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Spotting Fake Epiphone Les Pauls


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Hi all.

I'm new to this forum, so be kind.

I am wanting to buy a used Epiphone Les Paul to replace my Fender Squier (which is not built to a high standard) But i have been looking on eBay for a decent one and have notice that there is the possiblity that I could end up with a cheap copy made in China.

This is why i need help, how can i spot a fake? preferably from the photo or from close up? I know that the Gibson Les Paul has two screws on the Bell cover on the top of the neck, but that doesn't help me, as i can't afford a Gibson! I would appreciate any advice, as much as possible.


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Welcome. The best advice I can give is to go to a reputable dealer that sells Epiphone. They aren't gonna rip you off. I would recommend staying away from Ebay and CL since you are unsure. There are fakes out there, but reputable dealers want your business, so they aren't gonna sell fakes.


About the 2 screw TRCs, there are companies in China that make fake Gibsons with 2 screw TRCs. Bottom line, if it looks to good to be true, it probably is. You may pay more, but you will have the peace of mind that you didn't buy a fake if you go to a reputable dealer.

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Every dodgy one I've heard about has had an "EE" made in China serial number. If you are buying secondhand get a Korean one with "S", "U" or "I" prefix, and I believe it's very unlikely to be a fake. My favourites have been "S", built by Samick in Korea around 1998-2002. I've had 3, all great quality.

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Some Online & Storefront Epiphone USA dealers:


American Musical Supply




First Quality Music




Fuller's Vintage Guitar




Guitar Center




Janet Davis Music




Musician's Friend




Sam Ash Direct




Sweetwater Sound




Wildwood Guitars




I vote for Guitar Center storefront and Sweetwater for mail order.

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Well, just because something is made in China doesnt mean it's a ”copy”, even of most counterfeit products are made there. I see the point with the pun however.


But, apart from that counterfeit items are no joking matter. It’s a multi billion dollar business. It has also destroyed businesses trying to do good products and made them go bankrupt.


I understand that many think they will get a product that looks just like the real thing, and sometimes those fake copies are really hard to tell from the original. But almost without exception the quality is way lower compared to the real thing. Probably not a big issue if you just want something for its appearance, but if you buy a guitar you want quality, and with a fake copy you simply wont get that.


But still, that isn’t the really big issue imho. Who are the ones behind making all these fake copies? It’s criminal syndicates. The same people who run prostitution and forced child labor, who run slave trade and drug smuggling. And, by the way, also are responsible for a large amount of the spam you all get and lots of the Trojans and viruses. Are these really the ones you want to support when buying a cheap fake copy that “ooh looks just like the real thing”.


Of course no one on this forum would even consider buying a fake Epiphone on purpose, you wouldn’t be here if quality wasn’t a requirement. But I am also sure a fair number of you have a fair number of copied items. And I would just want to make a plead to consider all the implication when the wish for a cheap deal starts feeling tempting. Please, don’t give them the satisfaction of making money on dirty business….

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Hi John


The other thing that needs to be considered is that, aside from the potential fake and quality issues, each and every Epiphone (and Gibson, Fender, Collins, PRS, etc, etc, etc ...) will feel slightly different to another and what feels perfect to me might feel wrong to you. An example of this is my Dot Studio - three in stock at the the shop where I bought mine - visually couldn't tell them apart - two felt wrong somehow but the third felt like I'd owned her for years. You can't find that out when you buy online.

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Hi John,


I'm presuming you're from the UK.


You don't say which LP you're interested in or what your budget is but I would personally advise that you shop around for a good price on a new one from a reputable dealer.


The German site Thomann.de usually has the most competitive prices e.g. a Standard Plus in HCS for £333. If you don't want to order from abroad, DV247.com and imuso.co.uk will match all European prices.


Studios are available for £250 from these suppliers (and their uncovered pickups suffer from less muddiness). In fact, imuso currently have a rather beautiful looking studio in wine red (not the faded cherry) for £259. I'd personally rather have this one than buy a used standard plus for not much less £, and with the risk of it being fake.




