When Gibson Custom launched the Collector’s Choice™ series in 2010, its mission was simple yet also complicated. It was to recreate classic Les Pauls (mainly ’58-’60s), but recreate them so precisely you wouldn’t be able to tell any difference. The Collector’s Choice™ range is a mixture of LPs played by famous players and other non-famous guitars that are simply stunning examples of Les Pauls from a legendary era.
The Collector’s Choice™ models are all strictly limited in production and, understandably, quite a few are now unavailable – for example, “#1 1959,” an exact replica of the guitar played by Peter Green and then Gary Moore is sold-out and no longer made.
All period details are precise and they’re as close as you’ll likely ever get to owning an original burst.
Here’s a quick 101 on the Collector’s Choice™ Les Pauls.
#2 1959 “Goldie”
The original “Goldie”s ownership is extremely well documented, with only the first few years of its existence after heading from Gibson's Kalamazoo factory to its first owner near Deer Park, Texas, remaining slightly hazy. The ‘59 was later bought by burst aficionados including Vic Da Pra and Tom Wittrock, and is currently in the care of an anonymous collector.
But loaned to Gibson Custom, “Goldie” was “cloned.” It’s never been modded so is as close to a fabled ’59 as you’ll see. The faded “unburst,” with a deep “green lemon” amber tone at the top’s center is just what many collectors look for in a Les Paul. More about “Goldie.”
#3 1960 “The Babe”
This fascinating “transitional” early ‘60 Les Paul Standard with a factory-fitted Bigsby is one of the favourites belonging to 21st century blues hero and Les Paul aficionado Joe Bonamassa. It had three previous owners before Joe but is a marvellously well-preserved Standard. Collector's Choice™ #3 1960 “The Babe” is a precise recreation and, given Bonamassa’s currency riding high, it’s extremely collectible in its own right. A stunning repro. More about “The Babe.”
#6 1959 Les Paul
“I call it my ‘Number One’ or ‘Desert Island’ guitar because it’s by far the best guitar I’ve ever owned, held, or heard,” says Mike Slubowski, owner of the original 1959 Les Paul. Collector's Choice™ #6 1959 Les Paul #9-1918 is one of the best replicas of a pristine ’59 burst you’ll ever see. More about “#6.”
#8 1959 “The Beast”
A replica of the ‘59s made famous by legendary U.K. guitarist Bernie Marsden of Whitesnake. Marsden still plays his original “Beast” – he’s got a new album out soon – so this is as close as you’ll get. It’s another faded burst, with the color on this one Dirty Lemon. When Marsden received the prototype, he says he couldn’t tell the difference in looks, feel and tone between #3 and his original. More on “The Beast.” And read Gibson’s Bernie Marsden interview.
#9 1959 “Believer Burst”
This is another replica of collector. Gibson Les Paul expert/author Vic DaPra tracked it down and bought it and the original appears on the cover of his 2013 book Burst Believers. Gibson Custom has scanned, traced, and measured every curve and parameter of the “Believer Burst” to make this stunning example of a ’59 available to more discerning players. More on “The Believer Burst.”
#10 “Tom Scholz”
The only Collector’s Choice™ outside of a ’58-’60, this is a precise replica of Tom Scholz’s refinished and hot-rodded 1968 Goldtop. As leader of Boston, Scholz is a legend of rock guitar and his own original has been used on numerous hit singles and albums.
As you’d expect, Scholz was very precise about getting the Collector’s Choice™ replica right. Of the prototype, he tells Gibson.com, “I checked everything—not just fret height and obvious things, but details about the shape of the neck, all up and down the neck.
“Then I went back to Gibson a second time. The guitar came back many months later, and it was exactly like my original guitar, so much so that I couldn’t distinguish the prototype from the original. I also sounded almost exactly like the original.” More on the #10 “Tom Scholz.”
Not used by anyone famous, but a replica of perhaps the best-preserved vintage Les Paul that Gibson Custom has ever encountered.
The original “Rosie” has obviously seen very little sunlight in her time, and fully retains her original and unfaded dark cherry finish like few other vintage Les Pauls.
As the current owner, a collector, says: “She’s pristine - one of the only ’59s I’ve seen that has the prototypical dark cherry sunburst from the latter part of 1959, with very little fade. She also has that quintessential ’burst tone that I’ve looked for all my life.” This one’s like time travel – a beautiful burst as would be on sale in 1959. More on “Rosie.”
#13 “The Spoonful Burst”
The original was owned by John Sebastian, frontman of The Lovin' Spoonful. That guitar helped to create a string of hits such as “Do You Believe in Magic,” “Nashville Cats,” and “Welcome Back.” With this luscious repro, you also get a copy of a hand-written letter from Sebastian explaining the guitar’s unique history in detail. More on “The Spoonful Burst.”
#15 1958 “Greg Martin”
The original has been played on numerous gigs and recording sessions by Kentucky Headhunters guitarist Greg Martin. His Les Paul has seen some action, and that’s all precisely recreated here, with road-worn and faded “dirty lemon” finish. More on the “Greg Martin.”
#16 1959 “Redeye”
This is a repro of the stunning ’59 belonging to Ed King, co-writer of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” and also used in his time with Strawberry Alarm Clock.
“The top on this thing is crazy, and its condition is actually quite incredible,” says Edwin Wilson, Gibson Custom Historic Manager. “Once we plugged it in, though, the rare mix of feel and tone that lay beneath the surface proved this guitar as well-rounded an example of a rare ’59 burst as we have ever had the pleasure to re-create.” More on “Redeye.”
#17 1959 “Louis”
A stunning ’59 that was in a private collection before being acquired by Keith Nelson of Buckcherry – hear the original on 2013’s Confessions album and live shows. Yep, he takes “Louis” on the road. This perfect recreation boasts a faded Dirty Lemon Burst finish a precise ’59 neck profile and PAF power. More on “Louis.”
#18 1960 “Dutchburst”
This came to Gibson via the collection of Dutch guitarist Robbert van der Ende who used it for years when playing in a cruise-ship jazz trio. As such, it’s very much a repro of a “working axe.” But it is stunning, boasting tightly-figured maple top flame and faded Dark Burst finish. With a slim late-’60s neck carve and PAF humbuckers, this recreation takes you straight to the heart of a rare and intriguing vintage Les Paul. More on “Dutchburst.”