How to spot a fake: Gibson warns of counterfeit guitars sold in USA

Gibson Guitar continues to protect its intellectual property rights and provide consumer protection against the growing problem of counterfeit instruments being shipped from and sold by outlets and individuals in China.

This is a 're-print' of a popular article - there are still many people asking questions about how to tell if a Gibson guitar is genuine.

Originally published in April 2009, this article continues to get a lot of readers and people posting comments and questions below. We hope you find this useful if you're wondering about a second hand Gibson you're looking at buying, or even one that is being sold as new if it's not from a regular Gibson dealer.

Several complaints from consumers who were sold fake instruments has prompted an aggressive move on Gibson Guitar's part to work with government officials and other instrument marketers in an effort to curtail the growing problem. Gibson Guitar advises all consumers to purchase Gibson instruments only from their network of authorized dealers.

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Authorized Gibson dealers can be found on the company's website at www.gibson.com and should be referred to by consumers when purchasing their choice of Gibson instrument. A consumer is warned against purchasing any Gibson brand instrument outside of the authorized dealer network and the inevitable risk of purchasing what can turn out to be a fake.

The growing problem, originating out of China, has been reviewed by the U.S. Trade Commission and currently has the attention of Washington. China regularly defends its record in fighting piracy and counterfeit production of merchandise, however many pirated consumer products continue to be sold in various Chinese cities which affect a multitude of international manufacturers across many categories.

"We will continue to do everything in our power to protect our consumers and the integrity of our family of brands," said Henry Juszkiewicz, Chairman and CEO of Gibson Guitar. "We hope that by issuing this warning our consumers will be armed with the right information to protect themselves and understand what they need to do to insure that what they are purchasing is, indeed, an authentic Gibson instrument."

Consumers can check any of the references below when examining a Gibson guitar in an effort to insure its authenticity:

- Make sure the size is not undersized

- The headstock and headstock logo should match those of authentic Gibson guitars

- Pearl should always be inlaid

- Les Paul Model script is always in cursive

- If the guitar has a 3 screw truss rod it is not authentic

- Check the control and pick up cavities for sloppy routing or wiring

- Real Gibson guitars use one piece necks

- Many fake Gibsons have their pickup cavities painted black inside

- If purchasing a Gibson always ask for the Gibson's Owner Manual and Gibson/Warranty Inspection Card

- Check the wiring, if it is plastic it isn't a true Gibson

In a recent case in North Carolina, a man was charged with trying to sell counterfeit guitars after a 15 year old discovered the instrument he bought from the suspect was a fake. The man was arrested on two felony counts of criminal use of a counterfeit trademark, following an investigation by the North Carolina Secretary of State's Trademark Enforcement Section. The investigation was initiated by a complaint to the Secretary of State's Office from a victim who allegedly bought what appeared to be a Les Paul model Gibson brand electric guitar from the man. The man had advertised the guitars for sale in the local paper.

Auction websites currently have hundreds of instruments which resemble Gibson Guitars and other brands. Some even feature trademarked headstocks and logos. Many of these items carry a very low sale price but exorbitant shipping costs. Upon close inspection the guitars will not feel or sound like a true Gibson and most are not of good standard of quality overall. If a guitar is up for an auction for a straight price or a fraction of what one would cost typically, the consumer is taking a great chance in purchasing it. Gibson Guitar warns against such action. Consumers should be wary of such sales that also offer shipping prices that are more than the guitar.

Illegal merchandise entering the country offer great damages on many levels; and counterfeiting in the United States is a serious crime punishable in a court of law. By Federal statutes, selling and also owning counterfeit merchandise is a felony. By issuing this warning, Gibson Guitar hopes to educate its loyal consumers about such wrongdoings and protect them.

This is a Press Release

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They won't help

I dissagree with contacting the factory with the serial number of any guitar before buying, as to be blunt they will not give a S**t they will not help unless you pay, as all they would be doing all day is verifying serial numbers I once tried and they wanted me to send $80.00 for the information good old Gib**n.
Regards
Ray.

