How to Tell the Year of a Gibson Les Paul

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How to Tell the Year of a Gibson Les Paul
The shape of a Gibson Les Paul is iconic and easy to identify. (new electric guitar image by .shock from

If you're shopping for a Gibson Les Paul, being able to quickly determine the age of one can help you land a bargain or avoid being ripped off. The original Les Paul came out in 1952 and was developed by a Jazz musician of the same name. Gibson's Les Paul guitars are played by countless guitarists and have remained in production. Generally, the guitar's serial number can tell exactly which year a Les Paul was made.

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  1. 1

    Visually inspect the guitar to locate the eight-digit serial number. Gibson places the number on the back of the headstock for models made after 1975. The guitar may predate Gibson's serial number system and could be valuable if there is no number.

  2. 2

    The guitar was made after 1977 if the serial number location is directly underneath the "Made in U.S.A." label. Gibson changed its system in '77, and the serial number location was fixed. The guitar dates from 1975 to 1977 if the serial number isn't beneath the "Made in U.S.A." label. The first two numbers were used to identify the specific year. If the first two serial number digits are "99," then the Les Paul was made in 1975, "00" for 1976 and "06" for 1977.

  3. 3

    Locate the first and fifth digits in the serial number. These represent the year in which the guitar was made. The full code for the serial number is "YDDDYRRR," which also adds in the specific date and the factory ranking number. If the guitar has more or less than eight digits in the serial number, then this also can be used to indicate the date. Nine-digit serial numbers were introduced in 2005, and the year of these can be identified in the same way -- a new number was added as the sixth digit.

  4. 4

    The first digit of a four- or five-digit serial number were used from 1989 to 1999. The four-digit serial number indicates the year 1989, and it will start with a nine. Five-digit serial numbers, starting with a nine, date the guitar to 1999.

  5. 5

    The first two digits on any six-digit serial number were used from the 2000 to 2005, and the first two digits are the date. The guitar was made in 1994 as part of Gibson's centennial celebrations if the serial number has eight digits and starts with "94."

  6. 6

    Visually inspect the inlay on a Les Paul guitar without a serial number. The original Les Paul had a more silvery inlay colour than the milky-white ones on more modern Les Paul models, and they look three-dimensional. Identify the wood, which could either be Brazilian Rosewood, Honduras mahogany or Eastern hard-rock maple, which were used on the original 1952 Les Paul and can be indicative of age.

Tips and warnings

  • Consult a guitar professional to accurately date a Les Paul with no serial number.

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