1952 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop Guitar
Appraised Value: $20,000
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ANTIQUES ROADSHOW likes to give credit where credit is due, but sometimes just who deserves credit — and how much — is hard to determine. Such is the case with acknowledging the designers of the 1952 Gibson Les Paul "Goldtop" guitar appraised by Gary Sohmers in Las Vegas.
Sohmers states in the appraisal that Les Paul "helped design a guitar that looks and sounds and plays just like this one. And he got it named after himself because he put so much into it." Just how much Paul contributed to the 1952 Goldtop model is debated. Paul himself claimed the design was a joint effort and that Gibson had used his creative input to create the finished product.
Gibson's president in the 1950s was Ted McCarty, who is said to have maintained that he and his staff designed the guitar — except for the trapeze tailpiece and the color for which Paul is credited. Although Paul had designed a solid-body guitar in the 1940s (a design that was rejected by Gibson at the time), in this version Paul's star-power, more so than his design ideas, was sought by Gibson to help sell the guitar.
The Gibson website today seems to take a diplomatic stance: "The year was 1950, and Paul had just signed on as the namesake of Gibson's first electric solidbody, with exclusive design privileges. Working closely with Paul, Gibson forged a relationship that would change popular culture forever. The Gibson Les Paul model — the most powerful and respected electric guitar in history — began with the 1952 release of the Les Paul Goldtop."
What is generally agreed upon is that the combined efforts of Les Paul, Ted McCarty and his team led to one of the most cherished solid-body electric guitars to date.
Appraisal Video: (3:16)
GUEST: Well, I brought you one of my prize possessions, and I tried it last night and it still works after 25 years of sitting under my bed.
APPRAISER: Where'd you get it?
GUEST: I happened to be... moved from Nevada into Idaho for a particular road job, and it was in the wintertime and we got froze out and so I thought maybe I'd go by a hock shop and see if I could pick up an old guitar. And I give at this hock shop $120 for this guitar and a Fender amplifier that kind of went with it.
APPRAISER: What year was that?
GUEST: 1958, '59.
APPRAISER: So, do you play guitar?
GUEST: I... at one time I tried.
APPRAISER: Why did you buy it?
GUEST: Because I was an Elvis fan and a few things like that, rock 'n' roll.
APPRAISER: Well, it's a really pretty guitar. It's called a Les Paul. Les Paul was a great guitar player. You probably know who he is.
APPRAISER: Les Paul and Mary Ford were performers and Les decided he needed a special kind of guitar made for his style that he liked to play. And he helped design a guitar that looks and sounds and plays just like this one. And he got it named after himself because he put so much into it. This one was made in 1952. It's called a goldtop Les Paul. To rock 'n' rollers, this is one of the most coveted of all guitars because everybody wants to play a goldtop Les Paul. It's just got that rock 'n' roll sound. You put it through a Marshall stack and you can blow the walls out of any building. Now, Les Paul didn't have that in mind...
GUEST: No, it's not him.
APPRAISER: when he was doing it. He played very smooth and quietly. But because of the weight of it and the type of pickups that were put in there, it gave it the ability to be the rock 'n' roll guitar for Gibson at that time. And you said a few things to me a little earlier about wanting to refinish this guitar.
GUEST: People ask me, "You know, that thing is old. "The paint is all cracked up in it. "You need to take some sandpaper and sand that down, give it a new refinish." And I thought about that a while, and I felt how smooth it was still. "Well, now, it's a nice, smooth finish. I don't know whether I better do that."
APPRAISER: No, you didn't want to do that. Now, if you look at the back here, there's some of the problems that people would say need to be repaired if you look at all the crazing and the scratches. But a lot of that is true heart. That's all somebody playing it, belt buckle scratches, and that is best never to be restored. In the first six months of production of this guitar, they didn't mark serial numbers on them.
APPRAISER: Normally, the serial numbers are mounted right up here. But on these first ones, there's no serial number. No serial numbers whatsoever. Now, when it comes down to value, value's based on two things: condition and rarity. Condition-wise, this is about an eight of a ten. That's really good. So the retail price-- what this would sell for in a guitar shop, a guitar show-- would probably be $20,000.
GUEST: Woof. That's a little more than I paid for it.
APPRAISER: I think you did pretty well.
GUEST: Well, that's great. I'm tickled to death.
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