Gibson and Fees

Yes I agree Gibson will not give out information freely. They want paying for information even after shafting,!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I mean selling you a Guitar,
Regards
Larr

They won't help

Test Gibson

http://www.guitardaterproject.org/gibson.aspx

Contacting Gibson

You will get no help from Gibson as they will never give any information out to you, they will want it in writing with your $100.00 for the privilidge to give you any help, when you think that it should be in their interests to help the poor potential buyer it is ad that they (GibsoN) don't give a sh*t once they have sold these overprced mass produced intsruments to the ususpecting misinformed public, they say they are all handmade ???????????????, so what do they use the C.N.C Machines for ????????????????, no better than any other company churning as many as they can out for the most profit.
Regards
Bill C

Contacting Gibson

You have no chance at all of getting any information out of Gibson, easier asking the Goverment for Social Security Numbers.

i recently bought what turned out to be a very convincing fake '59 re-issue at a guitar show in valley forge, pa. i bought it to trade, as i'm really an sg player, and the $1500 price sounded like a great deal. when i went to trade for a nice 73' sg, that dealer hipped me to the fake, so my friend and i found the con man outside after the show and "persuaded" him to return my $ after showing him the error of his ways. i don't really know les pauls that well and the info out there available to spot a fake really is helpful,in this case 3 screw truss rod cover, 2 piece neck, and gibson headstock logo was horizontal and not on a downhill angle. this guy was a dealer and DEFINITELY knew it was a fake, so violence was justified. if someone knowingly tries to rip you off of your hard earned $, you should give them a good bash in the chops. maybe these pricks won't be so anxious to screw people.

Broken Legs

This guy should have had his legs broken for trying this,
Regards
Ray.

Hang em

We should bring back hanging for these jerks, or castrate the guys who do this, I should have done this to Bill for his pleasure with Monica.

Bollocks

He should be hanged by his bollocks

Testicles

Hi I agree this guy should be hung from a tree by his testicles or taken out into the yard and shot.

Fakes Made in China ?

Hi no problems I just hope that any of your American Made Guitars are not a 1958/1959 Re-Issue as look at the bit that touches the guitar headstock on the supposedley "Kluson" Machine Heads they are Stamped "Made in Japan" What else don't we know about as well and I have an old Les Paul so I am a Gibson Convert ?.

How can you spot an Epiphone fake? Is it the same as a Gibson fake.

Only asking because I can see an EpiphoneBlack Beauty on e-bay for $480AU but when I compared it to apicture on the epiphone website I can clearly see that the one on e-bay is a fake.

Cheers,

Jase

I am old enough to remember when overpaid auto workers and unions were trying to get everyone in the 70s to believe that cars from Japan were "Junk" or "Cheap". Same with guitars and definitely TVs and consumer electronics until both industries were producing better products that we Americans were making. It got so bad with guitars, that Fender HAD TO stop making their basic strat in Japan because they couldn’t sell American ones at a higher price. This bashing of the “counterfeiters” continued. While we called the Koreans, Indonesians, and everyone else’s guitars "Cheap" They were getting better. So much so that just about anything made in Japan is better, and a ton of stuff from Korea like the high end Agiles and Brian Moore’s and FAR better instruments to anything "American" at the price point.
We can continue to cry about "trademark" and insist that our American Zenith television is far better to any of that “Chinese junk” (Notice how we don’t make TVs in America anymore), or we can collectively tell Gibson that if they could figure out a new guitar design that can sell, that isn’t 50 years old and stop lacquer from creeping out the edge of $1500 guitars, then maybe they wouldn’t have to put their name on surge protectors (Made in China by the way).
If you think that the Chinese instruments won’t get better, and fast, you are fooling yourself. If you think they give a crap about trademarks, they don’t. If you think a Gibson logo is worth an extra $800, except in investment terms, then you have sold out to the man, and if you think that Gibson’s are “hand made” then you obviously don’t understand that a guy named Jones and a guy named Chin can both run a CNC machine.

YOU HIT THE NIAL BUDDY!

GEE IM NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO THINKS THE SAME!! A DIRTBAG NAMED ED ROMAN IN VEGAS!! SELLS FAKE GIBSONS!! AND EVERY OTHER BRAND!! AND NOT ONE US OR JAPANESE CO, HAS PREVENTED HIM FROM DOING SO!!!!! AND THAT GUYS IN THE USA!! ITS ALL BULLSHIT!!

Ed Roman guitars RULE!!!

Do you know any of Ed Roman's background? Before you go and do your defamation of character rant, do some background history! Ed Roman use to work for Gibson guitars. Ed if you read this, I have on my wish list from Santa, a guitar from Ed Roman! Merry Christmas! fr: Steve

ED Roman

Ed Roman makes some fantastic guitars and I have dealt with him three times over the past ten years he always delivers what he says and boy are the guitars great. and handmade unlike some others.
Regards
Bill.

