1955 to 1958 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop Guitar

Description: 1955 to 1958 Gibson Les Paul Standard Goldtop solidbody guitar
Available: 1952 to present.
Collectibility Rating: 1955-1957: A-, 1957-1958: A, 1968: B.

If you have a vintage Gibson Les Paul Goldtop guitar for sale (any year from the 1950s), please contact me at cfh@provide.net

General Comments:
By fall 1955, the tuneamatic bridge and stop tailpiece was adopted on the Les Paul Goldtop (solving the earlier intonation complaints), making the 1955 to 1958 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop a big winner. The combination of P-90 pickups and a tunematic/stop tailpiece is considered by most Les Paul players as a great setup. Hence the late 1955 to early 1957 Les Paul Standard Goldtop is regarded as a very usable and versatile guitar. They played great, sounded great, and looked great. How could it be improved? The tune-a-matic bridge was fitted to a great number of Gibson guitars during 1954-1955 including the Les Paul. It was a great addition to the solidbody line of guitars.

In early-1957, Gibson changed from P-90 single coil pickups to their new humbucking pickups, making the Les Paul Standard what it is today (one of the most popular electric guitars of all time). The humbucker goldtop is an amazing model and one I would love to find (please email me if you have one for sale!) The new humbucking pickups were not met enthusiastically by players at first. Most Les Paul players still wanted and used the P-90 goldtop models. But this idea eventually changed, making the humbucking pickup Les Paul models very desirable.

The humbucking pickups were designed by the engineer Seth Lover, who sought a way of eliminating the 60 cycle hum and other interference that single coil pickups exhibited (single coil pickups include the P-90 pickup). His idea was very simple - make a pickup with two smaller pickup coils instead of one big coil, and wire the two coils in series and out-of-phase. This way the hum from one coil cancels the hum from the other. The resulting pickup was not merely one that had no hum, but also that the sound was different. Humbuckers generally produce a higher output signal and also a mellower tone with greater midrange and less treble frequencies.

The newly designed humbuckers fitted in the 1957 Les Paul goldtops came to be known as "PAF" pickups. This was due to the "Patent Applied For" decal on the bottom side of the pickups. The patent for these was applied for in 1955 and granted in 1959, but Gibson still continued to label their humbucking pickups as "PAF" for at least another three years (in 1963 the PAF label was replaced with "Patent Number" label). Gibson seemed to be in no hurry to apply the patent number to their pickups even after the patent was granted. This was probably to not help the competition copy their pickup design, by telling them which patent to look up at the US Patent Office.

The final change to the Gibson Les Paul was in 1958, which was largely a visual change. The finish was changed from a "goldtop" to a sunburst. Also the back of the guitar was changed from a brown to a cherry red color. Mid-1958 to 1960 "sunburst" Les Paul Standards are consider to be one of the most attractive electric guitars ever produced (even though they are identical to the 1957/1958 humbucking goldtop model, except for the finish).

See the 1952 to 1955 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop.
See the 1958 to 1960 Gibson Les Paul Sunburst.

If you need to figure out the exact year of your Gibson Les Paul Goldtop, use the Serial Number. See the Gibson Serial Number Info web page for help determining the exact year.

If you have a vintage Gibson Les Paul Goldtop guitar for sale (any year from the 1950s), please contact me at cfh@provide.net

Fall 1955 to Early 1957 Gibson Les Paul goldtop model guitar specs:
Tune-o-matic bridge added (with "ABR-1" on the bottom side of the bridge and no wire to hold the saddles in place), stud tailpiece moved back to anchor strings (stop tailpiece). This happened around serial number "510xxx". The "Gibson" peghead logo moved down slightly from the top edge of the peghead (some 1954 models are seen with this lower Gibson logo.) Tuners now had "Kluson Deluxe" stamped in the gear cover in a vertical line. The four knobs change from a barrel shape to a top-hat ("bonnet") shape in 1955. The tone capacitors for (all) Les Paul models changed in late 1955. Prior to this they used a brown waxy looking tubular Sprague capacitor called the Sprague "grey tiger". But by 1956 this changed to Sprague's "bumble bee" tube cap, which was black with colored value stripes (in the 1968 the same capacitor was again used on the single cutaway Les Paul standard reissues, but Sprague has changed the marketing name of the capacitor to "Black Beauty"). The Bumblebee caps were used from 1956 until 1960 for all pre-SG Les Paul models (Juniors, Specials, Standards, Customs).

