In the world of music and guitar enthusiasts, the Gibson brand commands a reputation synonymous with unmatched quality, rich sound, and meticulous craftsmanship.
Learning how to spot a fake Gibson guitar can be like distinguishing a masterpiece painting from a forgery; it requires a deep understanding of its distinct characteristics, history, and the incomparable artistry put into each product. So whether your interest stems from being an avid collector, a hobbyist, or a genuine Gibson fan, developing an acute eye for counterfeit guitars is an invaluable skill.
This involves comprehending the essence of the Gibson brand, decoding unique serial numbers, familiarizing oneself with standard counterfeiting features, and efficiently navigating the verification process.
Table of Contents
Understanding the Gibson Brand
The Origins of Gibson
Explore the history of the Gibson Guitar Corporation to understand its unique characteristics better. This American manufacturer of guitars, other musical instruments, and professional audio equipment was founded in 1902 and quickly gained popularity due to the superior tone quality and design of its guitars. The company’s reputation rests on its commitment to using quality craftsmanship and durable materials to create its iconic instruments. By learning about the chronology and evolution of their guitar models, you can identify key features that distinguish genuine Gibson guitars from imitations.
Understanding Gibson Materials and Construction
To recognize a genuine Gibson guitar, it’s crucial to know the types of wood typically used by the company. Dresses tend to be made of mahogany, maple, or a mixture of both. The fretboards are often constructed from ebony or rosewood and finished with a lacquer. Gibson rarely uses composite or synthetic materials, so any guitar that doesn’t use wood in its construction might be a fake. Familiarize yourself with how these woods look, feel, and smell, as these sensory pieces of information can be instrumental in identifying a genuine Gibson.
Spotting Gibson Design Patterns
Gibson guitars have distinct design patterns that you need to become familiar with. For instance, their inlays—marks on the fretboard—often have block, trapezoid, or crown patterns. Different models have signature shapes for their bodies, headstocks, and pickguards. For example, the Gibson Les Paul has a rounded, single-cutaway body with a waved top, and its headstock has a distinct ‘open book’ design. Familiarizing yourself with design details will help you scrutinize potential fake Gibsons.
Observing Gibson Finishes
Actual Gibson guitars have high-quality finishes—particularly their sunburst finish, a hallmark. Genuine Gibsons have a flawless gloss finish with no bubbles, drips, or blemishes. If you see any irregularities, this could indicate a fake. Furthermore, the coloring should blend smoothly from the body’s center to the edges—a sudden change might point to a counterfeit.
Examining Gibson Hardware
Study the hardware on a Gibson guitar. The company uses high-quality tuners, bridges, and stop tailpieces, typically made from stainless steel or aluminum materials. The markings on the headstock should be flawlessly cut and centered, and the serial number on the back should match Gibson’s records. Genuine Gibson guitars also come with owner’s manuals, a warranty card, and sometimes a photo of the guitar on the bench at the factory. The product could be counterfeit if these elements are missing or have any inconsistencies.
Guitar Serial Numbers
Know Your Gibson Guitars
Like any other collector’s item, Gibson guitars have distinct serial numbers that can provide information about their origin and age. Familiarizing yourself with these serial numbers is crucial to spotting a genuine Gibson from a counterfeit. Essentially, Gibson guitars have a serial number format that reflects the place and time of their production.
Analyze the Serial Number
To spot a fake Gibson guitar, thoroughly analyze the serial number on the back of the headstock or the neck. Gibson guitars made before 1977 utilize a complicated system with inconsistent serial number formats, so research appropriately if you’re dealing with an older model.
Serial Number Formats
For Gibson guitars made after 1977, you should find an eight-digit serial number. The first and fifth numbers represent the year the guitar was produced, the second through fourth indicates the day of the year, and the last three digits represent the guitar’s production number for that specific day. For instance, the serial number 82065501 would mean it was the first guitar made on the 206th day of 1982.
Understanding Vintage Gibson Guitars
For vintage Gibson guitars made from 1952 to 1961, the first digit of the serial number generally represents the year of manufacture, while the remaining digits indicate the production rank. However, this isn’t always the case, and specific serials from this era may not follow a fixed pattern.
Compare with Official Records
Once you’ve figured out the serial number, compare it with the official records documented by Gibson. Make sure the information matches. Gibson has detailed descriptions of their serial numbers, publicly available online.
Check the Location of Manufacture
Gibson guitars are traditionally made in the United States, specifically in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Nashville, Tennessee. If the serial number indicates that the guitar was made in a different country, it is likely a counterfeit.
Look for Inconsistencies
Look for inconsistencies in the serial number. The guitar may be fake if the digits are unclear or look altered. Additionally, consider the overall quality of the guitar. Gibson takes pride in their meticulous craftsmanship, so sloppy work or poor materials hint at a counterfeit product.