All of those mentioned above are reputable suppliers by the way.



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By the way, my budget is £250 to £300, I am not sure which LP to go for yet, i am into heavy rock, Led Zeppelin, Gary Moore also Skynyrd. so that would give you an idea, still confused with the various pickups that come with the different models. Also, I might give the impression that i am a learner, but i have been playing for 30 years, just never had the cash to get a decent guitar, sad, isn't it!! Now i am teaching my son and as he is very keen and doing well, i want to get him something better than he can keep for many years.

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Stores do have 2nd-hands, y'know. From trade-ins. I got my Wilshire 2nd-hand from a store for a great price. And when I noticed later that the low E string kept buzzing, I took it back and they fixed it on the spot for free! You just don't have that kind of service when you buy online, especially from E-bay. With a budget of 250 - 300 it really doesn't matter which brand you choose, quality will always be hit and miss. So I'd rather go to a local store and have the guitar in my hands to try before I buy, knowing I could still take it back if there's something wrong and get it fixed rather than end up with a piece of potential firewood from E-bay.


Also, what Wiggy said imho is very important! Great quality is no assurance for great playability, that is a very personal thing!

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Ignoring the Epiphone Elitist (Japanese, higher price) models, the Standard, Studio and Custom Les Pauls, and the G400 SGs, all have the same humbuckers and will get the sort of sounds you want as long as you have a reasonable quality valve/tube amp. The Studio LP model is an alternative low frills model which plays and sounds the same as a Standard.


E-bay is a risk. I've bought at least 14 guitars on e-bay in the last 4 years....6 Epiphones, 5 Gibsons, and 3 lower spec Asian models. All have been good buys for the money, because I'm careful how much I bid. All have been as described, except 1 Epi LP Custom, which was a good fake and such a good price I didn't mind. Of the 14, only one was damaged in transit, and the seller re-imbursed me for the minor repair that was needed. If you buy secondhand you may not be able to try the guitar, but if you don't get suckered into paying over the odds you can always resell for about the same money if you find you just don't like that particular guitar.


Most of the fake Epis spotted on e-bay have been sold as "new" not "used", Customs or Ltd Editions not Standards, and recent "EE" serial numbers. In the UK, if you buy a used "S" or "U" from a private e-bay seller the risk is very very low. You should get a LP Std for around £180 - £200.


Alternatively, if you want to spend a bit more, GAK are an authorised dealer doing very good deals on new Epis. I got my Alleykat from them online. Or : http://www.giggear.co.uk/p/Epiphone-Les-Paul-Studio-Worn-Cherry/


If it was me, I'd shop around for a Studio or Standard on e-bay and put any left over cash towards a little tube amp.

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Johnstewarthughes -


Perhaps I shouldn't say this on an Epiphone forum.


But as you are on a tight budget, I have to ask: does it have to be an Epiphone?


The new Vintages are really nice guitars, especially for the money. I played an AV1 - see pic below - the other weekend and thought it was a great guitar.




The Vintages now have Trev Wilkinson designed hardware. They are amazing value for money, really. And if you are looking for the classic Les Paul style, then the V100 comes in quite a few colours, finishes and options. This is just a random sample shown below:




The prices stated on their website are a bit higher than you'll pay in the shops, but they are still right in your price range. You'll be able to pick one up new for around £230 or so from a dealer. Anyway, here is the info about these guitars from the Vintage website: http://www.jhs.co.uk/vintageelectric.html


You say you live in the West Midlands. I don't know the guitar shops in that area, but Vintage does publish a dealer list: http://www.jhs.co.uk/dealersevp.html


If you ever fancy a trip to the East Midlands there is a big Vintage dealer in Leicester. Their prices are pretty good and they are right by Leicester railway station on London Road - conveniently enough. See: http://www.sheehans.com/ Incidentally, I am not connected in any way with either Vintage or Sheehans. I just happen to like both companies and their products.


