Counterfeit Gibson Les Pauls (continued)

Posted in Made in China, Rock 'n' Roll at 10:31 am by George Smith


Unsurprisingly, YouTube has a fair amount of home video devoted to Chinese manufactured Gibson guitars.

The devil’s bargain forged by American manufacturing offshored to that country has resulted in an obvious ambivalence in American guys.

The counterfeits sell to American guitarists who can’t resist what they believe are great bargains. They know the goods are shifty but they’ll do it for the price.

What’s different this week is the bald-faced advertising of Gibson guitar counterfeits all through the Washington Post’s website. I’ve been there a half dozen times and the banner ad comes up everywhere.

But first, two YouTube vids — from last year — on the counterfeits. In the first one, you see the problem Gibson faces: The guy who promotes them as a steal — which they are — only not in a good way. This is common.

The second is a dissection of the instrument which is obviously can be discerned as a fake by people familiar with the real thing.

The situation which exists now is that there are more counterfeits being made than Gibson, and one imagines other domestic guitar makers, can police.

If you waste any time at all on these videos, you come away with the impression that the counterfeiters are fairly good. For the price, they make a fair guitar and the finishes are generally judged to be fine and professional.

You can theorize that American training and outfitting of a Chinese labor force has had something to do with this. It is only logical that Chinese manufacturing would become adept, or adept enough, with elements of it seeing no need to retain licensing agreements from American multi-nationals.

Gibson’s page on made-in-China Les Paul counterfeits.

Finally, as with the US government, the Washington Post is a dysfunctional agency. There simply is no one home when it’s time to legitimately complain and demand that they do the right thing.

Here’s the page of the Post’s ombudsman, Patrick B. Pexton, with — ha-ha — the ad for counterfeit guitars right over his head. On the same page there’s no way to reach Patrick B. Pexton. One supposes you’re supposed to telepathically beam your messages to the newspaper.

A sincere and reasonable-looking man.

Previously, in our adverture, part 1 and part 2.


  1. Chuck said,

    August 2, 2011 at 9:41 am

    The knock-off, from listening, isn’t too bad. The pickups have a lot less “zing” and do sound muddy to my ears and are probably crap. I would have expected the machines to be a weak point. I wouldn’t have expected that good a finish on a knockoff.

    The thing is the counterfeit branding. It should certainly be possible to sell these things with a house branding. And it’s the branding that means that any systemic flaws in the design won’t be remedied by the outfit that makes these. How are they supposed to find out that something’s wrong? To the guy in the street, this is a real Les Paul–until he tries to get factory service on it.

    The amazing thing is that the Post Office assessed customs duties on what should be classed as contraband.

    I know of some technicians who will buy the Chinese stuff and take it to pieces, redoing the fit and finish and replacing any questionable parts. It doesn’t save much money, but you can wind up with a fine instrument. One of the finest flugelhorns I’ve ever run into is a product of such an effort. Another tech buys damaged Chinese stock and uses it for parts in making his own creations.

    Eventually, we can hope that China will realize that having their own brands and developing a relationship with their customers is worth more than all the tea in…well, you know.

    Japan specialized in knockoffs after the war also, but eventually came to its senses.

  2. George Smith said,

    August 2, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    The amazing thing is that the Post Office assessed customs duties on what should be classed as contraband.

    Yeah, I wondered about that, too. Another point is that in many cases the pricing is two-edged for the counterfeits. Cheap in the WaPo add. But sometimes inflated to ripoff the inexperienced buyer once it’s hanging in a US store or sold on eBay.

    My first Les Paul copy was Japanese made and sold in the US under the brand name Kent. It was clearly not the real thing but it served the undermarket to beginners.

    But they started upgrading their manufacturing and went into business under their own names. Yamaha and Tokai started making instruments as good as Gibsons, sometimes better. They traded on the name and designs and eventually Gibson got after them on it. This constituted what were called the “lawsuit” Japanese copies. Yamaha was marketing a premium guitar called the SG and Gibson compelled them to change the name.

    They did, to the SBG series, one of which I still have.