FAKE 1959 Gibson Les Paul guitars and the factory ledgers. A Wall Street Journal story 7-10-2020

delawaregold

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I love when I'm doing a Booth at a show, and So-N-So says, "Hey Artie, you wanna see the
Burst I'm selling later today?" Of course I say sure, and he says "Stop by my Booth".
So I go down to their Booth, and they pull out a gorgeous Burst, and say "That's just for you,
Brother. Please don't say anything about it, I don't want a big crowd over here".
And for the next 6 hours 200 people stop by the MyLesPaul Booth, and say " Hey Artie,
did you see the Burst that So-N-So has down at his Booth?" And I say, "Oh, you mean the
one I'm not supposed to say anything about?"
 

Liam

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I am surprised that someone would come to a guitar show and try and pass a fake right in front of known collectors, and dealers. What is the reaction when they are found out? I mean, you have people that know everything to look for beaming in on the example!
But if they were already taken in themselves, and didn't know they had a fake, why wouldn't they? Anyone that knew they were handling a replica would struggle to be that brazen, but someone that had already been convinced? That might be another matter. Most people, even enthusiasts, have not handled that many original 50s Gibsons, let alone sunburst Les Pauls.

The more you see, the more you'll know, and understand where Eric is coming from. The finishes have a very particular feel, but it seems that getting that right and getting a convincing "relic" look are possibly not achievable at the same time, even if the newly built guitar is made of old growth and "correct" wood. They can look right, but never sure if I met one that felt quite right.

I wonder how many fake 59's actually sounded and played better than a real 59?
In my experience there is massive variability in the former, and at least a little variability in the latter too. There might be some small crossover point, but aside from "maintenance" issues and just plain age and use, mid to late 50's Gibsons are about as good a guitar as you might pick up.

I am told the odd Historic might also be up there for sound and playability. Never met one that was more than close to the borderline myself, but it came from someone that I trust intimately, knows 50's Les Pauls inside out, and had nothing to gain from saying it.

The best '59 "standard" Les Paul I have played was a long way clear of that crossover point, and eclipsed the two best of my slab body 50s Les Pauls by a margin (especially for tone, but also played beautifully) in subjective A/B comparison. I am totally cynical about all this, so was quite surprised, and it wasn't the first time I had made that very comparison with other exceptional 50's standard Les Pauls.

pmonk, if you have a great sounding and playing Les Paul, and you like how it looks, and it cost you less than $250k, I think about it like this... If I ever get really rich, I'll worry about how much of a '59 Les Paul Standard I can lay my hands on. Until then, there are some great guitars I can actually afford. ;)

Liam
 

masterglazier

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I know it is not the "59" standard we are talking about, but I played a "59" Les Paul jr. @ Cowtown guitars when it was still on Maryland pkwy., that was better than anything I have played in all my years of guitar playing, and it changed my mind about vintage guitars. It was played to death, and worn in every crevasse. filthy and gritty, and for good reason. The finish was original and parts were as well. Tuner tips were shrunk and looked like they were ready to crumble. You could just feel it in your gut that it was real. The wear and finish checking, dings, scrapes, headstock horns were worn round, everything just as it should be for it's age. P-90 that sounded so good compared to new offerings. No way that could be faked. I should have offered up, and walked out with it!! I would never have picked that guitar up and played it if some guys that hung out there regularly had not prompted me to. The guitar was loved on, not abused. No headstock break, no re fret.

Point is that I learned something about a gut feeling that cannot be taught, and what an original finish actually reflects, smells, and feels like. It can't be faked, it simply can't be. I still am haunted by it.
 

Liam

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Point is that I learned something about a gut feeling that cannot be taught, and what an original finish actually reflects, smells, and feels like. It can't be faked, it simply can't be. I still am haunted by it.
I have at least a couple of original Juniors that do that to me, and a Special that is pretty special too. I have been around verifiable 50s Gibsons on and off for about the last 25 years, unverified quite a bit longer.

I visited a guitar repairer/maker in the UK around 2007, when he had a friend's EB-0 in for total "strip the finish to the wood" restoration, and it was one that needed it. When I first saw the guitar it was back to bare wood all over, and I thought "here we go, why wouldn't you just leave it as it is and make it play well". I didn't know the repairer too well back then, but we became good friends.

Some time later, in my memory, weeks, may have been months, I dropped by again and saw the same guitar almost ready for collection. It was all refinished in white, beautifully aged (and I don't mean relic'd, a few knocks, but not many real guitars are as beaten as relics), and it scared the absolute shit out of me. Finally got to see what someone that understood what some of us look for could recreate. I had met quite a few fake '59 Les Pauls up to then, and never doubted for a moment that they were anything else. That refinish seriously troubled me with its remarkable likeness to a totally straight guitar.

