How To Differentiate An Original Gibson From A Copy: A Guide

how to differentiate an original gibson from a copy

Want to learn how to tell an original Gibson from a copy? We understand your concern. The world of counterfeiting is one of the most lucrative, and this is due to the easy access to advertising through social media and ecommerce sites. This great accessibility and ability to replicate that many manufacturers have, is a cause for concern for users who do not know how to distinguish between an original brand and its respective copies.

The main portion of distrust falls on the Chinese industry, which has since the beginning of the 21st century been characterized by a large number of counterfeiting companies. The issue is also due to the lack of policies and legislation that prevent counterfeiters from distributing their products.

In an attempt to take a step in the right direction, the Chinese government is committed to enforcing respect for intellectual property. Nevertheless, the counterfeiting industry is still very present and many buyers continue to fall into its traps.

That's why in this article, we will provide you with some important facts so you can spot the difference between an original Gibson and a copy. Whether it's something as simple as the name, or something as technical as the construction or components, after reading this article you will be able to make the right call when buying a Gibson guitar.

How to recognize a Gibson counterfeit

The name

As for the name, there are two types of imitations: 1. the exact ones and 2. those that do not pretend to be originals, known as shanzhai copies. The intention of the former is to make people believe that it's an original model and therefore seeks to be accurate, although it differs in many aesthetic aspects. The latter is openly a counterfeit, although it may have very similar names to the original brand.

A shanzhai copy of Gibson is the popular Chibson Les Paul, which may look the same, but tacitly says it's not. In the end, who would confuse Chibson with Gibson? Well, you may be surprised to learn that some very novice buyers can be confused by both names.

However, there are many users who purchase a guitar of this type of brand despite being aware that it's not an original Gibson. But if you want to differentiate an original Gibson from a copy, you must pay attention to the transcription of the name.

Aesthetic aspects

Inclination and location of the name

The brand name on the guitar headstock can be almost identical. But the difference lies in the arrangement and inclination of the same, as in the following image.


The neck taper is a detail that can help you recognize a copy, as it's much greater on an original Gibson. The original has between 13º and 16º degrees of inclination depending on the model. In a counterfeit, this figure is less than 7º.

You will also recognize the original Gibson capos, which are thin and made of high quality synthetic materials, with clean cuts. The counterfeits have thick capos and are evidently made of common plastic. However, there are counterfeiters who use good quality synthetic materials.


On the original Gibson, all the hardware, such as the tuning keys and bridge, are carved with the Gibson trademark. Copies do not have these details. On the bridge, where the saddles are, we can notice that the Gibson Les Paul has a dial for Allen keys to adjust the height. Others have a kind of rivet and are adjusted from the bottom. But the replicas have a spade screwdriver head.

In addition, the quality of the original hardware can be distinguished because it doesn't tarnish, oxidation is almost nonexistent and chrome flakes never appear. But counterfeits are opaque, tarnish, oxidize, and chrome flakes are evident.


Looking at the original Gibson microphones, they have the name and series engraved on them. But the counterfeits show neither the name nor any series.

On the other hand, the back cover that covers the potentiometers is attached to an aluminum or stainless steel plate in the case of original Gibson electric guitars. In contrast, the counterfeits are screwed directly into the wood, and the poor paint finish is visible.


On original Gibson guitars, the finish is nitrocellulose with a low gloss. In contrast, counterfeits have a high gloss, thick-coat finish. However, this can be a bit subjective, and you should only consider this aspect if you are a connoisseur of paint finishes, polyurethane, nitrocellulose and the like. If you are not too familiar with these materials and how they should look when applied, it's recommended that you skip this point and go with something more objective.


The woodwork is the most subjective aspect of all, because you can't see it unless you remove all the paint. Therefore, it's not something we recommend considering unless you are an expert in wood types and can differentiate them by weight, density and color.

Sound Quality

This is the almost definitive factor. Original Gibson guitars have a very warm sound, with great punch. The sustain of the original Gibson guitars is very enveloping, as is the reverb. Also, every movement on the tone potentiometers is noticeable.

Fake Gibson guitars produce a plastic, poorly processed sound with very little sustain. The ability of the electronics in the tones is very limited, the changes in the tone potentiometers are almost not perceived or are usually unstable and exaggerated.

The Serial Number

The serial number is the crucial mark that distinguishes between fakes and original Gibson guitars. In replicas, the serial can be perceived as a stamping. When you run your fingers over it, you can feel the bulge. But on the original Gibson guitars, the serial finish is smooth, with no edges. However, there are exceptions in some original series that were manufactured in Japan.

Another significant element is the serial configuration. The counterfeits do not have the year or lot of manufacture. On Gibson's website, there is an option that allows you to check the authenticity of the guitar by entering the serial number, but also lets you know the year of manufacture and other important aspects of your guitar.

how to differentiate a gibson


So far, we have mentioned that counterfeit Gibsons come from China, and it's true. But if you come across a Chinese-made Epiphone Les Paul, it's not necessarily a replica, because it could be from the Epiphone factory in China.

Our recommendation is that you try to verify as many objective aspects as possible. If it doesn't pass five out of seven aspects of testing, then don't buy that guitar. But if it does indeed pass the test in most of the aspects we have raised, then you can proceed with the purchase and be happy, because you now know how to tell an original Gibson from a copy. Also, try to buy from a recognized store. Our first recommendation is Thomann.

Remember that in culturasonora, you can find the best reviews of musical instruments of all kinds. All of them are original and have passed the highest quality standards, so we offer you only the best.

We also recommend you check our article on how to tell the difference between an original Fender and a copy.


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