Real Gibson or Chinese replica ~ ~ ~ how do you tell ???

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There seem to be a lot of Chibsons out there, mostly sold as replicas, but how do you tell if an unscrupulous seller wants to palm off a Chibson as the real thing.

What are the differences, what are the give-aways, what to look for, and how do you stop yourself getting burned?

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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 49401
    edited December 2013
    I'm working on one at the moment… I'll see if I can take some pics.

    I'm normally very wary about this sort of stuff - I don't approve of them and don't want to get 'tainted by association' if it should ever get sold on by someone less scrupulous, so (with full approval of the owner - there's a story behind this one which makes it less dodgy than normal, which I won't bore you with) I have burned "Made In China" into the floor of the bridge pickup cavity :) .

    Suffice to say for now, it wouldn't fool anyone who has held the real thing, but it's good enough to possibly fool someone who has only seen pictures and not known what to look for. Scary. I know what it cost on sale in China too, and that's even more scary :-O .

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • DougDoug Frets: 166
    edited December 2013
    There are many obvious differences to someone familiar with Gibson USA atm, BUT they are getting better!, the one that sticks out to me is they always use the large metric bridge posts ~same as fitted to Epiphone. Just be aware if you are buying new, that the Chinese often use photo's of genuine USA Gibsons in their ads.
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  • Nibs is one, though some 2014 Gibson models won't have them either apparently...?
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 49401
    Nibs is one, though some 2014 Gibson models won't have them either apparently...?
    And this fake I have here does… so watch out!

    Count that as one that is no longer useful, I'm afraid.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • ICBM;98049" said:
    ThePrettyDamned said:

    Nibs is one, though some 2014 Gibson models won't have them either apparently...?





    And this fake I have here does… so watch out!

    Count that as one that is no longer useful, I'm afraid.
    They're getting good!

    Speaking impartially, is the chibson you're working on a good guitar? Say, if it had Ltd, epiphone etc on the headstock, would you believe it?

    Nice working on stamping it with its birthplace, too.
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 49401
    edited December 2013
    It's not a bad guitar. It had a couple of playability issues - ridiculously high nut, very sharp fingerboard edges and nibs - but is actually pretty good now it's fixed. It sounds OK - it has a nice bright jangly ring to it, but it doesn't have the power and thickness of a real Gibson. It's also too light, in my opinion - 7lbs 3.5oz - and it's not just that I don't like light overly-light Gibsons either (although I don't), it just feels insubstantial. You can feel the hardness in the finish, which is very un-Gibson-like, and the two things together along with the too-sharp radii at the edges give it an odd "eggshell" feel. You'd only know this if you'd played a real one though.

    Would I think it was OK if it said Epiphone on it? Yes, because it is an Epiphone! Made in the same factory, almost certainly - the pickups are stamped Epiphone on the bottom. Naughty naughty… although I'd be astonished if Gibson don't know this is going on.

    Photos to follow.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 49401
    edited April 2016
    This is after the work I did - before this thread came up unfortunately. I've changed the pickups - the originals are chrome-covered - and dressed away the edges of the fingerboard including bevelling the nibs, which were 'square' before.

    First impression:


    Pretty good! Although there are two clues already: the cutaway horn shape is wrong, too 'soft' or rounded; and the knob layout - it's a parallelogram with the treble tone knob too close to the edge of the guitar, on real Gibsons it's an asymetrical layout. (The pickguard didn't come with it so I don't know what it's like.)

    Closer view:


    Headstock:


    I left the truss rod cover off because it's so appalling it wouldn't fool anyone and made it look too obviously fake - but it is a correct 2-screw type so it would be easy to replace with a proper one. The Gibson logo is a bit more 'pearly' than it looks in this pic but not as much as a real one. Notice the 'sunken' Allen key truss rod instead of the correct external nut type.

    Back:


    Again not bad, but the incorrect symetrical control cover, and the matt textured plastic of both covers are pretty obvious. Also the body edges are too sharp and 'crisp' compared to a real one which are slightly more radiused. Oddly enough the cutaway horn doesn't look so bad from behind.

    Closer view:


    Headstock back:


    Very naughty 'Made In USA' stamp - but both it and the serial number are impressed into the finish, instead of into the wood and then finished over. The font is also too large. The machineheads aren't far off but the keys are too 'soft' edged and very slightly too green.