Understanding and accurately decoding Gibson’s serial number system will increase your chances of spotting a genuine Gibson guitar. But remember—while a serial number is a solid starting point, it’s not the only method to determine authenticity. Always do your due diligence when checking any potential counterfeits.
Common Features of Counterfeits
Identifying Common Counterfeit Characteristics
Learning to spot a fake Gibson guitar starts with understanding the common counterfeit characteristics. The headstock of the guitar is one area where counterfeiters often make mistakes. The ‘Gibson’ logo is mother-of-pearl and inlaid into the wood rather than printed or decal on a genuine Gibson. The letter’ b’ in the logo should not have a closed loop. Counterfeiters will sometimes incorrectly connect the ‘b’ and the ‘o’. Moreover, the Gibson bell-shaped truss rod cover should generally have two screws, not three.
Understanding the Types of Guitars Frequently Faked
It’s helpful to understand the types of Gibson guitars that are most commonly faked, as these models require extra scrutiny when purchasing. Gibson’s Les Paul series, particularly the Standard and Custom models, are a frequent target for counterfeiters. The Gibson SG, Flying V, and Explorer models are popular forgery choices.
Recognizing Physical Inconsistencies
Fake Gibson guitars can frequently be identified through physical inconsistencies. The material and construction quality is usually lower on a counterfeit Gibson.
Genuine Gibson guitars are crafted from high-quality woods like mahogany, maple, and rosewood. Counterfeit models may use cheaper timber or even plastic. Another often overlooked sign of a fake is the weight. Genuine Gibson guitars, particularly the Les Paul models, are known for their significant weight. A counterfeit may be notably lighter. The positioning of the guitar’s bridge is another giveaway. The bridge is generally positioned close to the pickup on a genuine Gibson. On a counterfeit, the bridge may be placed further away.
Check the serial number as well; a real Gibson guitar has a serial number stamped onto the back of the headstock. The serial number on a fake Gibson is often hard to read or inaccurately replicated. Lastly, the overall finish and detailing of the guitar must be considered.
Pay special attention to the paintwork, binding, fret inlays, and hardware; inconsistencies are standard identifiers of a counterfeit guitar. Genuine Gibsons have a high level of craftsmanship, with great attention paid to such details. It is likely not real if a guitar has a rough finish or sloppy detailing.
Understanding Gibson Features
Start your authenticity verification by understanding the defining features of Gibson guitars. Examine the headstock, logo, truss rod cover, fretboard, tuners, pickups, bridge, and serial number. Genuine Gibson guitars usually bear a distinctive and clear “Gibson” logo, while a fake may have irregularities in the logo. An original Gibson truss rod cover is usually two-ply, with a white outlay highlighting the black background on which the Gibson logo is designed.
Examining the Gibson Serial Number
The serial number is crucial in determining a Gibson guitar’s authenticity. It is usually found at the back of the guitar headstock. Examining the correctness of the serial number and its correlation with the instrument’s model and manufacturing date is a crucial authenticity indicator.
Using Gibson’s Guitar Authentication Service
Referencing Gibson’s Guitar Authentication Service is another comprehensive means of verifying if the guitar you own is a genuine Gibson. By providing them with pictures and the guitar’s serial number, Gibson will perform a thorough verification process and can help you confirm the instrument’s authenticity.
Consulting Experts and Forums
Another viable route is to consult renowned guitar experts, luthiers, or seasoned Gibson guitar owners to inspect and verify your guitar. Sites like The Gear Page, My Les Paul Forum, Gibson Forums, and other online music forums are excellent sources to reach out for help. Remember to provide detailed pictures and accurate information about the guitar for a reliable evaluation.
If a Fake Gibson is Detected
If you’ve confirmed that the Gibson guitar is a fake, several potential steps exist. If you purchased the fake Gibson, consider contacting the seller for a refund, especially if it was presented as a genuine article. Moreover, always remember to inform online platforms so that necessary actions can be taken against counterfeit sellers.
Practice Safe Buying Habits
Gibson guitars are premium instruments, and fraudsters take advantage. Practice safe buying habits by purchasing from authorized Gibson dealers. Check Gibson’s official website for a list of authorized dealers; this helps ensure you’re buying a genuine product. Also, remember the adage, “If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Always take time to verify the product before purchase.
Mastering identifying a forged Gibson guitar is not an overnight task. It requires continuous study, observation, and a keen sense of detail, resembling the craftsmanship invested into each genuine Gibson. While spotting a counterfeit can be a swift task through serial number checks, the cumulative understanding of Gibson’s history, unique traits, commonly made counterfeiting mistakes, and the verification process refine this skill. Arm yourself with the knowledge and research on the subject, and work with the community and resources available to ensure authenticity. This helps preserve the integrity of this historic brand and ensures that your passion for guitars takes you closer to owning a genuine piece of musical art.