How to Identify a Vintage Gibson Les Paul Standard

As one of the most popular and highly regarded guitars ever made, Gibson’s Les Paul guitar is often forged. The most common way of doing this is to use a new(er) Les Paul and outfit it with vintage or reproduction parts to make it appear to be a much more valuable vintage version. Some forgers even go as far as recreating vintage case candy, which is pretty easy nowadays with applications like Photoshop and a decent color printer.


Jacksons Rare Guitars features this spectacular ’57 Les Paul Gold Top

How can you avoid shelling out big bucks for a phony guitar? It’s not easy. And even experts are occasionally fooled by some of the fakes out there; the forgeries are that good. But if you thoroughly examine the guitar prior to purchasing it, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of buying a faux Les Paul.

Here are two things to look for from Chris Gill’s article ‘FlawLes’ in Guitar Aficionado Magazine:

  • Original Les Pauls were made with Honduras mahogany, Eastern hard rock maple, and Brazilian rosewood. These are nearly impossible to get your hands on today. Check out a book from your library called Identifying Wood by Bruce Hoadley for detailed information on how to identify these woods.
  • The fret inlays on an original are also different than what is available today. Look for silvery inlays that have a three-dimensional appearance and black grain lines running through them. Modern inlays will appear to be milky-white and the grain lines will be less well-defined.

Have you ever bought a fake? Or examine a guitar before purchasing it, only to discover that it was a fake? How’d you figure it out?

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  • Vintagegibson

    Valuable information.Thanks.

  • Thanks for this. Too much fake Les Paul’s here on my country, almost got scammed before.

  • Gary Shipp

    Being familiar with the numbering on the headstock is helpful, has lists that tell what years the numbers are, though there was some confusion on the numbers during the 1970’s. A good way to tell the old originals is to look at the numbers on the back of the volume & tone pots under the lower back cover, Gibson has the info on the numbers.

    I own a 71 custom cherry sunburst 3 piece flame-top that was a one off the line model possibly custom order or for promotion, 6 numbers, most of the other LP Customs of this era were black only.

  • I own a ’59 Les Paul Black Beauty……..3 pick up all gold hardware…’s been in my family since I was born….it was my dad’s guitar…’s worth a lot of bucks …but I dont play it because its noisy and wont stay in tune……upgrading it would only depreciate it’s value……I still love it though !!

    • You have a killer piece of history in that guitar and that’s even cooler that its a family heirloom!!

  • @ Lucindra, you should have a qualified luthier/repair tech look at that guitar.
    to not stay in tune is not right. especially if it’s an adjustment. you don’t want the guitar to become a non-musical instrument. that will depreciate the value.
    as for noisy, that can be remedied fairly easy.

  • jonas

    A major clue with the repro Les Pauls is the volume and tone pots are wrongly placed, and always slightly too far right toward the pickguard.

    Original 1950’s Gibsons have these four knobs more to the left – to see this, if you imagine a center line straight down from the stoptail it goes exactly between the middle of the two front controls. The Custom Shop reissue Gibsons – not so.

    It’s possible ‘hand crafted’ fakes may be more accurate.

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