Vintage Guitars Info's
Gibson Solid Body Model Descriptions.

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1952 Les Paul Model (Goldtop) in "all gold"
(usually the back and sides are finished natural brown,
not gold). The "all gold" paint option was probably
special order, and is seen on about 5% of all 1952 to 1957
gold tops. Note the ugly green wear that the all gold
models get on the back of the neck. Because of
this, many collectors avoid "all gold" Les Pauls.
Also note the "trapeze" tailpiece used on 1952 and
early 1953 Les Pauls.

Les Paul (standard) Model Electric Solidbody
Available: 1952 to present
Collectibility Rating: 1952-1953: C, 1953-1955: B, 1955-1957 p90: A-, 1957-1958 goldtop: A, 1958-1960 sunburst: A+, 1961: C-, 1962-1964: C, 1968: B, 1971: D.

The 1952 and early 1953 goldtop models are fairly useless (as a player) because of a shallow neckset, and a badly designed trapeze tailpiece (they have some collector appeal though, as Gibson's first Les Paul generation). The trapeze tailpiece had two problems: first, the strings wrapped *under* the bar, not allowing the player to "mute" the strings with the palm of the hand. The second problem was if the trapeze was knocked from the side, the whole guitar could go out of tune. The neck angle is also very shallow on the trapeze models, so the strings could not be looped over the top of the LP tailpiece. Also converting to a 1953 style stop-bar or a tunematic was often impossible again because of the neck angle. Because of the funky Les Paul tailpiece on 1952 and early 1953 models, these version of the Les Paul Standard is generally looked down on by players.

Because of these problems, by early 1953 the "wrap around bar" tailpiece/bridge combo was adopted by Gibson. This rectified the playability problem (the strings wrap on *top* of the tailpiece, allowing palm mutes), and these models are quite nice (though many players complain because they can not be intonated accurately). The early 1953 wrap-around models still had a shallow neck angle, limiting the downward adjustment of the stop bar. But as 1954 approached, the neck angle increased allowing more adjustment.

By fall 1955, the tuneamatic bridge and stop tailpiece was adopted (solving the intonation complaint), making the Les Paul Goldtop a big winner. The combination of P-90 pickups and a tunematic/stop tailpiece is considered by most Les Paul players as a great setup. Hence the late 1955 to early 1957 Les Paul Standard Goldtop is regarded as a very usable and versatile guitar.

In early-1957, Gibson changed from P-90 single coil pickups to their new humbucking pickups, making the Les Paul Standard what it is today (one of the most popular electric guitars of all time). The humbucker goldtop is an amazing model and one I would love to find (please email me if you have one for sale!)

The final change to the Les Paul was in 1958, which was largely a visual change. The finish was changed from a "goldtop" to a sunburst. Also the back of the guitar was changed from a brown to a cherry red color. Mid-1958 to 1960 "sunburst" Les Paul Standards are consider to be one of the most attractive electric guitars ever produced (even though they are identical to the mid-1957 goldtop model, except for the finish).

In late 1960, the double cutaway SG body style Les Paul came about, with the sideways vibrato and thin neck backshape. These guitars are pretty useless for the player (and hence are not very collectible), because of the sideway vibrato and very thin neck shape. The 1963 to 1964 SG Les Pauls are much better, as the sideways vibrato is gone, the neck increased in size, and the neck mounting tenon is larger (giving a more stable neck joint).

    1952 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop Model introduction specs:
    multiple piece carved maple top (not "center seamed", two or three pieces), single cutaway, mahogany back and neck, single ply cream binding on the neck and top (binding is consistent in width and depth along the body's top, even in the cutaway area), two soapbar P-90 pickups with cream covers, trapeze tailpiece/bridge combo with the string looping under the bridge, single bound top and fingerboard, cream color plastic parts, dark brown back plastic covers, tall gold barrel-shaped knobs, trapezoid fingerboard inlays, pearl logo, "Les Paul Model" silkscreened on peghead in gold, no serial number, nickel plated parts, Goldtop finish, brown back and neck finish (some with gold back/sides), single-ring keystone Kluson tuners with no "Kluson" name on the gear cover. Very early models had no neck binding and the two pickup mounting screws were positioned diagonially on the pickup's corners (instead of being mounted in a line with the string pole screws). Also early 1952 models may not have a "rhythm/treble" toggle switch plate. The standard case for this model was a brown hardshell case with a pink lining. The top of the case was flat and had four latches.

    1953 to Early 1955 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop Model specs:
    serial number on back of peghead, stud wrap-around tailpiece/bridge with strings looping over bridge (the trapeze tailpiece/bridge is abandoned). The conversion from trapeze tailpiece to wrap-around on the 1953 Les Paul started at earliest around serial number "3 13xx" (so early 1953 models still use the older trapeze tailpiece). Neck set increased to compensate for the new tailpiece in early 1953, but as 1954 approach the neck set increased slightly. This allowed for greatly downward adjustment of the stopbar bridge. The gold barrel-shaped knobs on 1953 stopbar Les Pauls are shorter than the knobs used on the earlier trapeze models. In 1954 the case for the Les Paul Standard now had a curved top, echoing the carved maple top of the guitar. Note there were a handful of 1954 Goldtops made with the serial number starting with "7". This is confusing as the "7" would otherwise mean 1957 (and a 1957 Goldtop would have a Tunematic bridge). This was no doubt a mistake by Gibson, and the pot source/code can be checked to verify the correct year. I would estimate less than ten of these 1954 Goldtops with a 1957 serial number exist. The rear control route was change in 1953 around serial number "3 2000". This trapeze tailpiece ground channel route was discontinued. This route was used for the ground wire running to the claw of the trapeze tailpiece.

