Vintage Les Paul

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"If you happen to be looking for one, whether new or old, there are numerous choices available, but if you're keen on getting a vintage guitar, there are a few things that you should keep an eye out for in order to ensure its authenticity and value. This is also helpful for those who are looking to invest in a vintage model. However, determining the age does take some investigative work and know-how in order to do so accurately."



Despite its already long and popular history, the Gibson Les Paul is a guitar that many musicians, collectors and music-lovers alike are well aware of and gravitate to, often appreciating its unique and classic sound. It has been widely-used since its earliest model came out in the 1950s, often being the preferred choice of famous artists such as John Lennon, Jimmy Page, Alex Lifeson, Duane Allman, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Buck Dharma of The Blue Oyster Cult, Peter Frampton, John Fogerty, Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townshend, David Gilmour, Neil Young, Carlos Santana, Muddy Waters, Joe Walsh, Paul McCartney, Keith Richards and numerous others.

The guitar still continues to run strong amongst even more modern day artists, carrying on its rich history and long-lived popularity. Such artists often include the Foo Fighters, Green Day, Sheryl Crow, the Edge of U2, Metallica, the Sex Pistols, Slash, Lenny Kravitz, System of a Down and Aerosmith. Even today, models are continuously being designed by well-known guitarists, just as with Les Paul himself.

The Les Paul is an electric, solid-body guitar that was originally designed by Ted McCarty, who collaborated with the famous guitarist, Les Paul, in its overall design. The late Les Paul was not only an icon pop and country star, but also a seasoned jazz guitarist and inventor, and helped in consulting Gibson Guitar Company with the design of a guitar model that would compete against other guitars on the market at the time, like the Fender Telecaster.

Les Paul originally went to Gibson with his own guitar prototype, known as The Log prototype, but it was rejected. The same rejection later turned into a collaboration between Gibson and Les Paul, with the understanding that his endorsed model would be a well-crafted and high-end one offered by the company. While his actual contributions to the design are debated by many, even to this day, two contributions made by him were in regards to the colors and the trapeze-type tailpiece. He felt that gold felt more expensive-looking, while black gave the appearance of one's fingers moving quickly and the color, itself, appeared as classy.

There are several different variations and model to the guitar itself, being something that has grown over time and with the guitar's overall popularity. It started off, however, with only two different models, which were the regular, or Goldtop, and the Custom model. The difference being that the Custom version offered an upgrade in hardware and a formal-looking black finish. Later on, changes in the body, hardware and pickups allowed for varying designs that would various price ranges and skill levels, from novice users to the highly-advanced.

In 1954, the second issue of the guitar was the Custom model, which was entirely black and thus dubbed the Black Beauty. It featured a mahogany top versus the Goldtop's maple, as well as Tune-o-Matic bridge and a pickup with an alnico-5 magnet in the neck position. Later on it became fitted with new humbucker pickups, which later went from the usual two pickups to three. However, standard modifications became common in order to switch the combination and add a switch to allow for middle pickup on its own, since earlier changes altered the bridge and middle pickups.

Aside from the Goldtop and the Custom models, in later years, Gibson introduced the Gibson Les Paul Junior, which was target at beginner guitarists. However, it was later determined that the model was also suitable for professionals as well. The TV model was introduced, featuring the telltale mustard-colored, or natural, finish in order to reduce the glare that white finishes often gave on black and white television, being somewhat similar to Fender's butterscotch hue. The Special, SG (Solid Guitar), Standard, Deluxe, Studio came along not too long after. Even to this day, variations on the models themselves are still commonly seen, often endorsed by numerous celebrities.


How to Spot the Age of a Les Paul


If you happen to be looking for one, whether new or old, there are numerous choices available, but if you're keen on getting a vintage guitar, there are a few things that you should keep an eye out for in order to ensure its authenticity and value. This is also helpful for those who are looking to invest in a vintage model. However, determining the age does take some investigative work and know-how in order to do so accurately.

One of the first steps in determining the guitar's age is by looking for what is known as the ink stamp, which is located on the headstock of guitars that were manufactured after 1953. At the start of 1953, these stamps featured a 3-digit serial number at the top, which later in the year turned into a 5-digit or 6-digit number until 1961 - then located on the back of the headstock, with the first two digits representing the year and the following digits representing the production number.

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Anything earlier than 1953 likely lacked having a serial number. This may also be the case for guitars that were made between 1961 and 1969. In cases where 1961 through 1969 models have serial number that is missing, you can try to find a number that is actually branded into the wood, rather than inked on. However, since these specific later models had no specific referencing, unlike models made from 1953 to 1961, it is advised to reference the number for specific years between this time frame, which you can often find numerous lists and resources for, both on and offline.

In some cases of guitars made before 1961, you may also be able to locate a second number known as a Factor Order Number, or FON. This is represented by a letter that is significant to the year, followed by 4-digit number and then a 1 or 2-digit number. In any event, FON numbers may be able to help you to narrow down at least the year that the guitar was made.

Between 1970 to 1975, black labels were used to show the serial numbers, located on the back of the headstock, which may also help you in determining the year. You may also be able to locate list which state specific years that said labels changed in later years such as numbers increasing to eight digits during 1976 through 1977, often starting off with "99" during 1975, "00" throughout 1976, and "06" during 1977. Often times anything with eight digits is easier to research dates on.

Regardless of which vintage Gibson Les Paul guitar you choose, you'll find that determining the age and value of the guitar itself will be much easier by doing research and being prepared. Again, there are numerous lists, resources and tutorials to help you gain clues and insight on signs to check for, whether it's regarding labels, branding, color, neck styles and so forth.





Vintage Gibson Les Paul







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