1957 Gibson Les Paul goldtop model guitar specs:
Some 1957 and 1958 Les Paul goldtops are seen with dark brown backs (also some 1956 models). These "dark backs" are easy to identify by the serial number, which is ink stamped with yellow ink (instead of black ink, as used on the light color backed goldtops). Also darkback Les Pauls will have black control cavity plates (as used on the Les Paul Custom) instead of brown plates. Rare, but sometimes seen, are 1957 gold tops with a mahogany top (a single one piece body with no maple cap - the mahogany can easily be seen from inside the control cavity route). Humbucking PAF pickups replace P-90 pickups around serial number "7 2000" to "7 3800" range (latest 1957 goldtop documented with P-90s is serial number "7 38xx", and the earliest is a leftie PAF goldtop "7 13xx"). During this period there was definately overlaps of Goldtops with either P90 or PAF pickups. First few months of humbucker pickup production used brushed stainless steel pickup covers (instead of nickel plated covers) with no PAF stickers. Resistance of the new pickups ranged from 7.0k ohms to 8.9k ohms.

The first month of humbucker Les Paul goldtop production used black plastic parts (pickguard, pickup rings, switch surround), with black parts being in the serial number range "7 13xx" to "7 32xx". All black plastic 1957 Les Paul Goldtops should have a dark back (if it doesn't, chances are someone stole the cream parts and replaced them with black parts). The black pickguard is basically a 5 layer b/w/b/w/b Les Paul Custom pickguard (but cut for two humbucking pickups). Within a month or two, PAF goldtops changed to cream plastic parts (cream part PAF goldtops not seen before serial number "7 3000"). Generally speaking black plastic part 1957 Les Paul goldtops are worth less than cream part 1957 goldtops though. The black and cream plastic humbucker pickup mounting rings had "M-69" as part of the molding, on the bottom side between the height adjustment screw and mounting screw. Also the plastic humbucker rings had four "screw tunnels" for each mounting screw (but not for the two pickup height adjustment screws). Though the M-69 pickup surrounds were used until about 1970 (in black, when they were replaced by the M-8 pickup rings with no screw tunnels), Gibson did not use cream colored M-69 pickup rings any later than 1960. That's why there's such a big deal about original cream-colored 1950s Les Paul pickup rings, because original M-69s in cream were unavailable after 1960. Though these seems like minor details, original plastic parts are important to these guitars. The mounting screws for white pickup rings are nickel plated, for black pickup rings the mounting screws are black. In 1957 the Rhytm/Treble ring plastic got slightly thicker changing from .20" thick to about .25" thick. The R/T ring stayed like this until early-1959 when the font on the R/T ring changed getting thinner. Also the "Gibson" peghead pearly logo moved closer to the top edge of the peghead (as positioned on all other Gibson models) in late 1957 (1957 PAF Goldtops can have either the low or higher position "Gibson" peghead logo). The logo changed from 3/4" from the top of the "b" to the tip of the peghead to about 3/8".

Mid-1958 Gibson Les Paul Standard guitar specs:
Model name changed from "Les Paul Model" to "Les Paul Standard". Sunburst finish replaces Goldtop finish in the fall of 1958, around serial numbers in the "8 5300" range (though the first known Sunburst Les Paul has serial number "8 3322"). The maple top on a 1958 to 1960 Sunburst Les Paul is always two pieces and "center seamed" (there is NO exception to this rule, except for one of the first 1958 sunburst Les Pauls with serial number "8 3322"; if a Sunburst Les Paul does not have a two piece center seamed maple top, it is a refinished Goldtop!)

1968 Gibson Les Paul Standard goldtop guitar Re-introduction specs:
1st reissue of the 1956 style Les Paul Standard started in August 1968, with a single cutaway mahogany body (one piece) with a center seamed maple top, goldtop finish, tuneamatic bridge, small (narrow width 1950's style) peghead, P-90 pickups. Neck is a single piece of mahogany with two small "wings" glued to the side of the peghead (50s style contruction). Tuners are nickle plated double-lined, double-ring style Klusons with plastic buttons that say "Gibson Deluxe" vertically. The binding in the cutaway gets wider than it's 1950's counterpart, completely covering the maple top (unlike the 1950s binding which shows a slice of the maple top in the cutaway below the binding). Also the serial number is stamped into the wood at the back of the peghead, all metal parts (except tuners) are chrome (not nickel), and the gold knobs have metal inserts in the tops with "volume" and "tone" printed on them. The neck also has a 14 degree peghead pitch instead of 17 degrees, and Indian rosewood fingerboard instead of Brazilian. The fingerboard inlays have a different look too, because it's a different block of celluloid than the 1950s guitars.

The very few first LP Standards of 1968 had a crown peghead inlay (like an ES-335) instead of the gold "Les Paul" signature. This existed on examples in the 501xx to 505xxx serial number range. The truss rod cover was pantographed with "Les Paul". With serial number series 513xxx, the peghead changed to the silkscreen "les paul" signature on the peghead (like 1950s Les Pauls), and the truss rod cover was now blank. Another strange feature of these first 1968 Goldtops is the strap button on the non-cutaway side is mounted too far away from the neck to be of any use. On the back of the body the round edging is more "round" than normal on the first 1968 Les Paul gold tops. Also the neck tenon (the part of the neck's tongue seen in the neck pickup route, how the neck connects to the body) is considered "long", and like 1950s contruction. If you remove the neck p90 pickup, you'll see the tenon goes well into the pickup cavity (the tenon is about 3/4" long inside the neck pickup cavity).