I dealt with Ed Roman once

I dealt with Ed Roman once and I'll never do it again. He cannot be trusted.

Ed Roman

I have dealt with Ed Roman and he repaired my Les Paul so good that you can't even tell he is a saviour not a Con Man as you describe him look at his web site there are some cool guitars, Long Live Ed Roman you are the greatest.

Fake Les Paul

Japanese '62 Strat re-issues bring a pretty nice price these days...because they're very nice guitars. Tokai, Ibanez and other "lawsuit" Les Paul copies are excellent guitars and hard to come by. I've seen and heard some of the Chinese copies marketed by Trade Tang and others and for the most part they're very nice guitars, they play well and look great. The do indeed cut some corners on hardware and electronics but, you can buy a lot of pots, bridges, tailpieces and tuners for the $2,500.00 difference between a copy and a real Les Paul. The woods used for the Les Paul instruments I've seen are mahogany and maple...maybe a lesser grade of both but serviceable and with a nice veneer top it's tough to tell the difference. The necks are for the most part two or three pieces with the headstock portion usually joined about three inches down the neck. Look at most Epiphones and you'll see this "V" shaped joint. It seems to have worked well for them. I can't address the issue of using the Gibson logo, etc. I'm not certain I think it's right and I'm fairly certain it's not exactly legal, but that said, with Gibson prices for a Les Paul in the $2500 to $3,500 and up range there's going to be a market for these copies and you're right...they're going to keep getting better.

guitars

the ideas you promote is what killed the american economy.......hope you are enjoying the new america.
we don't make TVs because the foreign brands dumped them..............it's about price, you moron.........it always is. you del;ude yourself it's about quality...........
how's things going in your american city? how's the roads in front of your house?

Good call Jason. The Slope heads are best at ripping off the white man's ideas and turning them against him. Difficult one for manufacturers to deal with. Probably Gibson needs to talk to the dog eaters about manufacturing guitars there and then perhaps their local enforcement can clean up the counterfitters.

i recently bought a SG for my friend as a suprizeand i found somthin a miss when oi noticed the serial number bas exactly the same as my es 335 that i bought last year

i sent them both to gibson

both are fake

i spent some 25,000 on both of them

i can't get my money back

dang

Fakes

You should have kept the guitars you muppet instead of giving them to Gibson to break up for you.

I went into a pawn store today and was blown away to see an american strat for $250. but within moments of looking at it I started noticing something was not right. for one thing, the input jack was coming out of the pickgaurd straight. Not angled like a strat. There were only 2 knobs on the pickgaurd. the bridge was bolted into the body by 2 rusted wood screws. There was no tremelo, but some strats did not come with one. The tuning pegs were not fender and in fact you could see the factory screw holes next to the machine heads. It was definately a American strat neck though. I'm glad I took a closer look because I was ready to go up the the cashier and pay right away.

1983-84 strat two knob

Not a fake... made in 1983-84 only, these 2 knob strats were actually very nice. Fender tried to save money by having the input jack out of the pick guard..

Indeed, those were nice

Indeed, those were nice guitars. But i can see how someone that has never seen one think it to be fake.

Be careful when using the Serial number on the Guitar for validation as the Chinese are using numbers that check out to be authentic.

Some Gibsons have three-piece necks. I own a couple, had them for years, NOT from China.

Hi..I'm seeing a number of Gibson 'Specials' on eBay currently and the dot on the 'i' in the Gibson logo on the headstock is touching the 'G' in the logo. The real Gibson logo has clear space all around the dot on the 'it' in the log....it's not smashed up against the 'G'. Also these two 'Specials' have very downsized, skinny trapezoid inlays instead of the 'dot' inlays that I see on the Gibson site. The truss rod covers look okay, with 2 screws, but that logo just doesn't look right to me. These seem to be fakes...one is going for $500.00 right now and I'm NOT buying. I also saw an exact duplicate of one on eBay on sale on craigslist out of Los Angeles...it's like there's a flood of these black lacquer 'Gibson' Specials on the market that are said to be years old (like 2001) but look brand spanking shiny new. Who buys a Les Paul and leaves it in the case for 7 years and never plays it??? Something isn't sitting right with me and everyone needs to do their research before purchasing any high-end guitar because of the number of fakes out there.

I'm being asked to buy one (a Supreme) right now...it looks flawless and the serial number checks out, but for the price asked, it's gotta be a fake...what should I do next except not buy it?

Many Gibson Replicas are better quality in terms of workmanship and materials, so its not all bad.