1956 Gibson Les Paul Standard goldtop.

    Fall 1955 to Early 1957 Gibson Les Paul Model Goldtop specs:
    Tune-o-matic bridge added (with "ABR-1" on the bottom side of the bridge and no wire to hold the saddles in place), stud tailpiece moved back to anchor strings (stop tailpiece). This happened around serial number "510xxx". The "Gibson" peghead logo moved further from the top edge of the peghead (some 1954 models also seen with this feature). Tuners now had "Kluson Deluxe" stamped in the gear cover in a vertical line. The four knobs change from a barrel shape to a top-hat ("bonnet") shape in 1955. The tone capacitors for (all) Les Paul models changed in late 1955. Prior to this they used a brown waxy looking tubular Sprague capacitor called the Sprague "grey tiger". But by 1956 this changed to Sprague's "bumble bee" tube cap, which was black with colored value stripes (in the 1968 the same capacitor was again used on the single cutaway Les Paul standard reissues, but Sprague has changed the marketing name of the capacitor to "Black Beauty"). The Bumblebee caps were used from 1956 until 1960 for all pre-SG Les Paul models (Juniors, Specials, Standards, Customs).

    1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop Model specs:
    Some 1957 and 1958 Les Paul goldtops are seen with dark brown backs. These "dark backs" are easy to identify by the serial number, which is ink stamped with yellow ink (instead of black ink, as used on the light color backed goldtops). Also darkback Les Pauls will have black control cavity plates (as used on the Les Paul Custom) instead of brown plates. Humbucking PAF pickups replace P-90 pickups around serial number "7 2000" to "7 3800" range (latest 1957 goldtop documented with P-90s is serial number "7 38xx", and the earliest is a leftie PAF goldtop "7 13xx"). During this period there was definately overlaps of Goldtops with either P90 or PAF pickups. First few months of humbucker pickup production used brushed stainless steel pickup covers (instead of nickel plated covers) with no PAF stickers. Resistance of the new pickups ranged from 7.0k ohms to 8.9k ohms. The first month of humbucker Les Paul goldtop production used black plastic parts (pickguard, pickup rings, switch surround), with black parts ending by about serial number "7 32xx". All black plastic 1957 Les Paul Goldtops should have a dark back (if it doesn't, chances are someone stole the cream parts and replaced them with black parts). Within a month or two, PAF goldtops changed to cream plastic parts (cream part PAF goldtops not seen before serial number "7 3000"). Generally speaking black plastic part 1957 Les Paul goldtops are worth less than cream part 1957 goldtops though. The black and cream plastic humbucker pickup mounting rings had "M-69" as part of the molding, on the bottom side between the height adjustment screw and mounting screw. Also the plastic humbucker rings had four "screw tunnels" for each mounting screw (but not for the two pickup height adjustment screws). Though the M-69 pickup surrounds were used until about 1970 (in black, when they were replaced by the M-8 pickup rings with no screw tunnels), Gibson did not use cream colored M-69 pickup rings any later than 1960. That's why there's such a big deal about original cream-colored 1950s Les Paul pickup rings, because original M-69s in cream were unavailable after 1960. Though these seems like minor details, original plastic parts are important to these guitars. Also the "Gibson" peghead logo moved closer to the top edge of the peghead (as positioned on all other Gibson models) in later 1957 (1957 PAF Goldtops can have either the low or higher position "Gibson" peghead logo). Also seen in 1957 are goldtops with a single one piece body of mahogany and no maple cap. These mahogany topped goldtops are rare (the mahogany top can be seen thru the pickup cavity route).

One of the "first" Sunburst Les Pauls! With a serial number of
"8 3322", this is one of the earliest documented 1958 Sunburst Les Pauls.
This is the only original non-center seamed 1958 to 1960 Sunburst
Les Paul known to exist. Note this guitar also had a "horseshoe"
Bigsby vibrato at one time. The earliest documented 1958 sunburst Les Paul
is serial number "8 3096". Picture by Joe.

    1958 Gibson Les Paul Sunburst model specs:
    Model name changed from "Les Paul Model" to "Les Paul Standard". Sunburst finish replaces Goldtop finish in the fall of 1958, around serial numbers in the "8 5300" range (though the first known Sunburst Les Paul has serial number "8 3322"). The maple top on a 1958 to 1960 Sunburst Les Paul is always two pieces and "center seamed" (there is NO exception to this rule, except for one of the first 1958 sunburst Les Pauls with serial number "8 3322"; if a Sunburst Les Paul does not have a two piece center seamed maple top, it is a refinished Goldtop!) Sunburst Les Pauls have a cherry red back, and black serial numbers. The color of most 1958 sunburst Les Pauls is more "red" than later 1959 models. Some (about 15%) Sunburst Les Pauls have very nice "flame" or "tiger stripped" maple tops. About as many as 15% of all 1958 to 1960 sunburst Les Paul Standards came from the factory with a Bigsby B-7 vibrato tailpiece (unfortunately a Bigsby sunburst Les Paul is worth less than an original stop tailpiece model). Most 1958 Sunburst Les Pauls came with a brown "california girl" case with a pink lining and four case latches. But by the end of 1958 the cases changed slightly to have five latches, and this 5-latch brown case is known as the defacto-standard Sunburst Les Paul case.