    Bridge and tailpiece:


    Clearly wrong - the bridge has screw slots in the tops of the oversized posts and no knurled height-wheels, the tailpiece is much too square-edged, and the tailpiece studs are proud of the body instead of being sunken into it. (I've flipped the lower three bridge saddles round - as stock they faced backwards; Gibson only reverse the A and E at most.)

    Nut and truss rod:


    Notice the nut has moulded grooves (soft edges at the tops) instead of being cut from blank; it's also too white and too sloping on the headstock side. The wrong truss rod adjustment is clear. Interestingly it's a double-acting rod and works well, which is important since the neck has a back-bow otherwise!

    Switch close-up:


    A lot of useful detail here. First, notice that it *does* have fret nibs. But the binding is too narrow over the body, and doesn't go down to the top as it should. The switch ring is wrong - although I've improved this one (the original was even worse! and had an extra washer under it) it's a slightly too tall flat knurled nut, instead of being a collar with an internal bevel which goes down slightly into the body. The strap button is also wrong - it should be a small, flared aluminium one (which is actually pretty useless at holding a strap, these are better!) rather than a chunky chromed one… although these are easy to change.

    I don't have a real Gibson here to post the equivalent pics, but hopefully these and the descriptions of why the various bits are wrong should help. But remember that it's only a matter of time before they start getting more of these details right - some people think it's even a bad idea to post stuff like this in case it gives the makers a hint, but in reality they already know - they aren't fools, it's just not economically necessary to get them 'righter' yet.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • Thanks for the replies guys.  Just like ThePrettyDamned said, I also thought the nibs were one give away.

    Fantastic post ICBM, thanks for the detailed descriptive text, and the photographs make excellent reference, good job.
    Thanks so much for putting this together, a great resource for us all.

    It really is frighteningly close to the real thing.  Thankfully obvious stuff like Korean / Chinese style bridge & posts, white infilled serial number, and a number of "wrong" fittings and appointments make it stand out.  The truss rod adjuster will probably be a future give-away too.  Some of it is very subtle though.

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  • Great post ICBM. The bridge posts with the screw slot is a giveaway as has been said, I think the black writing on the poker chip is a simple mistake as well. The headstock looks too narrow (or not flared enough at the top) to me.

    I'm intrigued about a couple of things that don't quite add up if it's basically an Epi that's been made to look like a Gibson - nitro or glass-like poly? No scarf joint at the headstock, but is the back a veneer over a block body?

    There's some details there that are wrong that I think are "right" on my Epi, which makes me suspect the theory that these come out of the Epi factory when nobody is looking - they'd get the horn/cutaway and knob arrangement right, surely? Sourcing their bridges and pickups from the Epi supplier maybe.
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 49401
    is the back a veneer over a block body?
    Good lord! I didn't even spot that and I've had it in front of me most of the afternoon. It's *incredibly* well done - you can't even see it easily even if you look closely at it round the edges. It is, though - there's a join visible in the end of the guitar (just a two-piece, but it's there) which is not in the veneer.

    Polyester finish, yes. That's one of the things that makes it obvious it's not real if you hold it - it's too hard and glassy. The headstock is just too narrow, although it's very close. No scarf joint. 

    I agree it could just be the pickups that are Epiphone - they will be though, since there would be no benefit (quite the opposite) in faking them on a guitar which is supposedly a Gibson.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • p90foolp90fool Frets: 18763
    Nice one ICBM.
    Another common mistake they make is the "Les Paul model" transfer font is wrong, the thickness of the line is too constant.
    It always strikes me as an odd mistake, given how easy it would be to get right compared to say, fret nibs.
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  • NeilNeil Frets: 2837
    Good educational post.

    TBH the differences if you have owned a real one would stand out like a sore thumb especially the poly finish but for somebody unaware..........
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  • stickyfiddlestickyfiddle Frets: 15087
    edited December 2013

    Great stuff from @ICBM. Really good to get properly analytical pictures of all of that. Between this fake with nibs and new Gibsons without them it's going to get really hard to tell someone just a couple of points to look out for. Even the strap buttons on the 2014 Gibsons are more like these ones! The bridge posts are the next most obvious thing that the fakers will probably fix next.


