What are the great years for Gibson Les Pauls?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by rogueoperative, Mar 25, 2020.

  1. rogueoperative

    rogueoperative Member

    Feb 2, 2020
    I've wanted a Les Paul since I started playing, but I can't justify a new one. I've been cruising the used market for awhile, but the model names and reported quality seem to be all over the place. I know it varies a bit based on individual axes, but I'm sure there are also annual trends.

    The 2019 Standards are pretty great - simple, straightforward takes on the 50s and 60s models. That's the route I'm leaning towards, but it's tough to track what years those LPs show up and what they were called.

    What are the great years and models you've encountered?
  2. reilly

    reilly Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    Columbia, Pa
    I like my 2019 standard a lot, enough to make me get one again after many years of not owning a Gibson.
  3. tuumbaq

    tuumbaq Member

    Sep 2, 2013
    British Columbia
  4. EL34

    EL34 Silver Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2004
    All of the years? Mahogany body, maple cap, and mahogany neck is an iconic sound.
  5. tonegangster

    tonegangster Silver Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2010
    Ellis County, TX
    First, I'm assuming you want a humbucker equipped Les Paul (not P-90) by your LP Standard comment. I see you holding a strat style guitar in your avatar so you might actually like a LP with P-90's (like a LP Junior or, LP Special).

    Second, for your first LP, don't get caught up in the "this year is better than the rest" mentality. It's true that some years for Gibson had better QC than others but, this metric is way too hard to truly predict on a guitar to guitar basis. My recommendation for a meat and potatoes LP would either be a Standard or, a traditional. Don't worry about the reissues at this point (54, 57, 58, 59 etc.)

    Third, the first thing to figure out is what neck shape is most comfortable for you. A 60's neck will be slimmer and a 50's neck will be larger. Another consideration is weight. This is the only reason to think about what year the guitar was made. Most Standards these days are chambered and also lighter in weight. Traditionals have changed through the years and some years are chambered and others not. If you see a traditional or, a standard that weighs 9.5-10lbs chances are (not always) that it is not chambered. Some will argue that the chambered models sound different but, that's for another conversation and one I would not worry about for your first LP

    Fourth and final, Go play as many as you can get your hands on. Plug them in, work all the pickup selections, roll the volume and tone knobs around and see what speaks to you. Good luck!! There is nothing better than a great LP
    a1briz, ferrinbonn, DV52 and 3 others like this.
  6. ozraves

    ozraves Member

    Apr 16, 2019
    I think 2015 to now is a good era.

    I'm partial to the Les Paul Standard. Most likely model to feel good in my hands.
  7. COYS

    COYS Supporting Member

    Jul 29, 2016
    What you hear about there being good years and bad years is mostly cork-sniffery around the Historic models.

    Just buy one with specs that you like. (really, just buy one with the neck shape you like...)

    Even if it needs an entirely new nut, which is an issue sometimes with Gibsons, that's a cheap fix for any competent luthier. If you want to change anything else after you get to know the guitar well, there's nothing complicated about that.

    Don't worry about what you read on the internet from (people who think they are) 1%ers. It's mostly junk. If you love the guitar that's all there is to it.
    DV52 and C-4 like this.
  8. homeunit

    homeunit Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2007
    Vancouver, B.C
    My advise is run the racks. Back in the early 2000s I saved for a new Paul, went in to my music store, didn’t look at price at all, just picked them up and played them unplugged. Out of probably 15, 1 was a clear winner. It sounded and played great unplugged. I plugged it in and was blown away. The sales guy was even blown away. I put it back on the rack, went home to think about it, it was something like $3,800.00. I came back the following weekend to try and finance it, but it was gone.

    Still haunts me.
  9. OM Flyer

    OM Flyer Member

    Jan 16, 2008
    Austin, Texas
    The GREAT years were the same ones they were for a lot of guitars: 1950s, 60s, and some early 70s. But for those of us with mortgages and real lives, there were many good years from the late 90s through the present. I would avoid 2015 like the Corona virus, and whichever years they were making those godawful "faded" LP Specials, but as others have said or suggested, you gotta take it on a guitar-by-guitar basis. If it's a Standard you're after, 2011 - 2014 might yield a gem or two at a good price. Especially now.
  10. Hefalump

    Hefalump Member

    Apr 30, 2015
    2012 had laminated fretboard...not sure it matters?
  11. rumbletone

    rumbletone Silver Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2013
    Vancouver BC
    Agreed - I played every one I could get my hands on for years, and many/most were not up to par. At one point I was convinced the 2003 Limited Editions (which had odd colours/hardware, but felt/played mostly like a regular standard) were the best I had found but I missed out on a couple. Then in 2005 I found a standard burst at a retailer and as soon as I played it I knew it was the one. I changed the pickups to lower output PAF style, but otherwise it remains stock 15 years later and has been my most played guitar.

