Regarded by many as the pinnacle of the “Pre-Historic” Les Paul reissues, the Guitar Trader instruments were commissioned by the New Jersey shop in 1982. They are referred to as “Pre Historic” because they pre-date by some years Gibson’s own “Historic” division which builds its vintage spec reissues. And among these “Pre-Historics”, none had more attention to detail than the Guitar Trader Les Paul.
The definitive publication about all things Les Paul 1968 - 2009, “The Modern Era of The Les Paul Legacy” by Robb Lawrence (Hal Leonard Books) features a lengthy description, discussion and interviews relating to Guitar Trader Les Pauls. Here is an excerpt form that book –
“After seeing fairly inaccurate Gibson Les Paul Sunburst models on the recent market (Gibson’s KM and Heritage series), Dave DeForrest & Tim Kummer of Guitar Trader in New Jersey decide to pursue a far more accurate 1959 Standard representation with great figured tops. They made a concerted effort to co-ordinate the building of these rare reissues including picking out very nice quarter sawn maple tops & overseeing various details. Their first newsletter announcing the collaboration with Gibson to create the ’59 Flametop touted an extra bonus – “if you can order it by December, you can have real vintage parts, subject to availability.”
Their true obsession to 59 details resulted in owner Dave DeForrest visiting Gibson in May 1982 to pick out book-matched flame maple tops from 200 sets. Small detail were addressed, including a square channel routing, the proper rhythm-treble switch font, neck pickup, output jack position and accurate top contour specs. Besides adding real PAF pickups to the first 15 orders, such things as bridges, knobs, and truss caps that didn’t quite meet their vintage reissue requirements were supplanted with custom vintage parts.”
So, even after personally selecting timbers and overseeing the build quality, they actually replaced some Gibson inaccuracies with their own vintage correct parts, including PAFs in the early ones. And this fabulous guitar is the pristine result of Guitar Trader’s commitment to taking quality control to an extreme level.
There were only 47 Guitar Trader Les Pauls ever built, plus one prototype.
Again, from Robb Lawrence’s book – “Along with the quilted top cherry sunburst prototype #B1 00001, 47 were built…… One lefty was built and only three were designated as 1960 models starting with a zero serial number.”
And, (drum roll) this is one of those three 1960 models! The inked headstock number is # 0 8128, and the eight digit number inside the control cavity is 82713003. It comes with a Gibson Warranty card stating both the internal and external serial numbers. So it’s the real deal, and one of an extremely limited edition of 3 – kind of rarer than rare. And it has the PAFs !
Here is an excerpt from a widely circulated article from Vintage Guitar magazine from 2002 on Gibson’s First Reissue Les Pauls - http://www.vintageguitar.com/16462/gibsons-first-reissue-les-pauls/ Specifically about Guitar Trader Les Pauls it notes – “identification of a Guitar Trader Les Paul can be tricky, because without original authentication materials that were issued with the guitars from Guitar Trader, there is no one feature that gives a positive identification. Many collectors believe that a Guitar Trader model is identified by an eight digit serial number in the control cavity.” But this is only one ID method.
It also states – “Small, inked-on serial number on the back of the headstock which is closer to the tuners than the top of the peghead, and is in the "9 09XX" format. As an exception to this, the prototype's serial number was B1 0001, and there were three Guitar Traders made with a "0" as the first digit (1960 reissues), according to Kummer.”
Regarding this guitar, the fact that the Gibson warranty papers state both the serial number and the lot number on the paperwork is also verification. Because to our knowledge Guitar Trader was the only “pre-historic” maker to stamp an extra different serial number in the control cavity. And it’s there – 82713003 - see pics. This is in addition to the serial # 0 81218 stamped on the rear of the headstock. It is definitely a Guitar Trader Les Paul, and one of only three built to 1960 spec.
In the case is an envelope from Gypsy Guitars of Glen Arm MD USA. We believe the owner before last bought the guitar from them.
Also from the Vintage Guitar magazine article – “Guitar Traders are light weight, well constructed guitars, with fine attention to detail. Fits and finish are superb. These guitars have a medium thickness neck, and sound and play great, as do most of the Kalamazoo-made Les Pauls of the late 70's and early 80's. In the July, 1998 VG Magazine Q & A with George Gruhn, he states that "these guitars were built to very high standards of quality and have come to be considered collector's items due to their quality as well as their historical appeal as one of the first true historical Les Pauls."
Apart from the prototype, the colour was a darker brownish red in the sunburst and a deep cherry red, filler stained one piece mahogany back. The Guitar Trader owners took an original 59 Standard to Kalamazoo to develop this colour. Says Tim Kummer – “It was a little more translucent. There was a subtlety to it that’s hard to describe. It was a guitar that we had that was almost on the verge of a darker tea kind of colour.”
This particular example is easily one the sweetest 59/60 reissues on the planet, regardless of era. It is very close to 100% factory original, with only two changes made since new –
- The bridge pickup surround has been replaced with a period correct unit. The original cracked surround is in the case.
- There is a ingenious modification of the tone circuit that very cleverly adjusts the neck pickup tone at a different frequency than that of the bridge pickup tone circuit. If you view the pics of the control cavity, you will see a black resin cube which houses the two separate capacitors required to achieve this clever tone mod. It has been professionally installed, and we understand it is something often done for some big time Les Paul players - particularly useful in big arena live settings apparently.
There is a little honest player wear and a couple of minor dings. There is virtually no buckle rash, or any major scratches. It has a stunning AAAA quilted maple top with a super deep grain pattern.
The 1960 profile neck is a little slimmer than the full size ‘59 neck shape, and feels brilliant to play. It is clean top & bottom, and the original frets are in good shape with lots of life left.
Weight is 9.6 lbs.
Nut width 1 11/6"
It is acoustically resonant and feels alive even when not plugged in. But when you do, well it’s hard to compete with that solid old wood and the unmistakable sound of genuine original PAF pickups.
We have a current evaluation of this guitar from George Gruhn – the most respected vintage guitar authority in the world. Mr Gruhn has been providing assessments of vintage instruments for over 50 years from his base in Nashville, and if anyone is qualified to assess a guitar as rare as this one, it is him.
We have a letter from Gruhn’s dated Sept 2020, evaluating everything about this guitar and valuing it at US$10,000. If you add Australian GST, import duty, shipping and insurance, you can see this guitar would cost well over AUD $16,000 if imported from USA … if you could find one.
But it is here in our Sydney showroom, awaiting your own personal appraisal.
This guitar ranks up there as close to an original 1959 Sunburst as you can get, and you won’t have to mortgage your children to get it.
Comes in its original Lifton style brown case. The handle needs replacing, but the case is in excellent condition.