I have one thats # 12 stamped on the medallion got it in Chicago back in the late '70's. i read that the 1st ones made not sure up to what number were made from the old '63 left over's thus having a different sound and feelPeople often mistake Medallion with Bicentennial Firebirds, but they are by no means the same.
Medallion Firebirds, made to commemorate the 1972 Munich Olympics, were produced in a limited run of 366, one for each day of the year (1972 was a leap year, hence 366 instead of 365). I am the proud owner of number 39 and have yet to come across a lower number. The 1972 Medallion Firebird V can be seen as a reissue of the first-run ‘63 Firebird V, in that it has a two-piece mahogany neck as opposed to the 9-ply Mahogany/Walnut neck of late ‘63, ‘64 and ‘65 models and also lacks the red embossed Firebird logo on the pickguard. Its pickups sport the typical Gibson-embossed covers of all ‘72 Gibson electrics, but are most definitely leftovers from the sixties. Ever since an original 1964 Firebird III I once owned was stolen, I had been frantically searching for its unique “Strat on steroids” tone. I tried 1976 Bicentennials and later reissues, but no cigar, not even close. Until, five years ago, I spotted a Medallion for sale on Marktplaats (the Dutch version of eBay). I went over to the guy’s house, plugged it in, and BAM! there it was: that familiar thump, punch and top end that no other guitar is capable of producing. The neck pickup in particular is nothing short of magic while the bridge pickup’s tone control allows you to go from Tele to Les Paul by dialing in mids while rolling off highs.
My Medallion’s neck, like those of early birds, is slim, tapered and extremely rigid and stable. The original frets are wide and low, have next to no wear and play like butter. The way the guitar holds its tuning is unreal, and even tugging at the infamous Maestro Lyre Vibrola won’t throw the guitar out of tune, thanks to the domed thumbwheels of the Tune-O-Matic bridge.
Getting back to Richard Russell’s question about Medallions having ‘63 leftover bodies: I very much doubt it. The mahogany looks different and the headstock, which as you know is part of the body, is sculpted in a more elegant way.
Despite its heavy Klusons and Maestro Vibrola, my guitar weighs in at well under 9 lbs and hangs in perfect balance.
Another thing ‘63 and ‘72 Firebirds shared was a poorly designed guitar case. In the full nine years between the original and its reissue, Gibson still hadn’t figured out that all those snapped Firebird headstocks were the result of a low-E Kluson banjo tuner resting on the bottom of a too shallow case. If pressure was put on the lid or if the case fell over, heads would often snap like matchsticks. Therefore, I may consider myself an extremely lucky guy to find one in unbroken, pristine condition. So the first thing I did was buy a sturdy 90’s brown case for light gigging and a virtually indestructible flight case for touring and air travel. Wouldn’t want to see this rare bird’s neck snap in mid-flight.
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