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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