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Help authenticating my 3 Pickup Custom


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Hi folks,


I'm new to this board and was wondering if a few of you might be able to help me with authenticating my 3 pickup Les Paul Custom. I bought this guitar used over 20 years ago from a respected guitar dealer who I later went on to work with for a number of years and alway trusted his knowledge and integrity. However, from the moment I set eyes on this guitar and played it I have always had a nagging doubt in the back of my mind that something just doesn't quite add up. Why did I buy it, you ask? Well, a 3 pickup Les Paul Custom has always been my 'dream' guitar, and just the thought of owning one was enough to send my 'authenticity' radar into a spin. Although only in my mid-20s when I bought it I was still relatively wise about all things Gibson, having been an avid student of guitars and a player of a 1982 LP standard for some years by then. However, my lust for my own 'holy grail' allowed me to square my doubts away with a liberal bout of blame for Norlin-esqe oddity.


So, a little about the guitar, and what bothers me about it - the pictures referred to can be found here http://s1075.photobucket.com/albums/w430/leftback1/


It purports to be a wine red 3 pickup custom (pic 1), although I always prefer to think it is just a little too light for wine red - more of a cherry. The serial number is 135835 with the 'made in U.S.A.' legend beneath, which should place it in the '70-'75 bracket (the dealer reckoned it was most likely 1973). This is where things start to make me itchy about its authenticity............


As can be seen in pic 2, the serial and 'made in USA' text appear to be a transfer (or possibly screened-on), and are in a font that I haven't come across before on a Les Paul - certainly for the serial number, which as far as I'm aware have always been in a 'times'-style serif font. Also note that the machines have been replaced with Schallers where there would (probably) have been Klusons?, although replacement machines are common in guitars of this (alleged) era. The front of the headstock (pic 3) shows the inlaid Gibson logo - although this has always appeared to be too crude to my mind to be real. The whole headstock has, for me, the feel of having been 'blown over' with lacquer, making me suspect some modification to the cover plate, and the fact that even now the lacquer still gets an imprint if I use a headstock chromatic tuner. The imprint disappears after a while, but it is undoubtedly very soft after what should be nearly 40 years. The truss rod cover (pic 4) shows that the legend 'Les Paul' is engraved, but the word 'custom' appears to large against the 'Les Paul' script compared to other truss rod covers I have inspected


So if I accept that the serial number and the way it is applied are real (which I don't), I should be able to underpin this by checking the dates on the pots. Except that the pots are not what I would expect to find in a Gibson of any age. They are just stamped with the information regarding their value and nothing else. I would have expected to find CTS pots in there - at least a couple, but all are non-original for a purported Custom of that age. I suppose it is possible (if a little unlikely) that all the pots were replaced - when I originally tried the guitar out the pickup configuration was a little bizarre before I had it returned to the correct one, indicating that the previous owner had done some modification.


Next issue - the pickups. I would have expected to find patent number stamped pickups, but instead find what appear to be generic humbuckers (pic 5) stamped in ink with the code 180614 - very Greco-like. Again, it may be that the pickups and pots have been replaced, although the it appears to be a little bit beyond coincidence for me. It may also be worth noting that the routing for the middle pickup has had a little bit of inelegant chiseling done to the lower part, nearest the pickguard (pic 6), possibly to allow for a larger retro-fitted unit that was never fitted?


Finally, the bridge and stop-tail. The hardware always felt a little fishy (pic 7) - the stop-tail has it's stud bushes showing a little too proud, and the bridge has no visible studs in the body at all - the posts for the thumb-adjustment of the bridge fitting straight into the guitar top. The bridge itself is also unusual in that it does not conform to the general 'straight' tune-o-matic, this one being curved, a'la Ibanez/Greco. The tailpiece is stamped with 'LP-S' (pic 8).


Other than these issues, the guitar appears to be correct for the time period - mahogany body (appears to be 2 offset pieces), maple top (2 offset pieces), and mahogany neck with volute. Volume and tone knobs are black speed-type with the (nickel ?) pointers.


I would be delighted if anyone can give me information that proves my paranoia to be misplaced, to indeed be written off as Norlin-esque oddity, but I really can't help thinking that there are too many discrepancies for this to be a genuine Gibson, and that I've been the proud owner of a faked Japanese copy for all these years. Thanks in advance for your comments.



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A lot of good questions there.


A pic of the whole backside of the headstock would be nice, as well as good size overhead strait-on (no angles) shot of the entire guitar, making it easier to see the controls and hardware, as well as their positioning and alignments.


The ABR style bridge looks okay. The stop anchors possibly should've been set deeper, but I've seen them "proud" on some LPs.