  12. Flogger59

    Flogger59 Member

    Sep 15, 2010
    Year designations should only be used to winnow the features that you want, like neck profile, and whethet it's chambered or not.

    Aside from that, play them all. One will jump out at you.
    DV52, AuntieDiluvian and C-4 like this.
  13. Jason_77

    Jason_77 Member

    Jul 2, 2013
    Philadelphia, PA
    Any of them. Just look for the specs and features you like.
    DV52, 73171 and EL34 like this.
  14. RicOkc

    RicOkc Member

    May 1, 2010
    Not all of the 2012 Les Paul's had laminated fret-boards, a lot of that is internet rumor. While some had laminated boards not all did.

    I had two 2012 Trad's that I had the nuts replaced on them (changed to bone) and asked my luthier friend to check out the fret-boards and if they were laminated to take photo's.

    Neither one had a laminated fret-board.

    People need to realize that so much of these rumors are being spread by posters that are parroting what they've read online and have no real personal experience with said equipment.

    Years ago there were postings that The Fender Super Sonic series amps were plagued with problems and were basically a "Crap" amplifier.

    I've got a Super Sonic 60 combo that has none of the issues that people have complained about online and has been my "Keeper" amp for years and I have no plans to ever get rid of it.

    Granted it's not suited for metal players, but it's great for many other forms of music.
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020
    pattste and C-4 like this.
  15. DrumBob

    DrumBob Gold Supporting Member

    May 25, 2008
    NW NJ
    This basically sums it all up. There are no better or best years. Of course, I have to say 1958-60, but who can afford one of those? Not I. If I sold my house, I could buy a real Burst. That's not gonna happen. Go play a bunch of them until one picks you. You'll know when you find it. Just like the right woman.
  16. GiorgioV

    GiorgioV Member

    Sep 17, 2009
    I'll skip the 50s and the custom shops.

    70s ones have their own vibe that some like. I personally do not care for them.

    80s had some cool rarer models but they tend to be very pricey.

    90s is when Gibson got back on track. early 90s up to early 2000 les pauls have their own vibe and some people really like them. They are powerful and very "solid". Lots of pros have used them and keep on doing so. Early classics are very sweet and they come with a real abr if you prefer it.

    later in the 2000 they are cool too but some people don't like the chambering that took over the weight relief trend.

    modern ones (post henry j era) seem to be well regarded but I haven't played one yet.
  17. C-4

    C-4 Member

    Mar 23, 2009
    I love Red Bank, NJ! Florida now Europe later
    Something to consider...Run the racks and include the newest Epiphones. Now, I am not an Epi player at all, but even I would like to see what the new ones are like.

    Compare those to Gibson Les Pauls you might be interested in. Possibly also try a CS Les Paul to see what the differences are among all these options.

    If you find that you like the custom shop Gibsons, but they are too much at this time, buy an Epi to make sure you are liking the Les Pauls, and save for a custom shop model. Even the used ones are about the price of some new regular Gibsons. See Dave's Guitar Shop for examples.

    After I played a custom shop LP, I knew what I wanted, so I saved up for them. I don't make a lot of money...less then 30K per year, but I have patience.

    In the last year, I bought 3 custom shop LP's, including 2 new R9's. I unloaded all other guitars I was not playing, but I play in a band and saved that money towards my goal gear. It seems to work out for me doing it that way.

    I no longer have a lot of guitars and amps, but I do have the exact amps and guitars I play and enjoy. The term "Less is more" fits me, and I wound up with the right Les. ;)
    jujube and majorminor like this.
  18. K-Line

    K-Line Vendor

    Jun 24, 2006
    St. Louis, Missourah
    98-2002 was a very good run.
  19. Dazza

    Dazza Member

    Dec 19, 2010
    A lot depends on what you want to do with it. From drop tuned metal to classic blues is a huge variety of tones. For a personal perspective my 1st LP was a new '89 Custom with high output pickups. Then in my 20's I was riffing away on period Whitesnake etc. Now into my 50's my ear has grown a long way from those sounds and I much prefer classic 60's-70's guitar tones. That Custom never gets played. I own several Historics with varied PAF type pickups and audio taper pots, which are far more articulate and responsive. I've always played for a living (tho this bloody Covid 19 has put a stop to that currently) and I want versatile guitars to cover a range of music styles. Original 50's Gibsons were sought out by players for decades for actual use, not to collect. They adapted to any music style and simply sounded good. Like most I can't afford an original but Historics are a lot closer than conventional models. With almost 40 years of playing guitar, most of that for a living, I'm talking with plenty of experience.

    Used Historics can be had for decent prices and typically are well looked after due to their initial cost. Honestly they're worth it if you can make the commitment. But like many great things once you have one it's impossible to not want more. A recommendation and a warning hehe.

    Last edited: Mar 29, 2020
    pete692, bluesyjacuzzi and Route67 like this.
  20. Blue Light

    Blue Light Member

    Apr 30, 2009
    1999. Because that's the year mine was made.

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