I have called Gibson several times about the fake Epiphones and they would only say they will do something. After a while, I found out that the sellers on Ebay I reported to them continue to do their trade. Out of curiousity, I asked one seller if he can prove his ware are authentic. He sent me an invoice that appeared to have been issued from Epiphone Qingdao. I sent Gibson the copy of the receipt, had not heard anything since then and the seller continues on Ebay.
And heck, I ordered a Slash model from a Chinese website (I think based in Jinan) and it arrived five days later. Compared it with an Epiphone Vintage Tobacco burst owned by a friend and voila, perfect copy. Pickups used real Epis, Alpha pots, MOP inlays and even the feel's the same. What gave away the fake Chinese guitar? The messy wiring. But hey, if they can do it right, Gibson will have a good fight.
The fake guitar has been hanged since and I am sticking to a Les Paul copy from another Chinese company. At least this one does not say it is Epiphone.

Hey Eldie, there is an Epi factory in Qindao and had been running since 2002. (http://www.epiphone.com/FactoryTour/qdtour.html). But the messy wiring doesn't necessarily mean it's fake. It just so happens that the Chinese real Epis do have messy wiring, as several reviews I have read in Guitarist Magazine (on the Zakk Wylde, Supreme, Ultima) have noted that. So for all you know you could be hanging up a genuine piece. I dunno what price you paid, but sometimes even ridiculously cheap ones are real. I bought a Sheraton there few years back, physically picked it right outta the Epi warehouse and it was half the price of it here is Australia (AU$750 as opposed to $1500). Besides, I don't think there is much a market for fake Epis as they are already cheap and the fake Epis cost the same to make as fake Gibsons.

I have in my possession, an Epiphone LP Custom Wine Red Flametop.Stunning to look at but I have some concerns and hope someone can help me.It came from a guy who claims they are "factory direct".The 1st 2 things I noticed was the tailpiece studs have a rounded head,and the bridge is lacking provisions for the wire retainer.Then I found that the tuner washers on top of the headstock are curved like bell-cymbals leaving only enough room for 1 wrap of the strings between the nut and the string hole.I pulled the pickups and they are not stamped Epiphone.The routing is sloppy and the neck joint looking from the heck pickup cavity is very gappy.Also have issues in the wood on the sides of this thing.The s/n 9 digits following the 2 letter plant code and I thought there was only supposed to be 8.I have sent pics to Gibson and have not heard anything yet.Any comments???

I just bought a "replica" LP from a pawn shop that was very upfront about the fact it was a "replica" and not a real one. If it was real Custom, it would sell for $3100. I bought it for $400. This one even came with a fake Gibson case.

If clearly has a valid Serial number on the back of the neck with "Made In U.S.A." stamped underneath.

On mine, the issues are, wiring, the truss rod cover, there is a Les Paul logo in the middle of the headstock and instead on a real one, there would be a pearl inlaid diamond, the covers on the back are cream instead of black, they are GROVER tuners (that's the REALLY fast tip off -- maybe on an Epi, but not a Gibson)

The pickups are also not stamped underneath so are definitely the other way to tell -- they aren't gibson pickups.

But the quality of the guitar overall is very nice. With $300 I can put in Gibson pickups and replace the wiring to make it close enough to a real gibson for me. I don't care if it isn't and the audience will not know.

I've owned several gibson les paul's over the years and a couple of epiphones.
I now am fortunate to have a china custom. Looks great,plays great right out of
the box.Haven't had to tweak a thing.Say what you want about the (fakes)it's the
best guitar I've ever owned.

Greedy Gibson

Same here I play a chinese Les Pau7l looks good sounds good, and I have $3000 in the bank as well, Bill

ebay and Chinese Fake Gibsons

I agree with you I too bought a 1958 re-issue that was from China and it looks great plays superb sounds great $300,
Regards
Bill.