Other than that, 1968 goldtops look and are constructed just like 1956 LP goldtops (except the weight of these guitars tends to be much heavier than the 1956 models). Most 1968 Les Pauls use Sprague "black beauty" tone capacitors, but also some use the SG-era brown disc capacitors. The control cavity route in 1968 is different too, as it was routed all the way thru the mahogany body *before* the maple top was glued on. There is no "bite" mark in the cavity as seen in the 1950s Les Pauls. That is, the walls of the control cavity are straight, and the floor is flat (1950s models have a contoured cavity floor). The wiring route is a square route (not a drilled hole). Note the rumor that 1968 Les Pauls used leftover 1950s bodies is completely untrue.

Early Gibson 1969 Les Paul Standard Goldtop guitar specs:
In December 1968 the Les Paul went through some transitions. 1969 serial numbers start in the 530xxx range. Around serial number 542xxx, the peghead get wider and uglier to match the Les Paul Custom's headstock. Only a handful of January 1969 Les Paul Stanards had the earlier 1968 style narrow peghead. The "dot" in the "i" of the Gibson logo is missing in 1969 (still using the open "b" and open "o" logo though) starting around serial number 539xxx. Starting in February 1969 the control cavity was routed like 1950s guitars with the maple top glued in place. This can be seen because the maple has a slightly routed step, where on January 1969 and 1968 Les Pauls the maple has absolutely no routing marks.

Mid 1969 Gibson Les Paul Standard goldtop guitar specs:
Lots of changes to the model starting around April 1969, and transitioning through the summer. First the center seamed maple top is gone, with multiple pieces of maple being used (hard to see on a goldtop finish, but you can usually see the seams). The neck tenon is now considered "small", with it only extending about 1/4" inside the neck pickup cavity. Sometimes the bodies were routed for long tenon necks, but a short tenon neck was installed. If this happens, a block of wood is glue there to fill the gap. Also the "cross banded" (pancake) 3-piece Les Paul body started around April, with a thin layer of maple sandwiched between the mahogany body back. This first generation of the pancake body had the thin maple pancake close to the top of the body.

In June 1969 the pickups change to mini-humbuckers, and the guitar is renamed the "Les Paul Deluxe" ("Deluxe" is pantographed into the truss rod cover). Serial numbers for mid-1969 to late Les Pauls all seem to be in the 800xxx to 893xxx range. By mid-1969 the maple pancake layer moved to the dead middle of the mahogany portion of the Les Paul body. Staring December 1969, beneath serial number, it says "made in USA" and has a small "volute" on the back of the neck in the nut area (a vulute is a ski-jump like bump on the back of the neck).

1956 Gibson Les Paul Standard Goldtop and original brown/pink hardshell case.
This model has the Tune-a-matic bridge and P-90 pickups.

The first digit of the serial number looks like a "3" but it is a "6".

The 1968 Gibson Les Paul Standard Goldtop and original black/gold hardshell case.
Essentially identical in features (Gibson's first Reissue?) to the above 1956 model, except for many subtle features.
For example, Indian rosewood fingerboard (instead of Brazilian), chrome plated metal parts
(instead of nickel plating), "reflector top" gold knobs, 14 degree peghead pitch (instead of
17 degrees), double ring "Gibson Deluxe" tuners (instead of single ring "Kluson Deluxe" tuners),
top body binding depth different in the cutaway, serial number stamped into the wood (instead of
"ink stamp"), and lots of other small details indicative of how Gibson made guitars in the late 1960s
(opposed to the mid-1950s).

The fingerboard inlays are a different celluloid material than the 1950s Les Paul. The 1968 inlays are more "busy", where the 1950s inlays are more subtle.

Notice on the truss rod cover the angle of cut is must steeper, showing less of the white plastic around the edge.

Double-ring "Gibson Deluxe" style tuners and pressed-in serial number.

Very rounded corners on the plastic jack plate, compared to the more squared corners on the 1950s versions.

The neck heel where it meets the body is much more square on the 1968 than on 1950s Les Pauls. Also notice the binding in the cutaway is wider in spots, fully covering the guitar's maple top (this is unlike 1950s Les Pauls where the binding is uniform in width).

An early 1958 Les Paul Goldtop with PAF pickups. This model was made
right before Gibson changed to the sunburst finish. Note the dark back,
which was common on 1957 and 1958 goldtops.

This 1958 Les Paul gold top has all the original strap & tags except for the one
that goes around the switch tip (you can see some fade in the top where
this tag stayed on the guitar while in the sunlight).

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