How to Buy a Gibson Les Paul

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How to Buy a Gibson Les Paul
In 1952, legendary guitar designer Ted McCarty and guitar player Les Paul put their heads together, and one of the pioneers of the electric guitar industry was born. After endorsement by Gibson, the Gibson Les Paul really began to take off. Since then, the Gibson Les Paul has pulled through a market failure and is currently in the full swing of a boom period once more. For those who have been considering purchasing a Gibson Les Paul guitar, this guide will provide a wealth of information to inform the interested buyer.

Choosing a Gibson Les Paul Guitar

The Gibson Les Paul is a solid-body electric guitar, meaning that it has no sound box like an acoustic guitar, and it relies almost entirely upon electronic pickups connected to an amplifier to produce sound. As with any electric guitar, it is important to do research into the type and quality of guitar required before committing to a purchase.


The colour of a guitar is an important aspect of its personality, and so getting it right takes some serious time and effort. There are a variety of colours available, namely: Alpine White, Chicago Blue, Desert Burst, Ebony, Goldtop, Heritage Cherry Sunburst, Honey Burst, Iced Tea, Light Burst, and Wine Red. With this vast choice, giving the guitar’s colour some serious consideration is a must.


Almost all Gibson Les Paul guitars are finished with the natural; a finish which has subsequently become associated with Gibson’s high-quality instruments. Many professional players and guitar makers alike have noticed the association between thick layers of paint and reduced sound quality. The thicker and tougher the coating applied to the guitar, the duller the sound. Many of the top guitar manufacturers have, therefore, veered towards the thinner and more natural finishes. While these finishes offer the guitar less protection against harsh conditions and inevitable bumps and scrapes, they emphasise and highlight the unique tones of the underlying wood, and help to make sure the guitar resonates as naturally as possible while still offering protection to the bare wood beneath.


The table below provides information about the main models of Gibson Les Paul guitars available. While only a fraction of the original Gibson Les Paul guitar models are still in production today, the others are still widely available through various second-hand dealerships both online and in shops. Some of these models, though, have seen something of a revival in recent years, with the multitudes of complaints from players lamenting the absence of some of their most-loved guitar models leading to their eventual return.






The Goldtop Gibson Les Paul guitar was the first to be manufactured, and it is considered by some as the prototypical guitar of the range, although the very early Goldtops did not have serial numbers and other now standard features of the brand. These guitars have a certain nostalgic appeal for players who fell in love with the Goldtops as soon as they were first made available. The Goldtop model is constructed of a relatively light mahogany body with a heavy maple overlay. Because of the variation between these early guitars, and the abandonment of their production by Gibson Les Paul, the Goldtops have become somewhat of a collector’s item in recent years.


1954-1961, 1968-ongoing

Referred to by some as the Black Beauty because of its black finish, the Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar consisted of a mahogany top to mark the contrast between this more expensive model and the classic Goldtop models. These guitars featured a multitude of improvements over the previous Goldtop models, including improved electronics and a revised switching mechanism. The Gibson Les Paul Custom was also the first of the Gibson Les Paul guitars to feature three pickups instead of the standard two.



Marketed as an inexpensive Gibson guitar for students and beginners, the Gibson Les Paul Junior featured just one electronic pickup, simple controls and a basic finish. The Gibson Les Paul TV model was created in 1955 to combat the increasingly prevalent problem of the glare on the black and white TV sets of the day. The Les Paul TV was a modified Junior, consisting of the same overall design, but with a yellow finish as opposed to a black one.



Despite some initial issues with the strength of the neck on the Gibson Les Paul Special guitar model, a hasty redesign was necessary to add greater stability and strength to the model, so care must be exercised when buying very early versions from this range. Guitars from the Special range are finished with a yellow natural coating similar to that of the TV guitars described previously.


1958-1960, 1960-ongoing

The standard Gibson Les Paul guitars were designed with the older Goldtop body in mind, demonstrated by the high degree of similarity between these two models. The biggest difference between the two models is the finish; the standard Goldtop finish was replaced by the sunburst finish displayed by several other Gibson guitar models of the time. The 2008 Standard guitar included several important modifications to the neck of the guitar, and the pickups and electronics were completely overhauled for the release of the 2012 model.

Les Paul SG


The Les Paul SG (Solid Guitar) was created as a cheap alternative to previous Les Paul models, and was thinner and lighter than any of the previous guitars in the range. This new model, though, had a plethora of flaws associated with its design, and Les Paul asked Gibson to remove his name from future guitars of this model until these issues were resolved, although, due to a stock surplus, Les Paul’s name was not removed until a few years after the request.

There are a multitude of other models available in addition to those described above, so thorough and in-depth research on exactly what is available is required before purchasing a Gibson Les Paul guitar.

Buying Gibson Les Paul Guitars On eBay

Upon visiting, a search for ‘Gibson Les Paul’ yields a broad selection of results. Opening the Musical Instruments category from the eBay homepage leads to a list of musical instrument sub-categories. These categories can be further subdivided by clicking Electric under the Guitars heading. Searching for Gibson Les Paul under the electric guitars heading generates several hundred hits, but even this list can be filtered further by clicking Gibson on the left side of the page, then clicking Les Paul. The more specific list now displayed includes around 200 guitars. Enthusiastic buyers may be happy to trawl through this list of results to find the best deal, but many will not want this hassle. This is where eBay’s powerful search tool enters the scene. Typing ‘TV’, for instance, into the search bar located just above the results list searches the eBay product list while still restricting the results based on the filters already applied. This versatile feature allows very specific narrowing of the results, as the search for ‘TV’ demonstrates, yielding only a few results filtered from pages containing thousands.


Having a look around second-hand dealerships is often the best way to get exactly what is required, and is sometimes the only way to pick up some of the rarer Gibson Les Pauls. For those interested in the gorgeous Gibson Les Paul line of guitars, this guide should provide a great point to start research into the subject, thus providing the grounding for further in-depth research into finding the best guitar to suit any player. It’s important to have a look around different websites and retailers to get the best price on a Gibson Les Paul guitar, since these instruments are often a huge investment. With any luck, though, it won’t to be too difficult to find just the perfect guitar, and in the process acquire a great addition to any musical instrument collection.

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