    1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard specs:
    Frets increase in width in the serial number range "9 0300" to "9 06xx". For example, low "9 0300" range serial number Les Paul sunbursts have been seen with original large frets. Yet some low "9 06xx" range serial number sunbursts have been seen with original small frets. In mid-1959 the jack plate changed. From 1952 to 1959 the jack plate had rounded corners. By mid-1959 this changed to more squared corners (a small detail but worth mentioning). Also around the 9 06xx period the Rhytm/Treble ring plastic switch plate changed too, becoming thinner and the font slightly different than the earlier 1953 to 1959 style. In regards to the color of the sunburst on 1959 Les Pauls, the red especially is extremely photo reactive. This means the red in the finish fades quite easily (typically fades more than the 1958 models and mid to late 1960 models). The color can completely disappear to a "honey color" or even to a yellowish green hue, with no hint of the guitar ever being cherry sunburst (unless the pickguard is removed, exposing that area of the guitar's top that is not readily exposed to light). Interestingly, a few 1959 Les Pauls have a "tobacco" sunburst finish (this color is not as desirable as the regular 1959 sunburst finish, and can have either a red or brown back). Neck dimensions of the 1959 Les Paul are considered by most as "perfect"; slightly less clubby than the 1958 models, but still "big". Also around serial number "9 06xx" another very subtle change happened; the plastic humbucker pickup bobbins changed from black to a white color. Not all pickups had this coloring, and some pickups were "zebra" (one bobbin white, one black, with the black bobbin *always* being the bobbin with the adjustable poles). This change is really subtle, as the color of the pickup bobbins can not be seen unless the pickup covers are removed (or the bobbin mounting screws are removed from the back side of the pickup). By serial number "9 1000", most 1959 Les Paul will have at least one pickup with white bobbin(s). Note sunburst Les Paul serial numbers seem to stop around "9 25xx" in 1959.

    1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard specs:
    Early 1960 sunburst Les Pauls are identical to their 1959 cousins, but change was coming. By around serial numbers in the "0 0700" range, the neck contour starts to have a slightly thinner back shape (though this change didn't take full affect until later in the year). Around serial numbers in the "0 2200" range, the sunburst finish changed too. The easily faded 1959 cherry red sunburst morphed to a "tomato soup" red sunburst, which was much less sensitive to sun fading. The change to the tomato soup red sunburst was not fully made until around serial numbers in the "0 7xxx" range. By this time, all 1960 sunburst Les Pauls have the tomato soup finish. Also at the same time, "reflector" knobs (those with metal top caps) replace the "bonnet" knobs (those with clear tops) around serial number "0 7xxx". Finally, white bobbin humbucker pickups also ended about this time. The tuner keystone buttons has changed in 1960 to have two rings. Very late 1960 sunburst Les Pauls have a wider peghead too (as used on the double cutaway SG/Les Paul). The last 1960 sunburst Les Paul serial number known is "011495" (another late 1960 Gibson Sunburst Les Paul is "010838"). Sunburst Les Pauls with a tomato soup finish, reflector knobs, and a thin neck shape are not nearly as desirable as their 1958 to early 1960 cousins.

    1961 Gibson Les Paul SG Standard specs:
    complete body style change to symmetrical pointed double cutaways, thin mahogany body with beveled edges, cherry red finish (refered to as the "SG" body style). Still says "Les Paul" on the peghead and/or truss rod cover, but is often called a "SG/Les Paul Standard" because of the SG body shape. Peghead slightly wider. This model actually started in very late 1960, at about serial number "010001" (and was co-produced with the single cutaway sunburst Les Paul). All 1960/1961 SG Standards seem to be equipped with the infamous (crappy) "sideways" vibrato.

    Gibson Les Paul Standard discontinued 1963 in name only (now called SG Standard), see below.

1968 Gibson Les Paul Standard goldtop.

    1968 Gibson Les Paul Standard Goldtop Re-introduction specs:
    1st reissue of the 1956 style Les Paul Standard with single cutaway mahogany body with a maple top, goldtop finish, tuneamatic bridge, small (narrow width 1950's style) peghead, P-90 pickups. Note the binding in the cutaway gets wider than it's 1950's counterpart, completely covering the maple top (unlike the 1950s binding which shows a slice of the maple top in the cutaway below the binding). Also the serial number is stamped into the wood at the back of the peghead, all metal parts are chrome (not nickel), and the gold knobs have metal inserts in the tops with "volume" and "tone" printed on them. The neck also has a 14 degree peghead pitch instead of 17 degrees, and Indian rosewood instead of Brazilian. Other than that, 1968 goldtops look and are constructed just like 1956 LP goldtops (except the weight of these guitars tends to be much heavier than the 1956 models). Most 1968 Les Pauls use Sprague "black beauty" tone capacitors, but also some use the SG-era brown disc capacitors. The control cavity route in 1968 is different too, as it was routed all the way thru the mahogany body *before* the maple top was glued on. The neck tenion (the part of the neck's tongue seen in the neck pickup route) is long.

    Early 1969 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop Standard specs:
    peghead get wider and uglier to match the Les Paul Custom's headstock. Only a handful of January 1969 Les Paul Stanards had the earlier 1968 style narrow peghead. Starting in February 1969 the control cavity was routed like 1950s guitars with the maple top glued in place. This can be seen because the maple has a slightly routed step, where on January 1969 and 1968 Les Pauls the maple has absolutely no routing marks. Also the "cross banded" (pancake) 3-piece Les Paul body started in early 1969, with a thin layer of maple sandwiched between the mahogany body back. The first generation of the pancake body had this thin maple pancake close to the top of the body. By mid-1969 the maple pancake layer moved to the dead middle of the mahogany portion of the Les Paul body. Also the dot in the "Gibson" peghead logo seems to largely disappear on 1969 Les Pauls. The neck tenion is now shorter than the 1968 style neck tenion.

    Mid 1969 Gibson Les Paul Standard specs:
    Renamed Les Paul Deluxe. Beneath serial number say "made in USA" and has a "volute" on the back of the neck in the nut area (a vulute is a ski-jump like bump on the back of the neck). Also the neck is a laminate of three pieces of mahagony instead of a 1-piece neck.

    1971 Les Paul Standard specs:
    reissue of the 1954 Les Paul Standard with 2 P-90 pickups with "gibson" on the covers, stud wrap around tailpiece, 1-piece neck with no volute, gold top finish. Discontinued in 1973.

