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Gibson entered into production of this model in 1938 as its top-of-the-line flat top guitar, initially called the Super Jumbo, changing the name in 1939 to the Super Jumbo 200. It replaced the Gibson Advanced Jumbo. It was made at the Gibson Factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The SJ-200 was named for its super large 16 7/8" flat top body, with a double-braced red spruce top and rosewood back and sides, and sunburst finish. In 1947 the materials used for the guitar changed to maple back and sides. Gibson changed the name to the J-200 in 1955. Due to the weak post-depression economy and wartime austerity, demand for this high end guitar was very limited and production quantities were small. Early models made from rosewood are highly prized by collectors.
Gibson currently makes many variations of the J-200. The J-200 Studio is the lowest model in the line, featuring chrome hardware, a plain (non-engraved) pickguard, natural finish and no fingerboard binding, but it retains the inlays, maple back/sides and electronics of the J-200 Standard. It has since been discontinued.
The J-200 Standard is available in sunburst and natural, features Fishman electronics, gold hardware, Grover tuners, figured maple back/sides and a three-piece laminate neck (maple/rosewood/maple). It also has a rosewood fingerboard and bridge, and mother of pearl crown inlays.
The J-200 Custom is a high end model, featuring rosewood back and sides (like the original SJ-200s from the 1930s), a rosewood fingerboard and bridge, gold hardware, Grover Imperial tuners, Fishman electronics, an upgraded case, the same three-piece neck as the Standard and Studio, abalone inlays, an older, "script" Gibson logo and a 'four ribbon bridge' instead the Standard's 'two ribbon' bridge.
Along with these three are two reissues, the True Vintage (based on 1950s construction) and the Western Classic Prewar 200, which is similar in spec to the original early models (rosewood back and sides, ebony fingerboard, block inlays). Gibson also does limited run models, such as the J-200 Koa, the J-200 Trophy, and Montana Gold.
Epiphone produces a more affordable version, the EJ-200