By the way, you're going to really struggle to find an affordable Asian made guitar these days that wasn't made in China. Doesn't mean that's a bad thing. Just try before you buy. My Epiphone Casino was made in China and it is an excellent guitar. I think these Vintages are also made in China - and again, the ones I have played seemed great to me.

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I don't know how you can really say if it's fake or not from the cruddy photos, but since the seller states that it is a "brand new" guitar, I would ask to see a copy of his original receipt. If the seller can't produce a receipt, I'd move on.


There is someone selling new left handed and right handed EPI's on the local CL. Seems stupid to me, though I understand a person not knowing guitars and Christmas just ahead, I can see the risk. Luckily, they don't seem to be selling as the ad keeps getting posted every couple of days.

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Have just enquired about Les Paul Studio, he was kind enough to email me back with the serial number, which has a U in the serial number, so it is apparantly from Korea, going for a buy it now price of £200, it is used, very tempting..

here is the link, if you have any comments, would appreciate it..



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Looks legit, and a better-than-average Studio because it has the trapezoid inlays. I'd just get him to confirm it's a set neck rather than a bolt-on. £200 is top end for a used Studio, I'd have said £175 - £180, but it's a nice one. The machine heads are Grovers, which is good. And it includes gig bag and strap, so not a bad price.

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I trade with this guy on Craigslist sometimes and he sent me an e-mail about a couple of fakes he had knowingly bought. I just wanted to share what he said about them with everyone.

Here's the e-mail:

Just to let you know, the new copies are nearly absolute identical. I have 2 copies. The first is about 3yrs old and has no nibs on the fret board. The new one I have that was $375 delivered with case, is the same weight as a Gibson, wiring is much better that previous, 2 screw truss rod cover with exact oval truss rod hole. Both Gibson and les paul model are perfectly aligned, and as before mentioned, the frets are covered by accurate nibs, fret board is ebony. The serial # is even accurate to what the guitar should be. The pick ups even say Gibson usa on the backs and sound extremely close. The only difference is the tune o matic is still a screw driver adjusted instead of thumb wheels. My guitar tech did not know it was a copy. So be very careful. If someone changes the posts on the tune o matic to thumb wheels, it will be almost impossible to separate if the others are as close as mine.


I did not know the newer copies were being made that well. All of the ones I had seen on here had really obvious signs to give them away but it looks as if someone is getting better at it. I know that he bought them online, most likely E bay but I'm not for sure. Be careful if you are not buying from a reputable dealer.

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hi guys,

just bought my first epi guitar yesterday( its a lp zakk wylde bullseye custom btw), from an official dealer in portugal and i have a couple of issues...

Ive tested it in the store and it sounded great so i bought it and didnt paid much att to details cause its brand new, but once i got home to play with my new girl ive notice something.

The Gold finishing wasn´t that great after all... it has some major faults [biggrin] !

Second ive checked the serial wich is 0901212519 (made in korea), and i got no results for it... (Also tried to replace the first "0" for the "O" (letter) and its telling me that it was made in Korea in 1990!

Sry if im saying bsh1t but is it possible that a brand new guitar boughted yesterday and a zakk wylde custom (1st made in 2005 i belive) can have 20 years old????

Please someone give me some hints on this issues... Can it be FAKE?

Also read that the recent Epiphones will have only numbers on the serial... Thought couldnt find it in the database with only numbers...

The Guitar sound Great but im not going to waste my money on a FAKE one right? Pls answr so i get the refound while i can if i have to [blush]

Tx in advance

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I wonder where he is getting his fakes from? I see a fake LP about once a month, and it always irks the customer when I have them sign a document stating that they brought me a counterfeit guitar. (But there is no way I am taking possession of a fake Gibby only to have them turn around and accuse me of any shady dealings.) I have even informed gibson a couple of times when the client is obviously just looking for an appraisal so they can claim I said it was legit when they sell it. Every one of them has been a HORRIBLE example of a "guitar", and would make even the crappiest epiphone look like a million bucks. Most have Epi hardware and electronics (could this be a clue?) with a gibby headstock, but very plastic-y looking binding, no nubs, and just all around toy-ish feeling and looking.

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