    1976 Les Paul Standard specs:
    Four piece pancake body (maple top, thicker mahogany layer, thin maple layer, thicker mahogany layer), 2 standard humbuckers pickups, 3 piece maple top, tuneomatic bridge, "Standard" on truss rod cover, cherry sunburst, wine red, natural or tobacco sunburst top finish.

    1978 Les Paul Standard specs:
    2 piece body with maple top, also available with goldtop finish.

    Les Paul Standard still in production today in several different variations. If you have a 1952 to 1960 Les Paul Standard for sale please contact me!

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1971 Les Paul Deluxe.
Note the small humbucking
pickups used on this model.

Les Paul Deluxe Model Electric Solidbody
Available: 1969 to 1985
Collectibility Rating: D-.
The final degeneration of the Les Paul Standard model. Early verions of the Deluxe can be decent guitars, but for the most part they are victims of the 1970's era (larger peghead, volute, bad pickups, inferior woods, etc).

    mid 1969 Les Paul Deluxe specs:
    Les Paul Standard is renamed "Les Paul Deluxe". Four piece pancake body (maple top, thicker mahogany layer, thin maple layer, thicker mahogany layer), 2 mini-humbuckers pickups (though some produced with P-90's), 3 piece neck, goldtop finish, pantograph logo.
    1971 Les Paul Deluxe specs:
    Cherry sunburst and Cherry Red finishes
    1972 Les Paul Deluxe specs:
    Tobacco sunburst available till 1979, Walnut finishes available till 1972. Also available with full size humbucker pickups till 1976 when the Les Paul Standard was re-introduced with the larger humbucker pickups.
    1975 Les Paul Deluxe specs:
    Natural and Wine Red top finish available.
    1977 Les Paul Deluxe specs:
    two piece body standard (pancake body dropped).
    1985 Les Paul Deluxe dropped.

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1958 Les Paul Custom with stop tailpiece.

Les Paul Custom Electric Solidbody
Available: 1954 to present
Collectibility Rating: 1954-1957: C, 1957-1960: C+, 1961-1963: C-.
Even though the Les Paul Custom was the top-of-the-line Les Paul model, it has far less value today than it's cheaper cousin, the Les Paul Standard. Players feel the additional pickup, inlays, body binding, and gold plating makes the guitar "more show than go".

    1954 Les Paul Custom introduction specs:
    carved mahogany top, single cutaway, mahogany back and neck, one black P-90 pickup in bridge position, one Alnico V pickup in neck position, both pickups have black covers, Tune-o-matic bridge, stop tailpiece (Bigsby vibrato optional), multiple bound top and back, single bound ebony fingerboard and peghead, block fingerboard inlays, pearl logo, 5-piece diamond peghead inlay, low "fretless wonder" frets, gold plated parts, black finish, early examples have no serial number. Later 1954 models have yellow "inked on" serial numbers.
    mid 1957 Les Paul Custom specs:
    3 Humbucking pickups replace 2 single coil pickups.
    1959 Les Paul Custom specs:
    Grover rotomatic tuners.
    1961 Les Paul Custom specs:
    complete body style change to symmetrical pointed double cutaways, thin mahogany body with beveled edges, white finish (refered to as the "SG" body style).
    Les Paul Custom discontinued 1963 in name only (now called SG Custom).

    1968 Les Paul Custom specs:
    In 1968, single cutaway model resumes again with black finish, two Humbucking pickups, 14 degree peghead pitch (instead of 17 degrees), "amp" style volume/tone knobs, wide peghead, and a maple top (the custom generally did not have a maple top in the 1950s). The neck tenion (the part of the neck's tongue seen in the neck pickup route) is long. The control cavity route in 1968 is different too, as it was routed all the way thru the mahogany body *before* the maple top was glued on.
    Early 1969 Les Paul Custom specs:
    Starting in February 1969 the control cavity was routed like 1950s guitars with the maple top glued in place. This can be seen because the maple is slightly routed with a step, where on January 1969 and 1968 Les Pauls the maple has absolutely no routing marks. Starting in February 1969 the control cavity was routed like 1950s guitars with the maple top glued in place. This can be seen because the maple is slightly routed, where on January 1969 and 1968 Les Pauls the maple has absolutely no routing marks. Also the "cross banded" (pancake) 3-piece Les Paul body started in early 1969, with a thin layer of maple sandwiched between the mahogany body back. The first generation of the pancake body had this thin maple pancake close to the top of the body. By mid-1969 the maple pancake layer moved to the dead middle of the mahogany portion of the Les Paul body. Also the dot in the "Gibson" peghead logo seems to largely disappear on 1969 Les Pauls.
    Mid 1969 Les Paul Custom specs:
    Beneath serial number say "made in USA" and has a "volute" on the back of the neck in the nut area (a vulute is a ski-jump like bump on the back of the neck). The neck is also laminated with 3-pieces of maple.

    Still in production today in several different variations.

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1956 Les Paul Junior
1956 L.P. junior

    Les Paul Junior Electric Solidbody
    Available: 1954 to present
    Collectibility Rating: 1954-1960: B, 1961-1963: C-.
    Originally sold as Gibson's least expensive, single pickup, student solidbody model (it was replaced as the least expensive solidbody Gibson in 1959 by the Melody Maker). Also 3/4 scale versions of the LP Junior were made by special order in the 1950s, but are fairly rare (rarity is a good thing in this case, as 3/4 scale Les Paul Juniors are not very desirable due to their smaller size; also the body of the 3/4 scale Juniors is usually made of Maple, not Mahogany).

    1954 Les Paul Junior introduction specs:
    Mahogany single cutaway slab body, 1 soapbar P-90 pickup with black cover, stud tailpiece/bridge combo with the string looping over the bridge, dot fingerboard inlays, 24.75" scale, single ply black pickguard, gold logo, "Les Paul Junior" silkscreened on peghead in gold, nickel plated parts, 2 color yellow to brown sunburst finish, brown back and neck finish. Pickup location very close to the bridge. Short threaded bridge post inserts which often lean forward and can even crack the wood between the bridge posts and the pickup, yellow "ink stamp" serial number on a dark brown back.