No-one was faking anything. If the repairer was charging proper money for the job, it looked to me to be more than the guitar was worth. But it was really sobering to realise I could have been fooled by it.

It was the only time it has happened to me that I know of. I don't know if a blacklight would have said any different. The only "tell" whatsoever was the feel of the finish, but given time, even that might change in the right direction.

I watched a '59 Les Paul "authentication" video on YouTube a few weeks ago. It wouldn't have been good enough for me to part with the value of the guitar. Could quite easily have checked all the same things myself, and been totally unconvinced because there was nothing I haven't seen in the best fakes. If you ever want to buy one that's worth money (with no disrespect to '59 Juniors, I have one and love it) then gut feel needs to be educated by playing a few, or employing someone that has played and handled more than a few.

Treacherous waters out there!

Liam
 

judson

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i am sure there are some embarrassing stories of fakes being sold for big bucks from someone that did not know they had a fake and in turn may have been duped in a number of years back.

not intended to know details or out anyone for that....ballpark in general how many times have you guessed that actually happens...more frequent than people know?...just a general idea, maybe?

or as detailed as you want to be is good too...

edit ......actually does anyone know that when a fake was confirmed, the owner sold it as a fake and what price would you guess an acknowledged fake would bring?

and the ledger...just like stolen art, some burst owner has it and drools over it alone in his basement, $59k isnt squat to them i would bet....a guy with a burst might have it and would never give it up as maybe it would prove what he thought was authentic is not ....so who knows...just guessing stuff.. :dunno:
 
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rockstar232007

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I know it is not the "59" standard we are talking about, but I played a "59" Les Paul jr. @ Cowtown guitars when it was still on Maryland pkwy., that was better than anything I have played in all my years of guitar playing, and it changed my mind about vintage guitars. It was played to death, and worn in every crevasse. filthy and gritty, and for good reason. The finish was original and parts were as well. Tuner tips were shrunk and looked like they were ready to crumble. You could just feel it in your gut that it was real. The wear and finish checking, dings, scrapes, headstock horns were worn round, everything just as it should be for it's age. P-90 that sounded so good compared to new offerings. No way that could be faked. I should have offered up, and walked out with it!! I would never have picked that guitar up and played it if some guys that hung out there regularly had not prompted me to. The guitar was loved on, not abused. No headstock break, no re fret.

Point is that I learned something about a gut feeling that cannot be taught, and what an original finish actually reflects, smells, and feels like. It can't be faked, it simply can't be. I still am haunted by it.
Truth.

Anyone who has ever played, or at least handled a vintage guitar, let alone a vintage Gibson, should know this.

Vintage guitars have a very distinctive feel/scent. Even, those in mint/unplayed condition - like a old furniture.

I've handled a couple of fake, vintage guitars (not just Gibsons), and they literally didn't pass the "smell test".
 

Archtopanimal

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My sixties stuff certainly has that scent , and the surface condition just can't be faked . Twenty years of use cannot be created by anyone with tools and chemicals ; impossible . I've LP replicas that are aged , but they just look aged , not old .
 

sws1

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I love when I'm doing a Booth at a show, and So-N-So says, "Hey Artie, you wanna see the
Burst I'm selling later today?" Of course I say sure, and he says "Stop by my Booth".
So I go down to their Booth, and they pull out a gorgeous Burst, and say "That's just for you,
Brother. Please don't say anything about it, I don't want a big crowd over here".
And for the next 6 hours 200 people stop by the MyLesPaul Booth, and say " Hey Artie,
did you see the Burst that So-N-So has down at his Booth?" And I say, "Oh, you mean the
one I'm not supposed to say anything about?"

You're fortunate that so-n-so tells you. I usually have to find out about it from someone at the MLP booth. ;)
 

Red Pharoah

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So does Gibson know if the book was missing BEFORE the move to Nashville? Seems like they should have realized that when they were packing things up. Of all the ledger books, it seems to be no doubt that someone stole the most valuable one in my opinion. I hope it turns up sometime in my lifetime. I tried to help on this forum years ago. No luck. But one member here did up my offer to buy it for $1 more then my offer. LOL. If I got a hold of it, I was planning to get it back in Gibson's hands.
 

mgdesigns

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I thought Walter Carter, now the owner of Carter's Vintage in Nashville, TN, had the knowledge. He had the earliest known '59 burst in his shop a year or so ago. How did he verify that? He used to be the Gibson Historian. Maybe they should contact him?
 

lawrev

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I read this story too, with great interest. Glad that Gibson is trying to get to the bottom of it. I don't care if they are late with a real effort, or whether $59K is too small. Just glad they are doing it.
 

Pete M

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"So, like..., we lost some old book 50 odd years ago, and now like you guys better give it back! Because it's wortha lotta goddamn money! Sonofabitch! PLAY AUTHENTIC!"
 


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