Modernes seem to be garnering ‘silly money’ levels for what is a ‘love it or loathe it’ maverick. If you can find one on the market, it may burn a hole in your pocket.

Guitar Description:

Wow! Now this super rare 1982 Gibson Moderne is extremely cool, albeit a bit aesthetically divisive. Is it an ‘ugly duckling’ or an underappreciated classic? Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder and that may very well prove to be the case here. In addition, there were very few that were finished in solid white or black, as opposed to the more common natural finish. Although described as white, it is more of a buttery creamy/ivory/custardy colour. The only vintage Moderne’s you can legitimately lay your hands on are these rare early 1980s ‘reissue’ models made at Gibson’s plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. As the years pass, the scarcity and eccentricity has attracted a growing cult following. In use it feels light and comfortable despite its ungainly looks, certainly more ergonomic than its nearest relations, the Flying V and an Explorer. The Moderne’s tone wood is acoustically very resonant and this is reinforced when plugged in. Flying V/Explorer users will be well‑accustomed to the control layout too. In use, it plays well and sounds just as you would expect from a humbucker‑equipped Gibson, so it can do pretty much what most comparable solid body Gibsons can do. The whole playing experience is reassuringly familiar and you soon forget about the outline. This example is in excellent condition, apart from one noticeable mark on the front just above the bridge and some minor finish crazing. It even comes with its rare original fitted Gibson hard shell case. The Moderne is clearly not one for the traditionalists out there! It is certainly no shrinking violet and it just wouldn’t look right in a conservative function band setting. However, if you really want to stand out from the crowd and get noticed, the Moderne may well be an ideal instrument for you. The Gibson Moderne could easily now be described as post‑Moderne.


  • Made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, U.S.A. in 1983
  • Korina mahogany slab body
  • Ivory nitrocellulose finish
  • Korina mahogany set neck
  • Oversized asymmetric ‘Gumby’ headstock with raised gold Gibson logo and 4 string tees
  • Unbound rosewood fingerboard with 22 frets and dot markers
  • Scale length 24¾” (629mm)
  • Gold hardware
  • Original dual Tim Shaw humbucking pickups
  • Original electrics comprising 3-way toggle pickup selector switch and 2 volume/1 tone control
  • Weight: 7lb 7oz (3.38kg)
  • Original oblong fitted brown Gibson hard shell case


  • Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top)
  • Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society)


ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons claims to own an original 1950s Gibson Moderne. However, he has never presented it for inspection or verification, therefore only adding to the mythology.

Detail Gallery:

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