    1956 Les Paul Junior specs:
    Threaded post inserts which are sunk into the for the wrap-around tailpiece increased in length. This modification stops the posts from leaning forward. This was a common problem on 1954 and 1955 Les Paul Juniors, and often cracked the wood between the posts and the pickup. Also the pickup was moved slightly towards the neck to allow more wood between the pickup route and the bridge posts. This happened in early 1956.

Left: Early 1958 Junior with bigger tortoise pickguard.
Right: later 1958 Junior with black "normal sized" pickguard.
Picture by Ian.

    Mid 1958 Gibson "Les Paul SG" Junior guitar specs:
    body style change to symmetrical rounded double cutaways, thick slab mahogany body, cherry red finish around serial number "8 49xx" (but note that single cutaway Junior have been seen as late as 1959). The peghead still says "Les Paul Junior", but often this body style is referred to as the "Les Paul SG" body style. The first few batches of 1958 and early 1959 double cutaway Les Paul Juniors had a noticably sharper body edge, like the edge on the single cutaway Junior. By early 1959 the edge became more rounded. Also in late 1958 there were some 4-digit serial number Juniors and Specials (all with 6000 to 7000 serial numbers like 6264 and 7234, with no "8" or "9" as the leading digit). All the 4-digit serial number Juniors and Specials seem to have the more square-edged body style. With the double cut body style the pickguard changes to single ply tortoise, but either a black pickguard or a tortoise pickguard can be seen until late 1959/early 1960. The serial number color changed from a yellow inkstamp to a black inkstamp on the cherry red models, but some early 1958 cherry Juniors still had a yellow serial number. Again some early 1958 cherry Juniors have a slightly different pickguard shape with the bass-side of the pickguard going up the cutaway horn slightly (instead of being rounded). The Les Paul TV Model also changed to a double cutaway format by mid-1958.

    1961 Les Paul (also known as "SG") Junior specs:
    body style change to symmetrical pointed double cutaways, thin mahogany body with beveled edges, cherry red finish, vibrato optional. The peghead still says "Les Paul", but often this body style is refered to as the "SG" body style. Even though it still says "Les Paul" on the peghead, I personally call this a "SG Junior".

    Les Paul Junior discontinued 1963 in name only (now called SG Junior with no Les Paul designation on the peghead). Still in production today as "Les Paul Junior" in several different variations. Usually comes with a cardboard "aligator" case (the last usage of these aligator cases was around 1964, after that the cases are black).
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Left: 1955 Les Paul TV 3/4 scale, maple body.
Right: 1957 Les Paul TV full scale, mahogany body.

    Les Paul TV Model Electric Solidbody
    Available: 1954 to present
    Collectibility Rating: 1954-1955 (3/4 and/or maple): C+, 1956-1960 (mahogany full scale): B+, 1961-1963: C.
    The "TV" model is essentially a Les Paul Junior with a yellowish/beige translucent finish. Allegedly, this model was created because on a black and white TV screen, the Les Paul Junior model in sunburst looked very dark and difficult to see. The lightness of the TV finish made the guitar stand out on the screen. This model follows the same basic specs as the Les Paul Junior model; only the color and peghead designation is different. Was still sold as basically a single pickup student model guitar. The except to this rule are 1954 and most 1955 model Les Paul TVs. For the first year or so of production, the Les Paul TV model was 3/4 scale and used a *maple* body. By 1955 the model changed to full scale but still retained the maple body. By 1956 the body was mahogany and full scale. The late 1955 full scale mahogany version is the most desirable as the sound is much fuller with a long scale and mahogany body.

    1954 Les Paul TV model introduction specs:
    *Maple* single cutaway slab body, 3/4 scale, mahogany neck meets body at 14th fret, 1 soapbar P-90 pickup with black cover, gold "barrel" knobs, single ply black pickguard, stud tailpiece/bridge combo with the string looping over the bridge, dot fingerboard inlays, gold logo, "Les Paul TV model" silkscreened on peghead in gold, nickel plated parts, "TV" beige finish.

    1955 Les Paul TV model specs:
    Maple body, full 24.75" scale, neck meets body at 16th fret. By mid to late 1955 mahogany bodies are the norm for this model (serial# 5 57xx maple, 511xxx mahogany).

    1956 Les Paul TV model specs:
    Mahogany body, full 24.75" scale, mahogany neck meets body at 16th fret, black "hat" knobs. Threaded post inserts which are sunk into the for the wrap-around tailpiece increased in length. This modification stops the posts from leaning forward. This was a common problem on 1954 and 1955 Les Paul TV Juniors, and often cracked the wood between the posts and the pickup. Also the pickup was moved slightly towards the neck to allow more wood between the pickup route and the bridge posts. This happened in early 1956.

    Mid 1958 Les Paul SG TV model specs:
    body style change to symmetrical rounded double cutaways, thick slab mahogany body (referred to as the "SG/Les Paul" body style), "TV" beige finish. The peghead still says "Les Paul TV", but often this body style is referred to as the "Les Paul SG TV" body style. Pickguard changes to single layer tortoise. But either a black pickguard or a tortoise pickguard can be seen until late 1959/early 1960.

    1961 Les Paul (also known as "SG") TV model specs:
    body style change to symmetrical pointed double cutaways, thin mahogany body with beveled edges, "TV" beige finish, vibrato optional. The peghead still says "Les Paul", but often this body style is refered to as the "SG" body style. Even though it still says "Les Paul" on the peghead, I personally call this a "SG TV".

