Orville and Orville by Gibson Guitars (1988-1998):

Named after the founding father of Gibson guitars, Orville H. Gibson, these fully-authorized Japanese guitars came into existence through partnerships
between Gibson USA and various Japanese manufacturers and dealers (such as Aria, Matsumoku and Yamano Music) that extend back into the 1970s.
It wasn't until 1986 when Yamano Gakki took over the distribution of Gibson (and Korean-made Epiphone) guitars in Japan, and later in 1988, decided
to expand their lineup of guitar models, that things really got rolling for the Orville and Orville by Gibson brands.

Yamano Gakki decided to go with a different name for this expanded line of guitars, that were designed in the exact form of the most valuable and sought-after
classic Gibson guitars.  It was decided upon to use "Orville" as the new brand name, dedicating the brand to the founding father. As it was decided that some
of these guitars would be equipped with Japanese-made pickups and some with USA-made pickups, they decided to include the post-script "by Gibson" for the
models that had pickups of American origin.

All “Orville” guitars were equipped with Japanese replica PAF pickups, while the “Orville by Gibson” guitars were usually equipped with authentic Gibson USA
PAF ’57 Classics, and sometimes the original Bill Lawrence HB-R/HB-L or Gibson 490s. Other than the difference in headstock logo and pickups, there are no
other hidden or outward differences that I am aware of. Many collector friends have said that they think the Orville by Gibsons are overall better guitars and
while this may be so, many collectors have disagreed with this notion. There were many high-end and mid-range models of these guitars under both logos;
I think mainly that the model number and original price dictated quality, not particularly the logo.

While somewhat confusing, you can determine where your Orville or Orville by Gibson guitar was made, the year it was made, and even the month it was made,
by looking at the back of the headstock.  There were 5 different methods used to date Orville and Orville by Gibson guitars and two factories involved with
building them, so I've developed the simple chart below to assist you...

*F = Factory:  G, J & K beginning the serial numbers denote that is was made by the Terada factory: the "G" ink stamp means the guitar should have Gibson
                  USA pickups, and "J" for Japanese pickups. K stands for Kuramae, Yamano's wholesales division.
                  No letter beginning the serial number = FujiGen Factory-built.

*Y = Production Year

*M = Production Month

*P = Production Number
Epiphone Japan Guitars (1998-Present):

In 1998, Gibson and Yamano Gakki decided to end the production of the Orville models to focus on the expanded production of the Epiphone line, which was
designed both for the Japan domestic market as well as exported models destined for far-off lands. The domestic models had the Gibson open-book headstock
design while the exported models were given the usual Epiphone design. The regular line as well as their "Elite" line of guitars were all made in the same
factories as the Orvilles and Orville by Gibsons. In 2006, Gibson ended its relationship with Yamano Music.

Expert Take:

You can research and find in much greater detail, information about the histories of these brands on other websites, but for me, the important part is to judge
an instrument upon its merits. This is the most useful part for people looking at buying an Orville, Orville by Gibson or Epiphone guitar.

My overall judgment is that, while these guitars are of higher collectible value to guitarists because of the affiliation with, and use of the name, Gibson, this by
no means is a testament to it being a better instrument than other brands. I rank these guitars on the whole as mediocre Japanese guitars. This is a bold
statement, I know, but when you compare these guitars to early Greco, Tokai and Aria Pro II clones, they just come up a little short in the mojo and vibe

If you want a Gibson guitar, and want it made right, then an Orville will do. The standards to which these were held to were so conforming that I found most of
these instruments to be carbon copies of Gibsons and also of themselves. Few stood out as stellar, unique instruments. This was not the case for Greco, Tokai
and Aria Pro II... made to high standards as well, these brands often hand-carved their necks to feel different and finish options were not pinned down to only
a few standard options, so to ensure each guitar had a different feel, vibe and even tone, since they all used so many different types of pickups. The Orvilles
either had the Japanese low-quality humbuckers or the Gibson USA humbuckers, so the tone was not as varied.

Don't get me wrong, Orvilles are great guitars, and I found them all to be made much better than their USA counterparts, but they all lacked the unique feel and
playability that has earned Greco, Tokai and Aria Pro II their growing stellar reputations.  And also, don't judge an Orville by whether it has "by Gibson" on the
headstock or not. I've had over 100 Orvilles and Orville by Gibsons and there were exceptional examples of both model types.

Get your hands on one and see for yourself ; )  Andrew
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History of Orville, Orville by Gibson and Epiphone Japan
Model Guitars
Mfg. Years
Serial # Example
Making Sense...
Additional Notes...
S/N Type 1
Made by Terada factory in
1988, production # 4016.
*The "J" in this model #
denotes the use of Japanese
If you have an acoustic guitar
made by ObGibson, you will
see an "A" before the rest of
the serial number.
S/N Type 2
Made by FujiGen factory in
May of 1991, production #
*This example has no letter
at the beginning, which was
the way FujiGen made their
S/N Type 3
K 026154
Made by Terada factory in
1992, production # 6154.
*** The serial numbers were
ink-stamped onto silver
stickers attached to the
backs of the headstocks. If
you see no serial number on
your Orville, the sticker was
likely removed.
Originally, I bought one of
these in Japan when I was
there and there was a little
"Made in Korea" sticker
under the silver serial
number sticker. This
contradicts what information
is accepted, so if you have
one like this, let me know.
'57 & '59 Les Paul Reissues
and the '61 SG Reissue
S/N Type 4
G3 07415
Made by Terada factory in
July of 1993, production #
There is a space between
the year and the
month/production #.
'57 & '59 Les Paul Reissues
and the '61 SG Reissue
S/N Type 5
G2 5478
Made by Terada factory in
1992, production # 5478.
There is a space between
the year and the
month/production #.