Whether you are in the business of buying and selling used or vintage musical instruments or just a collector looking for the guitar that will fill that void in your soul, before you make a purchase take a deep breath and thoroughly examine the piece. There are people out there that want to take your money and leave you with an albatross around your neck.
'54 Custom Shop Reissue?
Here is our counterfeit beside a real Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul. In this case it is a ’56 Reissue, but not everyone has a ’54 Reissue just lying around.
Note the difference in color. The counterfeit on the left has a thin, greenish tint, similar to some Epiphone Les Pauls. Not comparable to the deep gold color of the genuine Gibson.
Have a look at the bridge. From a distance the difference is obvious. A less expensive single PRS style bridge has replaced the two-piece Gibson VOS bridge we see on the real thing.
Those are the most immediately visible clues. Dig a little deeper and a host of problems pop up.
Here is a side-by-side comparison of the back of each headstock:
1. Serial Number – There are a couple of problems here. First, the syntax on the fake is completely wrong. Gibson is very specific about the way it puts serial numbers on its guitars. But that is trivial compared to the fact that the serial number on the right was added after the finish was applied. This resulted in an unprofessional, rough outline. The genuine guitar has a serial number that was added prior to the lacquer finish.
2. Made in USA – This does not appear on the genuine guitar, and where Gibson does put this phrase it appears lower on the headstock.
3. Craftsmanship – Many of the issues boil down to craftsmanship. Gibson has it, Fakes-R-Us doesn’t. Gibson takes great care to ensure that each guitar that it puts its name on lives up to certain standards. The craftsmanship that produced the sloppy alignment of the non-Gibson tuning heads (below) would not pass their quality control.
Now lets flip the guitars over and have a look at the front.
One thing that you can’t tell from the photographs is the substandard fretwork. As you run a finger down the side of the neck the protruding frets are a big giveaway. On closer examination you can see that the binding on the real Custom Shop carries up over the end of the fret, something the counterfeiters are pretty sure you won’t notice.
Another subtle clue is the difference in the color of the inlays on the fretboard.
As if these details weren’t enough, the genuine Gibson is comprised of two solid pieces of wood. The knock off seems to have been pieced together by laminating whatever scrap lumber happened to be lying around.
In fact there were so many flaws in the wood, I’m just going to give a “Best Of”….
Laminate back on counterfeit Gibson
There is a solid line all the way around the back of the guitar (above), indicating that a solid piece of wood was glued on to the back. Obviously the counterfeiters knew they were cutting corners here.
Here are a couple more choice examples:
Laminate seam near neck strap button
Laminate seam in cutaway
And the pièce de résistance, I have never seen a Gibson with a knot like this:
Knot. A big knot.
On first look some may see what they want to see. If someone says they are selling a ’54 Custom Shop Reissue we would like to take their word for it. That is how this buyer ended up spending $1000 for a cheap Chinese knock off.
To put a little lemon juice on the wound, they can’t even sell the counterfeit for a few hundred bucks to recoup a small part of their losses. That would violate US trademark law and turn this unfortunate purchase into a bigger nightmare.
Before you lay down your hard earned cash, take the time to go over every inch of your potential purchase. If you have questions, ask. If you don’t know, find out. If something looks wrong, pass on it.
Better to have nothing at all than an extremely expensive piece of firewood.
If you know of other counterfeit instruments of any sort out there, or know of a website or eBay seller of counterfeit instruments, please let Gearsecure know by sending email to email@example.com. We are dedicated to personal loss prevention. You can also follow us at twitter.com/gearsecure, myspace.com/gearsecure, and facebook.
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