    Les Paul TV Junior discontinued 1963.
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late 1959 SG Les Paul TV Special
1959 SG L.P. TV Spec

    Les Paul Special Electric Solidbody
    Available: 1955 to present
    Collectibility Rating: 1955-1961: B, late 1961-1963: C+.
    A step up from Gibson's least expensive Les Paul model, but was still sold (at the time) as a 2 pickup student model.

    This is the most confusing (name-wise) of the Les Paul models because the Special lost its "Les Paul" designation on the peghead before any of the other Les Paul models (in late 1959).

    1955 Les Paul Special introduction specs:
    mahogany single cutaway slab body, 2 soapbar P-90 pickup with black covers, stud tailpiece/bridge combo with the string looping over the bridge, dot fingerboard inlays, 24.75" scale, bound neck, pearl logo, "Les Paul Special" silkscreened on peghead in gold, 3 layer black pickguard, nickel plated parts, beige "TV" finish.

    1956 Les Paul Special specs:
    Threaded inserts sunk in the wood for the studs on the wrap around stud tailpiece increased in length. This modification stops the studs from "leaning forward". This was a common problem on 1954 and 1955 Les Pauls.

    1958 Les Paul Special specs:
    The Rhythm/Treble switch sometimes has a large rubber washer (as seen on 1958 L-5CES guitars) instead of the "Rhythm/Treble" flat plastic plate. Also the hole for the switch is larger to accomodate this rubber washer. This rubber washer is only seen on 1958 Les Pal Specials.

    Mid-1958 Gibson "Les Paul SG" Special guitar specs:
    body style change to symmetrical rounded double cutaways, thick slab mahogany body, cherry red finish, "TV" beige finish optional. The peghead still says "Les Paul Special" (or "Les Paul TV Special" if yellow), but often this body style is referred to as the "Les Paul SG Special" body style. The Les Paul Special TV model was also introduced. Since the "normal" LP Special finish was now cherry red, Gibson offered the original TV style yellow finish on the Les Paul TV Special only. The yellow finish now is more yellow and less of a "wheat" color. The first few batches of 1958 and early 1959 double cutaway Les Paul Specials & Juniors had a noticably sharper body edge, like the edge on the single cutaway Junior. By early 1959 the edge became more rounded. Also in late 1958 there were some 4-digit serial number Juniors and Specials (all with 6000 to 7000 serial numbers like 6264 and 7234, with no "8" or "9" as the leading digit). All the 4-digit serial number Juniors and Specials seem to have the more square-edged body style.

    late-1959/1960 Les Paul Special specs:
    "Les Paul Special" removed from peghead and left blank. Neck pickup moved towards bridge 1/2" to make neck joint stronger (a *much* needed and desirable change, as the neck joint on prior LP Specials is very weak). Toggle switch moved from between the treble volume and tone pots, to in front of the treble volume pot (closer to the bridge).

    Late 1961 Les Paul (also known as "SG") Special specs:
    body style change to symmetrical pointed double cutaways, thin mahogany body with beveled edges, cherry red finish, vibrato optional. Even though the peghead does NOT say "Les Paul", because the other models still do say "Les Paul", often this model is called the "Les Paul SG Special", when really it's just a "SG Special".

    Les Paul Special officially discontinued 1963 in name only (now officially called SG Special). Still in production today as the "Les Paul Special" in several different variations.
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1964 SG Standard with
lyre vibrato

    SG Les Paul Standard & SG Standard
    Available: late 1960 to present.
    Collectibility Rating: late 1960-1961: D+, 1962-1964: C, 1965-1971: D-.

    1961 SG Les Paul Std introduction specs:
    From 1961 to 1963, this model takes over the "Les Paul" name as the single cutaway version is replaced by this model. Double pointed cutaways, scaloped mahogany body, 2 humbucking P.A.F. pickups, 3 layer black beveled small pickguard, pearloid trapezoid fingerboard inlays, crown peghead inlay, "Les Paul" on truss rod cover, "sideways" vibrato (yuck!), nickel plated parts, cherry red finish. Incredibly thin neck back shape. Model produced starting in very late 1960.

    1962 SG Les Paul Std specs:
    Some models with pearl inlaid ebony vibrato tailpiece. Sideways vibrato still seen on some SG Standard models.

    1963 SG Std specs:
    "Patent Number" humbucking pickups, Maestro vibrato with lyre and logo on coverplate (but occassionally the sideways vibrato is still seen on a few 1963 Gibson SG Standard models). "Les Paul" is now removed from the truss rod cover and model officially known as the "SG Standard", neck shape get slightly larger. Neck tenon size is increased, so the necks on 1963 and later SGs are more stable. 1963 to 1964 SG Standards (without the sideways vibrato, and slightly larger, more stable necks) are the best of the SG Standards.

    1965 SG Std specs:
    Chrome parts instead of nickel, pickguard now surrounds the pickups thus eliminating the need for separate pickup surrounds. Peghead angle changes from 17 degrees to 14 degrees, nut width narrows from 1 11/16" to 1 9/16" or 1 5/8". 1965 models can have any one or all of those changes (they didn't happen all at once during 1965).

    1966 SG Std specs:
    Indian rosewood fingerboard replaces Brazilian rosewood.

    Discontinued in 1971 and replace by the SG Deluxe.
    1972 re-introduced, and still available today in several forms.
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1962 SG Les Paul Custom (SG body style)
in a special order cherry red finish.

1962 SG Custom

SG Les Paul Custom & SG Custom
Available: 1961 to present.
Collectibility Rating: 1961-1965: C-, 1965-1969: D-.

    1961 SG Les Paul Custom introduction specs:
    From 1961 to 1963, this model takes over the "Les Paul" name as the single cutaway version is replaced by this model. Double pointed cutaways, scaloped mahogany body, 3 humbucking P.A.F. pickups, 3 layer white beveled small pickguard, pearl block fingerboard inlays, large diamond peghead inlay, "Les Paul" on truss rod cover, "sideways" vibrato, gold plated parts, white finish.

