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  1. #1
    Les Paul Forum Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2002

    What is the deal with Gibson Specials? Help a guy out would ya?

    It's been a long time since I have posted but I'm jonesing for another guitar. I recently purchased a 4th guitar for tonal variety beside my Gibby and my Fenders. I bought an Ampeg AMG100ch (think of a wood bodied Dan Armstrong) for slide guitar but found that I really didn't like it as much as I thought I was going to. It plays beautifully and stays in tune no matter what I threw at it but it was the little things that threw me. My main guitar is a 74' Alpine White LP Custom so in comparison, the Ampeg had dinky frets, narrower fretboard, tiny dot markers on the fretboard (yes, I'm gettin' old!) and no real visible fret markers on the neck. Due to the difference in the neck, I frequently have to look down to see where I'm at but with no neck markers...I'm lost. So, I decided I'm not 100% happy with it and I'm selling it and I also thought, why bother with anything else besides a Gibson, right?

    So, looking for variation and wanting it as a back up for slide, I'm thinking either a Junior or a Special. I really, really like the Specials a bit more due to the additional neck pickup. In my research I have come across some items that have thrown me. I have seen...

    Some have the older pearl button tuners, some have the traditional Les Paul Klusons
    Some have unbound fretboards, some are bound
    Some have full pickguards, some have half a pickguard
    Most have dot markers but I just saw one that had small trapezoid markers
    Most have full paint behind the headstock, a few have stinger paint behind the headstock
    Most look to have 4 vol/tone knobs, the newer models have 2

    I'm wondering why so much variation on such a simple guitar?

    After looking all morning I really like the mid 2000's reissues. I'm not looking to spend more than $2000 so that prevents me from getting a vintage but still. I guess I'm looking for some advice. Is there a guru or website dedicated to the Special? If so, let me know because I haven't found it.

  2. #2
    Les Paul Forum Member Red Rogue's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009

    Re: What is the deal with Gibson Specials? Help a guy out would ya?

    If this:

    is true...
    ...then Gibson will make that 50ies Special again with the right specs and for a realistic price. The Custom Shop Specials were way too expensive for a simple mahogany plank with pickups. The junior and specials were once introduced as cheaper student models.

    - Blues is the road -

  3. #3
    Les Paul Forum Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2011

    Re: What is the deal with Gibson Specials? Help a guy out would ya?

    I was looking at guitars yesterday such as Kramer, ESP and Chapman. My eyes were bugging out. It was nothing to see a $1200 guitar that was a Gibson or Fender copy for example. I am beginning to think all guitars are expensive.

  4. #4
    Les Paul Forum Member BGReed2's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Ventura, CA

    Re: What is the deal with Gibson Specials? Help a guy out would ya?

    My two cents worth. Needing a P90-equipped guitar for stage use I chose a Custom Shop TV Special, which at the time were going used for right around 2k. The extra pickup was definitely a factor, as I really was more attracted to the vibe of a vintage Junior, but my practicality took over and I opted for a used Special when one became available. I found having the extra (neck) pickup became quite indispensable, and am really glad I got a Special.

    Years later I needed one for dedicated open tuning slide use, and the need for a second pickup wasn't as necessary. Having earlier played a Gibson USA Junior that surprisingly impressed me I found a used '04 for $80, and have been happy ever since. I have always been impressed with the Gibson P90's, and found no real difference in tone between the pickups on the USA and Custom Shop guitars.
    "Know tubes, know tone. No tubes, no tone"

  5. #5
    Les Paul Forum Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2019

    Re: What is the deal with Gibson Specials? Help a guy out would ya?

    The small trapezoid fretboard inlays are on the Les Paul Special Lites. 99-03 or somewhere around there. I had an 01 that was awesome and it had a huge neck. Those come equipped with P100’s.

    While I prefer the DC’s myself, if you really want to save some dough and are cool with a single P90, it just means you need to work the knobs more, check out the 03-06 Les Paul Melody Makers. They look like a Junior Jr. and no pickguard, though slapping a pickguard on them makes them look way cooler and it has a real P90.

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