Is that a real Gibson Les Paul??

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How to spot a fake (counterfeit) Gibson Les Paul in 3 steps.

Around 2009 - 2011 a huge amount of guitars were coming out of China branded as "Gibson" guitars, particularly Les Paul models. All models seemed to be being made but especially popular were signature models or the supreme.
While these guitars are not awful they are NOT in any way associated with Gibson and are counterfeit like any other handbag, jeans label i.e. they're FAKE. The makers of these guitars were prosecuted and on the whole these fakes are not being produced now (2014) but are still being advertised on eBay as "genuine". Sometimes the seller is unknowing, sometimes the seller is deliberately trying to decieve. From my experience though most of these guitars are sold as "replicas" or copies and the seller will be honest and say the guitar is Chinese made.
Three easily distinguishable features of the Chinese fakes are:
Bridge: if the bridge adjustment has two flat head screws it's not the real thing. Gibson's use an "ABR-1" type bridge which has small posts and is adjustable via small thumbwheels. The fakes are similarly built to Epiphone copy standards which use the flat slotted bridge, common on nearly all Asian built copies.
Frets: The neck will almost always feature white binding. If the ends of the frets extend over the binding, it's fake. Gibson bound necks are unique in that the binding is shaped to actually be the end of the fret so the fret stops at the binding. Of course a genuine Gibson that has been refretted may have lost this feature but that is fairly uncommon especially on newer guitars which shouldn't have needed fret replacement.
"Serial number": All the fakes I've seen feature the same type of serial number and "Made in USA" stamped on the rear of the headstock. Gibson serial number are vague at best and entering a counterfeit's serial number in a database will probably return an actual date. Forget this, it means nothing. Gibson have varied how they apply serial numbers over the years and it can even change from model or even which factory it was made in. Gibson numbers can be a combination of stamped in the wood or inked on. In fact when most of these fakes were "supposed to be made in the USA" were years when serial number were inked on, not stamped into the wood.
In general: over the few years these fakes were being made the quaility and attention to detail improved vastly. The three above examples however never were directly "copied" because they are features that are time consuming, labour intensive and therefore expensive. The Chinese early on improved things like headstock shape, logo placement and later examples also had "two screw" truss rod covers which was the big sign of a fake early on. As guitars the quality varies greatly depending on which chinese factory they came from. Some are well made and good sounding guitars as many online video reviews will show. They are however, FAKE and COUNTERFEIT no matter how well they play or look and you will always be stuck with tainted goods. You'll have a lot of trouble selling it even as a copy because of it. The appeal of having a "fake Gibson" will soon vanish because you'll forever be having to answer the "is it a real one" question.
If you can't afford the real thing buy a name branded copy like an Epiphone. At least it is honest and will hold it's value with no "backstory". Even better is to find the guitar that's right for YOU, no matter what brand, shape or style it is. Forget price, forget name. The quality of even the cheapest guitars have improved massively over the last 10 years and you don't have to spend a lot to get a great playing and sounding guitar.


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