    1962 SG Les Paul Custom specs:
    Some models with pearl inlaid ebony vibrato tailpiece.

    1963 SG Custom specs:
    "Patent Number" humbucking pickups, Maestro vibrato with lyre and logo on coverplate. "Les Paul" is now removed from the truss rod cover and model officially known as the "SG Custom".

    mid 1965 SG Custom specs:
    Pickguard now surrounds the pickups thus eliminating the need for separate pickup surrounds.

    1969 SG Custom specs:
    Walnut finish available.
    Still available today in several forms.
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1964 SG Junior.

SG Les Paul Junior, SG Junior, SG TV Junior
Available: 1961 to 1971.
Collectibility Rating: 1961-1964: C-, 1965-1971: D+.

    1961 SG Les Paul Junior introduction specs:
    From 1961 to 1963, this model takes over the "Les Paul" name as the slab double cutaway version is replaced by this model. Double pointed cutaways, scaloped mahogany body, 1 P-90 "dog ear" pickup, 3 layer black beveled pickguard, dot fingerboard inlays, gold "Gibson" peghead logo, "Les Paul" silkscreened on peghead, wrap around "stairstep" tailpiece, nickel parts, cherry red finish. The SG TV model is the same specs but with a limed yellow or white finish.

    Late 1963 SG Junior specs:
    "Les Paul" is now removed from the peghead and model officially known as the "SG Junior".

    mid 1965 SG Junior specs:
    Chrome parts instead of nickel, vibrato now standard, pickguard now surrounds the P-90 pickup which now is the "soapbar" version without the "dog ears".

    Discontinued in 1971.
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1964 SG Special in Polaris White.

    SG Special
    Available: 1961 to present
    Collectibility Rating: 1961-1965: D, 1965-1971: D-.

    1961 SG Special introduction specs:
    From 1961 to 1963, this model takes over the slab double cutaway version and is replaced by this model. Double pointed cutaways, scaloped mahogany body, 2 P-90 "soap bar" pickups, 3 layer black small beveled pickguard, dot fingerboard inlays, bound fingerboard, pearl "Gibson" peghead logo, no "Les Paul" silkscreened on peghead, wrap around "stairstep" tailpiece, nickel parts, cherry red, white or limed mahogany finish.

    1962 SG Speical specs:
    Maestro vibrato optional.

    mid 1965 SG Special specs:
    Chrome parts instead of nickel, pickguard now surrounds the P-90 pickups.

    Discontinued in 1971.
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Problems with the thin body on the SG models.
It is very common for these guitars to crack where
the neck meets the body. Also common for cracks to
develop by the input jack.


1967 Melody Maker-3 with
SG body style and sparkling
burgundy finish.

    Melody Maker
    Available: 1959 to 1971 (reissues available 1977-1981)
    Collectibility Rating: 1959-1965 models: D-, 1966-1971 models: D--.

    1959 Melody Maker (MM) specs:
    slab body 1 3/8" thick, single rounded cutaway (like a Les Paul Junior but thinner), one 7/8" wide oblong pickup with black cover and no visible poles, stud wrap-around bridge/tailpiece, pickguard surrounds pickups, knobs mounted on pickguard, unbound fingerboard with dot inlays, narrow 2 1/4" wide peghead (narrower than any other Gibson model), gold decal peghead loog, sunburst finish. Short MM3/4 scale model available with 12 frets clear of body.
    1960 Melody Maker specs:
    Pickup narrowed to 5/8", two pickup model introduced.
    1961 Melody Maker specs:
    Symmetrical double cutaway with rounded horns, horns point away from neck, slightly rounded body edges.
    1962 Melody Maker specs:
    Maestro vibrato optional. Keeps the same wrap-around style bridge/tailpiece with the strings drapped over it and attaching to the vibrato.
    1963 Melody Maker specs:
    Body edges more rounded, horns point slightly farther away from neck, cherry finish.
    1966 Melody Maker specs:
    SG body style with pointed horns, white pickup covers, enlarged white pickguard that covers most of body, knobs mounted into top, vibrato standard, fire engine red or Pelham blue finish.
    1967 Melody Maker specs:
    MM-12 string version available with 2 pickups and no vibrato. Also MM-3 available with 3 pickups. Fire engine red color discontinued and replaced with sparkling burgundy finish.
    1970 Melody Maker specs:
    MM3/4 discontinued. Wider peghead, walnut finish available on all models but MM-12.
    1971 Melody Maker specs:
    All MM models discontinued and replaced by SG-100, SG-200 and SG-250 models.
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1964 Firebird V, full reverse, Frost Blue
64 Firebird V

    Firebird I, III, V, VII Electric Solidbody
    Available: 1963 to present
    Collectibility Rating: 1964-1965: B, 1965-1969: D.

