What is the best year Les Paul?
1959, of course... but who has an extra 375k to spend?
Every Gibson Les Paul made from '68-’12 has been a compromise and some of them have been down right awful examples of the guitar. Pancake Bodies, Shot Tenon neck joints, laminated fret boards, silly neck volutes, wide fat frets, ceramic pickups, incorrect penetrometer values, weight relived bodies, the list goes on and on.
I have spent the past 30 years playing and trading guitars and in that time I have kept a select few guitars as my personal, not for trade instruments. Of the 5 keepers in my stable 3 are Paul’s and they are all brilliant. I could go into great detail about why these iconic guitars are so inconsistent and unpredictable. The internet is full of well documented essays on the subject, so there is no point. The issues over the years are long, varied and started in 1961. This is when Gibson flipped the switch and dropped the classic Les Paul build for what became the SG. Fast forward through the absence of the Les Paul and the 70s brought the world laminated pancake bodies, poor hardware choices, ceramic pickups and completely incorrect values for the pots. The guitars never sounded like they should, and they couldn’t given all the deviations. But in 2013 Gibson changed that by making a very good, well thought out version of the Les Paul. If you are patient and careful you can buy a newer Historic Les Paul for less than 1/2 of MAP and not need to do much if anything to it. The same can be said for other years, but it is more difficult.
Currently the market is down (3.10.17) and 2013-2014 56-58 Historic reissues can be had without major damage for 2400-3000.00 dollars. The ‘59s and 60’s are in more demand and rightfully so. They have an easier neck to play. You can find them for 3-4k. This is no small amount of money, I know. I have for years had a 2k rule. Meaning nothing, and I mean nothing in The Bar costs more than that. However, I cannot deny these guitars their due and frankly my 2k cut off dates back to 1999 and inflation is a bitch.
If you cannot afford the cost of the Historic, I understand. It took me 4 years to trade up to my first Historic. Which luck would have it, turned out to be a 2013 Lemonburst 9lb Tone Monster. That in the end cost me just over 2k. If you can afford it and simply won’t pay for a Gibson, I don’t blame you one bit. They don’t deserve the business and have consistently treated their people, dealers and customers like idiots. But if you have your mind set on a Les Paul please take the time to research and play as many 2013-2016 variations as you can. If you cannot find any localy, feel confident buying online for the right price, knowing your odds are much better and you can always get out what you put in it. After years of doing this as I hobby, I can honestly say I have never seen such a consistent run of guitars from Gibson.