    The rest is more of a feel thing. It's all the tiny details; the exact shape of the headstock, the positioning of the knobs, the fricking font on the logo, the feel of the finish and colour of the binding, the shape of edges of the pickup covers. Noobs aren't going to be able to pick up on all that.

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  • RockerRocker Frets: 3878
    Seriously good stuff from @ICBM, many thanks for the post detail.  TBH I am not sure I would be able to spot a fake [the poly finish or the truss rod cover aside] from the real thing.  And I had a real Gibson LP Custom from 1978 to about 1985 [I had given up guitar at that stage].  The guitar pictured, used by ICBM to explain what to look for, looks like a pretty decent Gibson guitar.  If it plays OK, stays in tune and sounds good then it might be a good buy.  The obvious problem is that if it is sold on as a Gibson......
    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. [Albert Einstein]

    Nil Satis Nisi Optimum

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  • mike_lmike_l Frets: 5679

    One's got shoddy workmanship, no attention to detail and poor quality control.

    The other's made in China.

     

    =P~

    Ringleader of the Cambridge cartel, pedal champ and king of the dirt boxes (down to 21) 

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  • Great post. The headstock is far too straight and narrow... almost Melody Maker shaped.

    "A city star won’t shine too far"


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  • ICBM said:
    It's also too light, in my opinion - 7lbs 3.5oz
     

    Many of the chambered Les Pauls only weight around that. The one I picked up was just a shade over 7Ibs, and a friends 2007 Standard weighs just under 7Ibs.

    If the Chinese go that last mile and get all the details right including a much larger range of serial numbers its going to cause paranoia when buying any Gibson.


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  • If all the details are right then there's no difference so who cares?  ;)
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  • If all the details are right then there's no difference so who cares?  ;)

    My bank balance lol

    The £1500 I saved could have been spent on a new blow up doll


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  • mike_l;98577" said:
    One's got shoddy workmanship, no attention to detail and poor quality control.

    The other's made in China.

      =P~
    Oh Ho Ho!

    Oh!

    Oh... You're right. Have a LOL.
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  • JookyChapJookyChap Frets: 4211

    If the Chinese go that last mile and get all the details right including a much larger range of serial numbers its going to cause paranoia when buying any Gibson.

    Gibson will be happy then, as to be sure you'll need to buy them new.. </conspiracy>

    It will happen though, same as with the Japanese guitars before them, everybody laughed at them and 'knew they would never be as good as the real thing', and then they were.

    Out of interest, are there many Chinese fake Rickies around? I know (don't I know) they protect their brand to the max, but it obviously wouldn't worry the Chinese at the moment, but I don't think I've ever come across any. If not is it because they are too small a market or is it because Ricky don't have any variants made out there already..?

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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 49401
    edited December 2013
    The headstock is far too straight and narrow... almost Melody Maker shaped.
    Actually most of that is the angle of the photos - it's closer to a real one in reality if you hold it up straight. Still a little narrower, but not much.

    Bogwhoppit said:
    ICBM said:
    It's also too light, in my opinion - 7lbs 3.5oz
     

    Many of the chambered Les Pauls only weight around that. The one I picked up was just a shade over 7Ibs, and a friends 2007 Standard weighs just under 7Ibs.

    I'm almost certain this one is just solid lightweight wood - you can actually feel it in the neck, it has a very odd "eggshell around cotton wool" feel to it because the finish is rock-hard, but the neck feels insubstantial within it... you can tell when it's vibrating as you play.

    Those things are only going to show up if you're familiar with what a real one feels and sounds like in your hands though. My guess is that this is not the main target market for these.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • In fairness, people go nuts for a stupid lightweight body these days. Gibson needs to find the supplier the chibbo factory uses!

    The only rickenbacker copies I've seen are rockinbetters... I tried two, one was awful, the other was really fantastic.
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 49401
    In fairness, people go nuts for a stupid lightweight body these days. Gibson needs to find the supplier the chibbo factory uses!
    I have no idea why - this guitar does actually sound "good", but it does not sound anything like a proper Les Paul, even acoustically.


