How to spot a counterfeit Gibson

So you’re looking for a deal on a Gibson, you search around and find a good looking instrument on the right price on a marketplace. You’re about ready to plunk down $1,500 that you’ve been saving up for months if not years. You want to be sure this is the real deal, right? We found a counterfeit in the wild, and got all sorts of photos.

So here’s the culprit. Looks decent, right?


Nice top, feels good. But look a bit closer, and even here, you can see issues. The pickguard and rings are different colors, and they don’t seem to match up.

So you keep looking at it.


Looks familiar, right? Well, this is really one of those details that is easy to miss, but obvious when you look. Here’s what it really should look like.


But there’s also another giveaway in the first image. See that seam in the wood? That’s a veneer. A real Les Paul should be a single slab of wood, or two slabs with a horizontal seam which they did for a short period.

But it keeps going. Let’s look at the headstock. Fake is on the left, real on the right.


Any ideas? Start with the truss rod cover. The fake has a cover that is in use by Gibson, but only in the Epiphone line. There are some quibbling points with the logo and signature, but that’s a lesser detail that is much harder to quantify if you don’t have a real Les Paul next to it to identify.

Now let’s flip the headstock over.


The serial number format actually matches the correct format from the year this indicates, which is usually a dead giveaway. But the serial number is impressed in a bigger font than Gibson uses, and the Made in USA indication is in the wrong place. Also, Gibson will impress the serial and then finish it, sometimes making it difficult to read. This one is finished, and then the serial number is impressed. But also, look at the install on those tuning machines, and the color of the keys.


So here’s the neck joint. Gibson would never use a two piece heel like this one.


This back plate was rough to the touch, and not shiny at all. It was a very low quality part.


Here’s a shot of the bookmatching. The seam between it is pretty obvious. This is veneer as well, not a solid quarter inch of maple cap like Gibson would use.


Here’s a shot of the pickup ring. Notice the small gap underneath the pickup? Gibson’s rings and craftsmanship is much better than this.

All in all, when you add it up, this guitar is an obvious fake, if you know what to look for. Every time we see a fake in the wild, we’ll post an article like this, and if you spot a counterfeit, you can send us pictures. We’ll figure out a way to say thanks to you.



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