i rescently just purchased a bc rich platinum mockinbird of of kijiji.....its missing a few parts ....the guitar was ment as a project anyway....but afte looking atit closer...im starting to notice things that dont seem right......there is no serial number, in fact there isnt a number on i period, it does not say mockinbird on the headstock or bc rich on the pick ups...it has a double invert trem rather than a tune o matic bridge which all the pics ive seen have the tune o matic....and finally the logo...the swerve on the h almost reaches the tip of the headstock aswell there isnt a period at the end of the h as seen in some pics....ive searched the net tryin to find some resources that will let me know if it is real or not but i cant find a thing...so if any body has any info please contact me at rhudson18@hotmail.com with ur information.....it would be most appreciated..cuz the last thing i wanna do is fix this thing up if its a piece of shit knock off

im not saying its good for china to copy gibsons logo and counterfeit there guitars but u gotta admit they are good value for money eg.
gibson studio les paul (cheapest) £1000
fake gibson 1970's classic les paul (£1400 guitar) £200

all you need to do is upgrade the tuning pegs coz they easiy get out of tune and change the humbuckers for better gibson ones.
and it still has the gibson badge
so ure payin around £400 for a guitar that looks and sounds like a gibson

I e mailed Gibson about seeing some of their guitars made over in japan,, he DID tell me that gibson has a place overseas that are making the epiphones for them,,
MMMMMMMMMMMMMM go figure. Guess its cheaper to have them make them for $1.50 pr.hr. than have our people make them for $15.00 an hr..

This info is okay if it's a NEW guitar, but if you buy a USED Gibson, it doesn't all apply. Gibsons from the 70's and 80's (Norlin era) didn't have one-piece necks, had less severe headstock angles (14 degrees instead of 17), had larger headstocks (which would affect the over-all length of the guitar), and had slightly different "Gibson" logos. Gibson DOES use plastic-coated wire, so that part isn't true at all. And sometimes people paint the cavities with black shielding paint.

Hi, Could anyone give me the contact details for Gibson? I've just bought a Firebird and would like to confirm the serial number with them. Thanks!

Adam Smasher & Jack, get your hand off it. Do you two even own a Gibson. Thought not.

Checking the serial number isn't going to help you much, they copy those as well. Go to a site that sells fake Gibsons, write down a few serial numbers and then check them online, you'll see what I'm talking about.

I just purchased a fake Les Paul Special "All Gold" off of Craigslist for $350.00. The seller was upfront about it being a fake. Two screws in the truss-rod cover. P/U's age good and to be honest, it's the one I go to first. I love this thing.

What an excellent post by Adam Smasher. I have, too, found out that Asian guitars are getting way better in quality than the garbage Gibson guitars these days. I will NOT pay $4500 for a Gibson Les Paul which arrives flawed, with chambered bodies because they ran out of wood, with bad QC, they don't even support replacement parts for guitars other than a Les Paul, and they are extremely overpriced. They are producing garbage like the infamous BFG, Orville must be rolling in his grave of anger at the monopolist Juszkiewicz. Look at Blueridge how it destroys Martin in quality. Ditto with the Ibanez Artcore guitars, excellent superior quality than Gibson. So, if Gibson wants to straight up things and stop the scam, then better get its act right, because there is always an excellent fake for an 1/8th of the price which, by just changing some parts and putting some Seymour Duncan pickups it will destroy the Gibson at any moment. Keep the fakes coming in!

Problem is not if what you buy is quality or not which clearly can be the case with some fake asian guitars. The problem is if you buy something advertized as a genuine made in USA Lespaul when its not. Its called false representation and has nothing to do with quality. I bought a Les Paul standard back in 1992 when they were still not overpriced and the seller told me I would be able to sell my axe anytime and never lose a single dollar I agree. I had to buy a backup for Live purpose but I could not afford a genuine LP. So I went the Epiphone way by buying from a local guy that had upgraded his axe with genuine 490r and 498t plus Grover tuners. I got such a nice Custom beauty for backup that can stand against my genuine LP Standard at the 1/6 of the price. But Epiphone is a legitimate trademark they are authorized by Gibson so...

If the fakes are quality guitars, then why do they have to steal the Gibson logo? Plain and simple, they are damned thieves. There have been many guitars made that appear similar to a Les Paul, but have easily identifiable logos. Those guitars are made all over the world, including China. But at least they are honest about it.
I hope that you make great music, write that one big hit, invest everything you have to promote it and then the chinese take all the money by selling forgeries of your cd. If it's OK for them to steal from the public and companies, then it should be just wonderful for them to steal from you and your family.
The idea that anyone finds it acceptable to reward this thieving trash by purchasing their products is truly despicable. You can rationalize it any way that comforts you, but people who purposefully make, sell and/or buy fakes - suck.

once herd a comment by rolex about fake watches.they said anybody who buys a fake rolex,knows if they had enough money they would buy a geuine one.moral of the story is if your gonna buy a fake gibson, its just a matter of time befor you will want a genuine one.Mr Gibsons happy to wait.Nobody wants to be second best.

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