The Gibson Les Paul 25/50 Anniversary Model: "The Most Les"
By Mike Slubowski

January 2003

(please click on images to enlarge)

An ad in the November 1978 issue of Rolling Stone refers to the Gibson Les Paul 25/50 Anniversary model as "The Most Les: Les Paul's Silver Anniversary is Your Golden Opportunity." The ad prophesizes that "it's the kind of guitar they'll be talking about 25 years from now." It seems fitting, then, that we should explore the 25/50 in the year 2003, twenty five years after its introduction.
  The 25/50 model was issued to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Les Paul model (a year late, since 1977 was actually the 25th year), and the 50th anniversary of Les Paul's career in the music business. Gibson had learned that there was a market for anniversary model Les Pauls after the success of the 20th Anniversary Les Paul Custom in 1974. Thus, even though it sported a sales price of approximately $1,200.00 at the time, the Les Paul 25/50 model was a success, with shipping totals of 3,411 of these guitars during 1978 and 1979. It is reported that a few were also sold in 1980, but shipping records are not available for that year.
The 25/50 model is a distinctive model in the Les Paul lineage for many reasons, including the unique and intricate pearl and abalone "25/50" headstock inlay design, creative use of silver and gold hardware combinations (e.g., the tuners are gold with silver buttons), abalone side dot marker inlays, beautiful flamed maple top, five piece flamed maple neck, split block parallelogram inlays (one of only two Les Paul production models to sport these inlays), large control cavity, gold truss rod cover inscribed with "Les Paul Anniversary", brass nut, and a coil tap mini-switch (one of the few production Les Pauls with a coil tap until the Jimmy Page Les Paul was introduced).

In addition to the above unique features, the 25/50 had multi-ply binding on the front and back of the body and the front of the headstock, a volute, Nashville bridge with TP-6 fine tuning tailpiece, black speed knobs, Schaller style "Gibson" tuners, and Series VII pickups. These Series VII pickups were potted with a black, rubber-like material that fills the gold covers and makes these pickups virtually impossible to remove from their covers for repair.
The Les Paul 25/50 was available in tobacco sunburst, natural, wine red, and black. Based on the resale market, it appears that tobacco sunburst was predominant, followed by natural. Wine red and black are very rare. There has been a report of a few 25/50s in white. There are photos of a few 25/50s in what appears to be a lighter honey sunburst color, but it could be a lighter tobaccoburst under bright photographic lighting.
There is one 25/50 in Japan that has a flamed pickguard and pickup rings, but it is not known whether or not these are replacement parts or a special order. Despite its "limited edition" marketing image, it is ironic that some factory seconds of the 25/50 were released.
All 25/50s were made in Gibson's Kalamazoo plant. The regular 8 digit serial number in "YDDDYSSS" format was used on the 25/50 (where "YY" is the year, "DDD" is the day of the year, and "SSS" is the production sequence number, with numbers below 500 used at Kalamazoo). In addition, the 25/50 has a four digit edition number, which presumably gave it that "limited edition" marketing image. The "Made in USA" stamp is also on the back of the headstock.
The 25/50 was considered a "special order" guitar, and Gibson ads suggested that all orders had to be completed by December 31, 1978. For original owners, a belt buckle with the "25/50" logo was provided with the guitar. The 25/50 was shipped in a Protector case with red lining.

The neck of the 25/50 is of medium to large thickness. Frets are wide and of medium height. The Series VII pickups are powerful. The rhythm pickup on most 25/50s is a bit dark sounding. The coil tap allows for a variety of single coil sounds, and makes the 25/50 a versatile guitar sonically. The 25/50s are known for their burden on the shoulder. The three 25/50s profiled in this article weigh between 10 lbs. 5 oz. and 10 lbs. 8 oz.

According to the 2003 Vintage Guitar Price Guide, Les Paul 25/50s in excellent condition are selling in the $1,700-$2,200. price range. Since many 25/50s were purchased by collectors, there tend to be more available in excellent to mint condition that other Les Paul models of the same era.

As the Rolling Stone ad suggests, "the 25th Anniversary Les Paul looks like a work of art." It is a very unique and ornate guitar in the history of Gibson Les Paul models, and is sought by many collectors.
NOTE from the author: As a member of the Les Paul Forum, I am always interested in learning new things about the details and history of Gibson Guitars. Thus, I appreciate any additional information or questions that readers may have about the history of the the Les Paul 25/50s or any other Gibson model. Please contact me at

Mike Slubowski is a Gibson enthusiast, collector, player, and author, with a special passion for Les Pauls.

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