The guitar looks okay in your angled overall long shot, but as you pointed out, the color does not appear to be wine red and the headstock leaves me with some questions too. Comparing it to other 73 customs: They always have headstock wings and usually have a three piece neck/headstock - can't see that in your pics. The split diamond inlay seems to be placed a bit too far up the headstock. The 73 Custom serials I've seen are stamped, although in some 70s years they used transfers/decals with a different script. Also, I believe they were pancaking the bodies in 73, and I can't tell from the pic if the frets have nibs (although it could've been refretted).


The other concerns could have resulted from electronics mods and/or replacement parts. Overall, it generates enough concerns to raise a red flag.


Legit 73 Custom - http://www.ebay.com/itm/1973-GIBSON-LES-PAUL-CUSTOM-CHERRYBURST-EXCELLENT-CONDITION-OHSC-/320972529251?pt=Guitar&hash=item4abb741e63#ht_16725wt_1397 ; and another - http://www.ebay.com/itm/1973-Gibson-Les-Paul-Custom-Heritage-Cherry-Sunburst-Vintage-/160874239137?pt=Guitar&hash=item2574da14a1#ht_60450wt_1397


1973GibsonLesPaulCherry-SunburstElectricGuitar11113-8.jpg. 1973GibsonLesPaulCherry-SunburstElectricGuitar11113-9.jpg

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Hi and welcome to the forum.


I'm far from being an expert on the Norlin-era LPs (although I did own one for a brief period) but there are several things that seem odd to me and I'll just pretty much go over the same things you mention.


Taking things roughly in order;


The bridge is completely wrong. Wrong in both shape and style - as you say an ABR-1 doesn't 'banana'; it it has a flat top. The narrow posts, however, are correct for a guitar from this period so the bridge might be a non-Gibson aftermarket part to replace a broken one...


The routing for the middle p-up looks dodgy. It's squint for a start and the shapes of the corners at the p/g edge are too square. It might be that it was a two-p'up which has been routed to accept a third p'up...except the 'sawdust' seems to be the same in all cavities.


As well as the 'Custom' engraving on the TRC being completely wrong the 'Les Paul' script is also wrong; it is far too thick. Also, the indents either side of the screw nearest the nut don't go deep enough into the 'bell'. I've a good close-up of the TRC on a '75 Custom and the one on yours is nothing like the real thing. Then again, the TRC could have been swapped for a non-Gibson aftermarket one...


The serial number font looks very wrong as does the 'Made in USA' bit. Is the neck a 5-piece? Three piece centre with two outlying 'wings'? It probably should be.


The p/head inlays are, as you suggest, one of the biggest flags that it is not a genuine LPC. The four triangles are very shoddily made and these, along with the diagonal bar, are inexpertly positioned. The 'Gibson' script appears to be too thick and seems to be of very poor quality - very crudely cut.

EDIT : The dotted 'i' and closed 'b' and 'o' were used on some guitars from about '78 - on.


All the things 'electrical' you list seem very fishy, too.


It could be that some parts could have been swapped-out over the years but All Of Them ? ? ?


Curiously almost the only thing which it has going for it is the fret-end 'nibs' (just under the p'up in picture 5) but with so much else looking wrong I'm of the opinion it's not a real Gibson.


OTOH - and no offense intended I assure you - you just might have the very worst (and heavily modified) Norlin I've ever seen...



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Hi Guys,


Thanks for the quick responses. Regarding a couple of the things BigKahune mentioned, the neck/headstock is definitely not 3 piece, and neither is the body pancaked. From these early responses it seems clear to me that this is indeed what I feared - a faker, or as pippy says, it could just be the worst and most heavily modded Norlin out there.



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Reading through my revious post I realise that I come across as being very disparaging of your instrument.


I certainly didn't intend to be.


If we've been discussing the guitar at length it shows it's of a certain quality otherwise a one-line answer would have sufficient.


Please let us know how it feels, plays and sounds!





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Poppy, you certainly didn't come across as disparaging, and I certainly never took it that way. The responses from yourself and BigKahune actually made me feel a little better about it - possibly because it made me feel that my own thoughts were valid, and partly that it got a bit of the monkey off my back regarding the guitar. It's funny, I've owned the instrument for 20 years or so and never felt that it was 'right', but I always shrugged my shoulders and never considered getting rid of it because it was my dream guitar.


Taking it on playability and sonic terms, it has always played really well - the neck has an 'effortless' feel to it and it feels very fluid. Sonically, it has always felt a little bit too 'hot' for me, with too much grunt and not quite enough subtlety. If I were to compare it to my '82 standard, I much prefer the tone and range of the standard, but the playability isn't as nice as what I'm now going to refer to as the Faux Paul Custom :)


The funny thing is, I have a 1960 Melody Maker which is as cheap as it got for Gibson. It's well beat and won't win any beauty contests but despite that and the unforgiving neck I find it to be my favourite guitar - it has that 'vital' quality to it and it sings even when unplugged, and all from a $100 slab of mahogany - go figure!



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