    The only rickenbacker copies I've seen are rockinbetters... I tried two, one was awful, the other was really fantastic.
    I've only ever played the shit ones. I did once have the loan a 1970s Shaftesbury 4001 copy which was quite good though.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • jd0272jd0272 Frets: 3863
    The experience I've had of people who buy these cheapies (relatively) is I've not come across anyone who's Gibsonised them to sell on. Obviously there's loads of folk who have that intention. I've found it's lads who can't afford, or don't want to spend the outlay, on a real Gibby, and want something 'close enough' so it looks the part for a gig, compensating by upgrading the pickups, hardware, and set up to make them a bit more bearable.

    You'd get away with that one at a gig.
    "You do all the 'widdly widdly' bits, and just leave the hard stuff to me."
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 49401
    jd0272 said:
    I've found it's lads who ... don't want to spend the outlay, on a real Gibby, and want something 'close enough' so it looks the part for a gig, compensating by upgrading the pickups, hardware, and set up to make them a bit more bearable.

    You'd get away with that one at a gig.
    Definitely - and that's what its owner wants to do with it. I trust he'd never try to sell it as anything other than a fake, but it's impossible to predict what future owners will do if he does part with it, hence why I branded it inside as he agreed.

    I didn't take any pics of the innards, but it's actually further away from a real Gibson than you might expect there - much cruder and obviously cheap. But you'd still need to have seen inside a real one to be sure of that.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • ICBM said:
    In fairness, people go nuts for a stupid lightweight body these days. Gibson needs to find the supplier the chibbo factory uses!
    I have no idea why - this guitar does actually sound "good", but it does not sound anything like a proper Les Paul, even acoustically.


    The only rickenbacker copies I've seen are rockinbetters... I tried two, one was awful, the other was really fantastic.
    I've only ever played the shit ones. I did once have the loan a 1970s Shaftesbury 4001 copy which was quite good though.
    Totally agree on the weight thing.  I don't mind a light strat, but LP's need to be heavy for that 'dead' sustain - it 'thunks' rather than 'plings'.  But these days, everyone wants light because... Rarer?  No idea.  

    My jazzmaster has a heavy body - well, heavy ish.  One piece swamp ash, and definitely body heavy, but I don't think it sounds bad at all.  Actually, it's one of the best 'vintage pickup' type guitars I've heard really.  If i can ever be bothered to make it play as nice as it sounds...
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  • JookyChap said:
    It will happen though, same as with the Japanese guitars before them, everybody laughed at them and 'knew they would never be as good as the real thing', and then they were.
    Except they overwhelmingly weren't/aren't where Gibson Les Paul copies are concerned. 
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  • SambostarSambostar Frets: 8417

    IBCM, I think you got a good one there.  I take it that is veneer on the back?

    I alkways thought that the obvious external photo differences are the binding on the cutaway.  I thought real gibsons had a thicker band on the cutaway that tapered, rather than a continous thickness of binding.  However, looking at a lot of them, this isn't always the case and in fact many Standard and Traditionals have laquer half over the binding at the cutaway, due to where the masking was put in the laquer process.  That said though, the binding around the neck and neck angle and general attention to detail gives the Chibsons away, especially around the neck joint underside also.  Also check the grain of the body wood runs through the sides on the thing, to prove that it is solid and not a veneer.  It's all the attention to detail where you will tell instantly.

    It's the Playbus. We're not in control of ourselves. You're only as dumb as you're trained
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  • SambostarSambostar Frets: 8417

    I agree with people wanting a gigging guitar that is more expendable than their pride and joy, just because of the price of them.  At the end of the day, it's not to prevent dings and stratches.  Everyone knows that those headstocks break real easy and once broken hundreds are wiped off the value of thing and worse case sometimes it cannot be repaired.

    I'm currentl gasing for a solid mahogany Les Paul, but it won't be a Gibson, too much.  Irony is I had a Maison white Les Paul custom, made in Korea in the '80's.  I sanded it down and refretted it and it was a great guitar and 100% solid mahogany with one piece mahogany neck, actually with a full thickness maple cap but the headstock snapped off it.  maybe too close of a replica.  I'd like an old Aria, but that volute just puts me off, so what can you do?

    I've considered Chibsons, but it's all show and glitter, I'd rather have something that was solid mahogany but looked shit.  Even if you don't get a scarf headstock, it's all a veneer. I guess I should get an Aria.

    It's the Playbus. We're not in control of ourselves. You're only as dumb as you're trained
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