Three Vintage Gibson Les Paul Guitars — And How To Find The One Of Your Dreams 

 April 2, 2022

By  Cynthia Swearingen

If you’re looking for a vintage or rare guitar, you may want to add some used Gibson Les Paul guitars to your wish list — and for good reason. These beautifully crafted instruments are exceptionally well-made and will definitely stand out in any collection.

These Three Used Gibson Les Paul Guitars are One-of-A-Kind

If money is no object here are three vintage — and used — Gibson Les Paul guitars you may want to consider: The 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard, The 1957 Les Paul Goldtop (though if you like that single-coil pickup sound, you may opt for the 1956 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop P90 instead), and the 1957-1961 Gibson Les Paul Custom Ebony. 

1. The 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard

With a maple top and sunburst finish, this truly is an elegant guitar. It took a while for this model to take off, but that changed with the release of John Mayall’s Blues Breakers, which featured Eric Clapton on guitar. Then bluesman Michael Bloomfield picked one up, and the next thing you know, the Les Paul Standard was a hit with such top-tier guitarists as Jimmy Page, Duane Allman, Paul Kossoff, and Jeff Beck.

Although this model was first introduced in 1957, the 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard is highly sought-after because, as the Gibson website explains, in 1959 “everything converged to make a truly outstanding and timeless instrument — the other key factor in the ’59’s star appeal.”

But Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards may be the one who truly made this guitar his own. When the band made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show on October 25, 1964, this gorgeous guitar was featured prominently. Over time, Richards used the LPS so often that it garnered the nickname “Keith burst.” It’s also prominently featured on the Stones’ second album and Richards used it continuously during the band’s second tour of the U.S. Perhaps most notably, he was actually the first big-name guitarist to use this guitar extensively, having bought it at Selmer’s Music Store in London in 1962. Richards used the guitar almost non-stop from 1964 through 1966 and it can be heard on Satisfaction and The Last Time.

Here’s the coolest thing about the 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard:

It features a stopbar tailpiece and a tune-o-matic bridge. With its six individually adjustable saddles and specialized allowance for height adjustment, this bridge allows for really fine-tuned intonation of each string. It also comes with PAF humbuckers, which excel at canceling out extraneous noise. Reverb notes that only 1700 of these guitars were made, meaning that these used Gibson Les Paul guitars don’t retail for pocket change. The price for these rare guitars begins at $231,534, according to Reverb.

And Keith Richards’ Gibson Les Paul Standard proved rather unusual, selling for one million at an auction in 2003.

2. The 1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop

Reverb reports the Gibson Les Paul Goldtop is one of the world’s most widely played guitars, and its heyday began in the latter half of the 1950s. Its first incarnation was the Les Paul in 1952, but then it went through a metamorphosis of sorts in 1957, when Gibson president Ted McCarty directed engineer Seth Lover to work on a tone circuit that had hum-canceling capabilities. This was the origin of the PAF (Patent Applied For) humbucker. Owning this guitar also requires a chunk of change, as it sells for $42,000 to $150,000,

The 1956 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop P90

If you’re a fan of both the Les Paul Goldtop and the P90 single coil pickup, you might prefer the 1956 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop. As Spinditty notes, that’s the last year the Les Paul Goldtop had a P90 single coil pickup. After that, Gibson shifted to the more advanced humbuckers. Yet Gibson models with the P90 single coil pickups are prized because they produce that twangy, bluesy tone that defined rock and roll as it emerged in the early 1950s.

An original 1956 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop P90 is out of most people’s reach at a stunning $25,000-$35,000. But at a more modest $6,899, Gibson’s 2016 historic reissue may be within reach for a determined saver. They’ve even hired engineers to ensure the materials, techniques, and specs used are exactly like the originals.

3. The 1957-1961 Gibson Les Paul Custom Ebony

This beauty sports a glossy black finish, gold-plated hardware, binding on its body, neck, and headstock, and features a third humbucker. The Gibson Les Paul Custom Ebony retails for more than $32,000. As Reverb explains, the Custom had some special features that elevated it above the standard version.

Cosmetically, it featured all black appointments and finish, gold-plated hardware, and a generous helping of white binding on the pickguard, fingerboard, and body. The Custom also included super low frets (hence the nickname, the Fretless Wonder), an inlayed deco decal on the headstock, and a Mahogany top where the standard used maple.

Searching for Used Gibson Les Paul Guitars? Here’s What to Look for

Believe it or not, but there are more than a few counterfeit used Gibson Les Paul guitars out there. While the company is making strides in fighting this, it can be difficult — even for professionals — to tell if a guitar is authentic or fake. There are actually a number of e-commerce sites in China that sell counterfeit guitars, especially in Beijing and Shanghai.

“That’s not to say that we don’t have domestic problems,” notes Ric Olsen, Director of Security and Loss Prevention at Gibson. “People will try to make up their own version of a Les Paul and start selling it, but the major battle is this China crisis.”

The counterfeit used Gibson Les Paul guitars is a scam that’s been running for some time, and a number of people have been fooled.

“There were victims who really had no idea what they were getting was fake,” Olsen said. “Until you actually plug the piece in or take the truss rod cover off and notice that there’s Teflon in there rather than the metal nut, it can be hard to tell to many consumers.”

You should also be wary of auction websites like eBay, and even Craigslist Chicago where there are hundreds of guitars that look like Gibsons, as well as other brands. Some of these fakes even sport trademark headstocks and logos. But when you play one, it soon becomes quite obvious they aren’t authentic.You may also find the serial number isn’t registered with Gibson. And in most cases, these guitars are of very poor quality.

Price can also be a dead giveaway. If the guitar itself is cheap, but the shipping fees are exorbitant, there’s a good chance you just found yourself a fake instrument.

With that in mind, Gibson has pointers on things you should look out for:

  • Examine the headstock and its logo to ensure that they match authentic Gibsons.
  • Make sure that the pearl is inlaid.
  • The logo and the model script should be in cursive.
  • The truss rod cover should not have three screws.
  • Wiring on the control and pickup cavities should not be sloppy.
  • The pickup cavity should not be painted black.
  • Check to make sure that the guitar comes with a Gibson Owner’s Manual and a Gibson Warranty Inspection card.
  • The wiring should not be plastic. If it is, then it’s not an authentic Gibson.
  • If you still aren’t sure, you can call Gibson customer service at 1-800-4GIBSON.

What to look for if you’re buying from a dealer:

Gibson recommends that you purchase your guitar through an authorized Gibson dealer. The company offers a limited lifetime warranty, and you’ll only receive this if you purchase through an authorized dealer. If you purchase through another company it means you’re buying the guitar second-hand — and that’s even if the instrument has never left its case. Instruments sold on auction sites are considered second-hand and no warranty is provided in these cases either.

How Do You Know if You’re Buying From An Authorized Gibson Dealer?

There are more than a few ways to find out. You can use the dealer locator to find the one that’s closest to you. If you plan to purchase over the internet, look for the Gibson Internet Authorized Retail icon. Dealers who don’t display this icon aren’t authorized, regardless of what they say.

If you follow these suggestions, you’ll have a better chance of owning the guitar of your dreams.

Here’s a video of Slash playing the Gibson of his dreams.


Featured image: CC By 2.0 Jason Reinhardt via Wikimedia Commons (cropped and resized).

Cynthia Swearingen

Your Signature

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