    Fall 1963 to mid-1965 Reverse Firebird specs (all models):
    "Reverse" body style with treble horn larger than bass horn, neck thru body construction with side wings glued on, raised middle section of body, Firebird mini-humbucking pickups with metal cover and metal mounting ring (no adjustable poles), 3 ply white pickguard with beveled edge that is only on the treble side of the pickups, beveled peghead edge, large Kluson banjo-style tuners all on treble side of peghead with high E-string nearest the nut (shortest string), nickel plated or gold plated parts, sunburst finish (custom colors optional). 1963 models have no engraved Firebird on the pickguard. 1964 and later models have red engraved Firebird on the pickguard. Note some transition Firebirds during the summer of 1965 has mixed reverse and non-reverse features.
    Reverse Firebird I:
    1 pickup, no switch, 2 knobs, stud tailpiece/bridge that the strings wrap around (though a spring metal Firebird III vibrato could be special ordered), unbound rosewood fingerboard, dot fingerboard inlays.
    Reverse Firebird III:
    2 pickups, 3 way toggle switch, 4 knobs, stud bridge/tailpiece, short flat-arm metal spring vibrato, single bound fingerboard, dot fingerboard inlays. The strings go over the bridge/tailpiece and terminate at the spring metal vibrato. This mean a lot of players just wrapped the strings around the bridge (like a Firebird I), and do not use the vibrato (a neat solution, which requires no modification to the guitar, because the vibrato could be left completely intact by unused).
    Reverse Firebird V:
    2 pickups, 3 way toggle switch, 4 knobs, Tune-o-matic bridge, deluxe vibrato with tubular lever arm with plastic end cap, metal tailpiece cover engraved with "Gibson" and leaf and lyre, single bound fingerboard, trapezoid fingerboard inlays. Some very early introduction 1963 Firebird V's do not have a tune-a-matic bridge, but instead have a Firebird III bridge/tailpiece with a Firebird V vibrato.
    Reverse Firebird VII:
    3 pickups, 3 way toggle switch, 4 knobs, Tune-o-matic bridge, deluxe vibrato with tubular lever arm with plastic end cap, metal tailpiece cover engraved with "Gibson" and leaf and lyre, single bound ebony fingerboard, block fingerboard inlays, gold plated parts. Frets are finished like a Les Paul Custom; small frets leveled flat. Because of this, all Firebird VII's need a fret job when then left the factory new! (by today's playing standards).
    Reverse Firebirds discontinued mid 1965. Some reverse models have transition specs combining reverse and non-reverse features. Reintroduced 1972 to 1979. Re-introduced again 1990 and still available.

1965 Firebird VII, non-reverse,
Pelham Blue (greened with age).
65 Firebird VII

    1965 to 1969 Non-Reverse Firebirds specs (all models):
    One-piece neck-thru-body changed to a glue-in neck, bass side cutaway horn now longer than treble side horn, standard style right-angle tuners on same side as a Fender (low-E shortest string), flat peghead (no raised ledge), pickguard now wraps completely around the pickups (enabling one pickup routing style for all models), chrome or gold plated parts, black sliding pickups switch, unbound rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays, sunburst finish (custom colors still available).
    Non-Reverse Firebird I:
    2 black P-90 pickups, stud tailpiece with plastic tip vibrato.
    Non-Reverse Firebird III:
    3 black P-90 pickups, stud tailpice with plastic tip vibrato.
    Non-Reverse Firebird V:
    2 Firebird mini-humbucking pickups, tuneomatic bridge, metal vibrato cover with Gibson leaf design.
    Non-Reverse Firebird VIIL
    3 Firebird mini-humbucking pickups, tuneomatic bridge, metal vibrato cover with Gibson leaf design, gold parts.
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1959 Flying V in its original
brown triangle case.
1959 Flying V

    Flying V Electric Solidbody
    Available: 1958 to 1963, 1981 to 1984
    Collectibility Rating: 1958-1963: A+

    1958 Flying V introduction specs:
    Korina (African Limba wood) body, 2 humbucking P.A.F. pickups, 3 knobs in straight line, strings anchor thru body, V-shaped string anchor plate, white or black pickguard, body shoulders square at neck, all frets clear of the body, raised plastic logo, black ridge rubber strip on side of lower treble bout, triangular peghead with rounded top, gold plated parts, natural finish, brown almost retangular case with peghead side slightly narrower than butt side and pink case lining. Original stock only made in 1958. It is thought two batches of 40 instruments (80 total instruments) were made in 1958 only.

    1962 Flying V specs:
    many models with 1958 or 1959 serial numbers (left over stock), patent number pickups, nickel plated parts instead of gold, black case with yellow lining.

    Flying V discontinued 1963. Re-introduced in different form in 1966. Reissue of 1958 model introduced in 1981 to 1984 known as Heritage model, "V" shaped brown case.

 

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1958 Explorer.

Explorer Electric Solidbody
Available: 1958 to 1963, 1983
Collectibility Rating: 1958-1963: A+

    1958 Explorer introduction specs:
    Korina (African Limba wood) body with enlongated upper treble bout and lower bass bout, 2 humbucking P.A.F. pickups, 3 knobs in straight line, tune-o-matic bridge, stop tailpiece (some with a Bigsby vibrato), white pickguard, scimitar-shaped ("hockey stick") peghead curves to treble side (though a couple were made with a "V" peghead), pearl logo, gold plated parts, natural finish, brown retangular case with pink lining. Original stock only made in 1958 (even though some have a 1959 or 1961 press-in serial number). It is thought only about 40 original Explorers (one "batch") were made in 1958. Some Gibson Explorers have a round backplate route for the toggle switch, and some do not. Backplates are brown. Documented serial numbers of Explorers that are thought to be original (dash shown, but not really part of the serial number): 8-1008, 8-1431, 8-2118, 8-2142, 8-2153, 8-3549, 8-3842, 8-3848, 8-3849, 8-3850, 8-3868, 8-3872, 9-3873, 8-3876, 8-3882, 8-4096, 8-4451, 8-4536, 8-4539, 8-4541, 8-4542, 8-4543, 8-4544, 8-4545, 8-4548, 8-4549, 8-4550, 8-4552, 8-4559, 8-4561, 8-4563 (Neil Young's), 8-4567, 8-4592, 9-1715, 27121 (pressed-in), 28012 (pressed-in). This should give some general idea of serial number ranges for a real Explorer.

    1962 Explorer specs:
    most with 1958 or 1959 serial numbers (left over stock), patent number pickups, nickel plated parts instead of gold, black rectangle case with yellow lining. Some with a press-in serial number (not ink-stamped).

    Explorer discontinued 1963. Re-introduced in different form in 1975. Reissue of 1958 model introduced in 1983 known as Heritage model, black or brown rectangular case with red lining.

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