As published in the 2004 Edition of Vintage Guitar Magazine
1983-1993 Gibson Les Paul Reissues: Another Small Step Toward the ’59 Dream?
By Mike Slubowski


In a previous article published in the February 2004 edition of VG Magazine, many Gibson Les Paul “Pre-Reissue” models were covered in some depth, including the 1979 Les Paul Kalamazoo, the Heritage 80 Series, Leo’s, Guitar Trader, and Jimmy Wallace reissues, and the Standard 82. These were early, small-run attempts to recreate the magic of the 1959 Les Paul Standard. The years 1982 and 1983, in particular, were years of tremendous experimentation with pre-reissue and reissue-style Les Pauls, and many “one offs” with “Custom Shop Edition” logos and strange serial numbers have been spotted with production occurring at both the Kalamazoo and Nashville plants.

By 1983, Gibson finally released a “Les Paul Reissue” model. For whatever reason, they were careful not to call it a 1959 reissue. The Reissue was an immediate hit with Les Paul lovers, since it had features that were closer to a 1959 Les Paul, such as the thin binding in the cutaway, nickel hardware, ABR-1 bridge, vintage-style knobs, and highly figured tops. None of the reissues had a long neck tenon. The reissues did not have serial numbers starting with an “8”, “9”, or “0” to denote 1958, 1959, or 1960. Rather, the first digit of the vintage-style (Y XXXX format) serial number represented the year of manufacture, so a 1983 started with “3”, 1984 started with “4”, and so forth. This numbering scheme has confused many collectors who have purchased Les Paul Classics that, starting in 1990, carry a similar serial number format. While the Reissue carried an almost 50% premium price above a Les Paul Standard at the time, at $1,500 it was within the realm of possibility for many collectors and players.

The Les Paul Reissue varied in features as the 1980’s progressed, and there does not seem to be a logical pattern to the changes. As noted in the following descriptions of actual instruments from that era, these guitars varied considerably in weight (lightest at 8 lbs. 9 oz. and heaviest at 10 lbs. 8 oz.), style of “Gibson” logo (open or closed “b” and “o”, position of the logo, and some with a dot and others with no dot over the “i”), color of backplates (black or brown), and color of tops. All except the 1984 described below had a deep red painted mahogany back versus the use of cherry color pore filler, which was reintroduced with the Historic reissues. Some years had no markings of any kind in the pickup cavities; others have an “HCSB” (“heritage cherry sunburst”) designation. Reissues were made from 1983 until early 1993, before the Les Paul ’59 Historic Reissues with the long neck tenons were released. The neck sizes on Reissues varied somewhat, but were generally of medium thickness. All Reissues were shipped with brown cases with pink lining, although the case style changed in 1986.

The following is a brief journey through examples of Les Paul reissues of the 80’s and early 90’s and the unexplainable changes in features that occurred during this timeframe.


In 1983, the first year of the Reissues, some were still made at the Kalamazoo plant. There was a limited run of bright cherry sunburst Les Paul Reissues, most of which were destined for Japan. They carried two familiar characteristics of the Kalamazoo plant, namely large tortoiseshell side dot markers and an eight digit serial number impressed in the rim of the control cavity. During this year, Reissues were also produced at the Nashville plant. The example pictured with this article, 3 0165, has an unusual reddish-golden color faded top, small black side dot markers, a Gibson logo with open “b” and “o”, tuners with “Gibson Deluxe” on them, and black backplates. The guitar is not weight relieved, at a hefty 10 lbs. 8 oz.

  The 1984 Reissue pictured, serial number 4 4776, is an interesting guitar that may have been a special order due to its color and other features. It was definitely made in the Nashville plant, based on its small black side dot markers. This guitar has an appealing dark sunburst quilted top and a dark brown back. The serial number is embossed in gold lettering. It has a Gibson logo that is placed high on the headstock, with closed “b” and “o”, Kluson-style tuners with no words or lettering on them, black backplates, and weighs 9 lbs 7 oz.

The 1985 model, serial number 5 0076, has a beautiful honeyburst quarter-sawn top, black backplates, “Gibson Deluxe” tuners, small dot side dot markers, and open “b” and “o” Gibson logo with dot over the “i”. It weighs 8 lbs. 9 oz. A previous owner of this guitar asked Les Paul to sign the pickguard of this instrument.

The year 1986 saw the change in ownership of Gibson from Norlin Industries to a group headed by Henry Juskiewicz. The Les Paul Reissue for this year, 6 0713, has a dark flat sawn sunburst flame top, large black side dot markers, brown backplates, “Gibson Deluxe” tuners, a Gibson logo with open “b” and “o”, but no dot over the “i”. This guitar has an identical weight to the 1985 model, at 8 lbs. 9 oz.

The open “b” and “o” and use of brown backplates continued from this point forward with Les Paul Reissues. However, the lack of a dot over the “i” in the logo continues from this point until the end of the decade and then reappears in the 90’s.

A 1987 Reissue, 7 0970, has a lighter honeyburst flame top and weighs 9 lbs. This particular guitar has large tortoise shell side dot markers.


In 1988, the Reissues take on a bright but darker cherry sunburst top. This particular guitar, 8 0323, has a quartersawn top with tight pinstripe flame. It was shipped with the pickguard in the case but not attached to the guitar. It reverts back to the use of large black side dot markers. This was also the year in which different humbucking pickups (which were designed by Bill Lawrence) with a “circuit board” type layout on the back, were used in Les Pauls. This guitar weighs 9 lbs. 3 oz.

For the end of the decade, this 1989 Reissue model, 9 0785, which is reported to have been owned by a member of the band “Spirit”, has a darker cherry sunburst top. It also has the Bill Lawrence pickups and weighs in at a hefty 10 lbs. 5 oz.

As the decade changed, so did the Les Paul Reissue. This early 1993 model, 3 1415, was actually issued with a Historic Division certificate, but precedes the long neck tenon introduction by a few months. It is a lighter cherry sunburst color, and features the return of the dot above the “i” on the Gibson logo. It weighs 9 lbs. 9 oz.

Market values of Les Paul Reissues from 1983 through early 1993 appear to hover in the $2,250 to $3,000. price range. The introduction of the long neck tenon Historic in mid 1993 marked a change that led to higher desirability and value for Les Paul reissues after that date. Still, the 1983-93 Les Paul Reissues are wonderful guitars and a great market value, with breathtaking flame maple tops, excellent fit and finish, and wonderful playability and tone.

The research and quest for various “Pre-Reissue” and “Reissue” Les Pauls of the 80’s and early 90’s, especially during the experimental period of 1980-83, has been a fascinating journey, still leaving many unanswered questions about the thought process behind the evolving features of these guitars over time. During a period of changes in market demand, economic conditions, a plant closing, layoffs, new ownership, and market repositioning, Gibson was doing its best to recreate the magic of vintage 50’s Les Pauls in response to the never-ending requests of collectors and players who wanted to recapture the magic of one of the most important instruments in rock and roll. And the Historic Reissue has continued to evolve in the decade of the 90’s and the new millennium with features that more closely emulate their 1959 predecessors.

Mike Slubowski is a Gibson enthusiast, collector, player, and author, with a special passion for Gibson Les Pauls. He is always interested in learning new things about the details and history of Gibson Guitars. Please contact me at

Credit is given to Walter Carter, and personal accounts given by owners of various reissue Les Paul guitars.

This article and photos are property of Mike Slubowski. No part of this article may be reproduced without the expressed written permission of the author.