Guitar players, how do I buy a used Gibson Les Paul?

My son wants a Gibson Les Paul. I have no idea how to help him choose one. What are the good years? What to look for? Where to shop? Any other tips? Thanks.

There are many, many Les Paul models, at a wide range of price points. How much are you looking to spend?

…most of which are wildly, WILDLY overpriced. Go for an Epiphone Les Paul (still “made by” the Gibson company…just their lower-end models.) In truth, and Epi LP sounds just about as good as a Gibson, and it won’t eliminate your life savings.

As for good places to get one, try Ebay for used (although Gibsons still command a huge price there,) or for new, try,, or

For instance, compare the price of the Gibson LP Standard with the Epi LP Standard.

Now, it’s true that Gibson puts together a really nice guitar, and they use better pickups/electronics on the Gibbys, but the price difference is primarily in the name on the headstock. You could get an Epi, and completely replace all the pickups and electronics with top-of-the-line stuff and come out hundreds and hundreds of dollars ahead.

I’m not sure…probably $1,000 to $1500.

Oh, well shit. Go for a Gibson. :slight_smile: Are you also buying an amp?

Look here: Gibson Les Paul SmartWood Studio Electric Guitar (Muir Body, with Case)

or Gibson Les Paul Studio Electric Guitar | Musician's Friend



Of course, the Gibson is made with better wood, in the US, and doesn’t have the bolt-on neck that the Epi model has. Not that there is anything wrong with an Epi Les Paul, I have two. But there are a few more differences just in the way that it’s made.

Bolt-on? Which model is that? All the current Epi Lp models are set neck. I agree with Ogre. You could buy and upgrade an Epi, ending up with a better guitar than you would otherwise have got for the money you were willing to spend. While in the past the craftsmanship in an Epi left something to be desired, the modern far eastern factories are so good they often produce guitars better than those made in the States.

No easy way to answer this question - Gibson’s quality control is erratic and the quality varies all over the place. Two of the same model made right after one other can have very different tone and playability and overall build quality.

For the money you are willing to spend, you should try to get a Custom Historic - basically, Gibson makes its normal Les Paul lines - the Standard, the Classic, the Double Cuts, etc. - and those are their normal Toyotas. The Custom Historics are their “Lexus’s” - same basic chassis, but better parts and more hand-work construction. They recently changed the name of the C/H lines to V.O.S. - Vintage Original Spec’s - but they are the same basic product line.

You should be able to locate a used Goldtop - called an R7, because it is a Reissue of a 1957 Goldtop, not a Reissue of a sunburst 1958 or 1959, and has humbucking pickups instead of old-style single-coil P-90’s (which I love but aren’t the classic rock LP tone) of an R6 Goldtop 1956 style. Anyway, you should be able to locate a used R7 in the $1300 - $1500 price range by surfing the web - try eBay but really scrutinize the seller and ask them a ton of questions to see if they can answer knowledge-ably and come across as respectable or check out the gbase - the Gear Base, a place where dealers from all over list their stuff.

It is VERY smart to buy a quality guitar for your son as it will likely increase his ability to sound better sooner. Real Gibbies - especially a good C/H - are noticeably, obviously better than an Epiphone or regular Gibson…

Hope this helped,

WordMan - long time guitarist and Les Paul player.

Thanks for responses so far. Very helpful. One question that my son still has is about the years the Gibsons were made. He’s heard that there are good years and bad years. Is that true? And if so, what are the good years? Thanks.

In the early 1970’s, Gibson was owned by a corporation called Norlin. They moved from mahogany necks and 1 or 2-piece mahogany bodies (topped with a maple cap) to 3-piece maple necks and “sandwich” or “pancake” bodies made of 2 - 4 pieces of wood layered and laminated. These guitars are very heavy - over 10 lbs - and the quality is often poor. While they have their adherents, for the most part folks consider that a dark time for the Les Paul.

If you are looking at R7’s from the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s you should be fine. There are total geeks out there who compare the 2001 Custom Historic R9 vs. the 2003 Custom Historic R9 (they retail for about $3 - $4 grand, and can go much higher) as to how truly authentic they are, but that discussion is completely different than discussing the 70’s LP’s - in the geek case, they are discussing subtle updates like what knobs were used, etc.

Again, since C/H Goldtop R7s sell for much less than the R8 and R9 bursts, they should be a great way to go. One other key thing: weight. As mentioned, LP’s can vary in weight. Whereas in the 70’s it was considered good to have a guitar that weighed a lot, on the theory that mass = sustain, a check of the Golden-era 50’s LP’s showed that they tend to be lighter. Now there is a whole “cult of weight” where if the LP doesn’t weight about 9-ish pounds or lighter it must be bad. Bottom line - if it sounds good to you, it is good, regardless of weight. I will say that 9.5 pounds is the heaviest I will go simply due to comfort and depending on how old/big your son is, I suspect a lighter one would be better for him as well…

Oh and Plan B if you or your son want to email me, check my profile. I have invested a TON of time researching Les Pauls and currently own a couple and am targeting a third one. I have played for over 25 years as a semi-pro and been in a bunch of bands. I believe in giving back to folks who are trying to learn to pay back all the people that helped me over the years - I can’t imagine my life without guitar.

I realize that your son is probably dead set on a Gibson but you may want to study up on USA made Hamer guitars. They are similar in construction to Gibsons but much more affordable. Mine is a near copy of an older LP double cutaway and is a superb instrument, IMHO. Used ones typically sell way less than the Gibson equivalent.

They also have a cheaper import line but I have no experience with them.

You’re spending a grand on a guitar for your son? Would you have any interest in adopting? :slight_smile:

River Hippie has a point - there are a number of guitars that have the “mahogany body/maple cap” and a 24 3/4" scale + 2 humbuckers. The biggest issue there can be very big differences in the tone of the guitar based on construction, parts used, etc. A PRS guitar has a 25" scale and a thinner body - they can sound great, but have none of the punch of a Les Paul. If your boy knows what tone he wants you’d really need to check these out to ensure that a non-LP can deliver.

By the same token there are some replicas that are great but they require a lot of research to get them right. By this I mean, instead of a Hamer or Heritage that is based on an LP but has variations, these are typically Japanese or Korean-made guitars that are meant to truly replicate LP’s - some come close, some not so much. Brands like Tokai, Agile, Burny, Edwards, etc…see eBay for examples…

A word of warning about buying a used Les Paul: it might not be in very good condition if the previous owner’s intials were P.T.

FYI- I had to research an older Les Paul for a buddy, the serial numbers will give you a bunch of info.

There’s a bunch more info (.pdf format) here .