Updated by Bobby
Recently updated on February 28th, 2021
Checked product links for accuracy and availability (in stock). Also made minor changes to copy and article formatting.
QUICK HIT: Highlighting four of the best cheap Gibson electric guitars that are affordable on moderately tight budgets.
Roundup of Cheap Gibson Electric Guitars: Four Picks
Gibson Les Paul JR
Gibson SG Special
Gibson Les Paul Special
Gibson Les Paul Studio
I won’t tell you it’s easy to find a cheap Gibson guitar.
Gibsons are expensive for specific reasons, many of which are controlled by external economic circumstances. Take the price of wood, for example. Gibson buys high-quality wood (usually Mahogany) - the price of which is predetermined - thus factoring into the final retail cost of the guitar.
The same is true with any product and certainly all parts of an expensive guitar.
Thus, getting the price of a Gibson to drop, is fairly rare. Still, there are ways to get one at a budget-friendly price. There are two lanes you can use to avoid paying $2000 - $3000:
- Buy a new Gibson that simply retails cheaper.
- Buy a used Gibson via Reverb, eBay or Craigslist at a steep discount.
The first one simply means you buy one of the Gibsons that aren’t so expensive.
There are actually a lot of cheap Gibson guitars retailing below $1000, and they’re solid instruments. I'll highlight seven Gibson guitars for cheap (at least when compared to the typical Gibson price) in this article:
The Les Paul Junior will appeal to the minimalist who wants a simple configuration and Gibson tone. Note that the "Junior" designation doesn't mean it's small or intended for kids. It's shipping weight is about 20 pounds.
The Les Paul Junior is one of the best Gibson options for beginners, thanks largely to its friendly price tag.
That price, combined with a straightforward setup, gives the Junior wide-ranging appeal from beginners to the professional performer. Stylistically the Junior can handle nearly anything, as it commonly falls into the hands of rock, country, blues and even jazz guitar players.
Gibson uses Mahogany for both the body and neck of this guitar, giving it a thick push on the low-end frequencies and accounting for some of the extra weight.
Session and gigging guitarists alike can make it work.
Features and price tag
Additional features include one P-90 pickup and two controls for volume and tone, rounding out one of Gibson’s simplest guitars. Most of them retail around the $750 mark, making it one of the cheapest Gibson Les Pauls available.
2. Gibson SG Special
The Gibson SG Special, compared to the SGM and the other Les Pauls in this list, gives you a lot of the same features we've already seen.
You might notice Gibson's cost-cutting involves a combination of the '61 Zebra pickups, a Mahogany body, and Maple neck. However, the finish on the SG Special seems to be a little nicer, with a gloss lacquer that shines more than the SGM.
Everything else about this guitar is consistent with what we've already seen. The tone from the Zebra humbuckers provides plenty of good sustain and sounds best when paired with a grungy distortion pedal like the Pro Co Rat or Boss DS-1.
Just a style difference from the Les Pauls?
Some folks prefer the SG over the LP simply because of the looks and shape.
If you like that aspect of the SG, there's no need for concern that you're missing out on better features with the LPs.
In this list, at least, they're extremely similar.
3. Gibson Les Paul Special
The SG Special looks a lot like the JR, right down to the set of P90 pickups.
It also adds the pickguard and the dual volume tone controls.
You'll get a little more versatility tone versatility and control. This could be more palatable to someone who likes the Junior but would miss the flexibility added by nicer pickups and dual volume/tone controls.
To be blunt, most people in that situation would likely be happy with the Special or the Junior.
This model does cost more, retailing around $1600 which is about $100 to $200 above the Junior. Price difference is primarily due to the slightly nicer P90 pickups and extra electronics for both volume controls.
If you like the design (perhaps the pickguard specifically), this is a nice second option alongside the Gibson Les Paul Junior.
The price of the Gibson LP Studio is low enough that you can often snag one for around $1500.
It’s our favorite Gibson in this price range, partly because it so closely looks the part of a Les Paul Classic. It also has some of the higher-end Les Paul features with a carved Maple top and an upgrade in wood quality and grain.
Push-pull volume and tone controls for each pickup, lighter construction and the classic Les Paul look and feel are the most notable features.
The Gibson Les Paul Studio pickups
The Gibson Les Paul Studio pickups are the '57 Classic and '57 Plus, both Gibson brand offerings that sound fantastic and give you a significant upgrade over the pickups we've seen in many of the other models.
It's one of the only Gibson guitars with '57 classic pickups, in this price range.
Made in the United States, '57s are the best Gibson pickups for blues, rock, metal and almost any style that uses any amount of distortion.
The '57s versatility is a big part of how the Gibson Studio models have become such fantastic all-around guitars, regardless of style. They're consistently one of Gibson's most popular options, both for their versatility and affordability.
The pickups by themselves retail for around $150, though there are some deals available when you buy them in pairs.
What does “Studio” mean?
The Studio model Les Paul isn’t exclusively intended for sessions guitarists or those who work in a recording studio. Calling it a “Studio” model simply means that it was designed with recording sessions in mind. However, these specs don’t preclude it from being a viable guitar for most any situation.
In fact, the lower price of the Les Paul studio has made the Gibson brand more accessible to a wider range of players and situations. In other words, you don’t have to be Hank Garland to own one.
It’s still just a regular guitar.
How much does a Gibson Les Paul cost, typically?
The core Gibson lineup usually runs between the $1200 and $4000 mark, with more specialized and/or limited edition models going much higher. Les Pauls are sprinkled in throughout, and typically dominate the Gibson inventory, as you can see via the below screenshot:
Many of these guitars are well over $4000 and we're not even in the limited edition section.
Plenty of models in the LE camp will creep towards five-figures.
If you look at the more common Les Pauls, we can get a few more consistent pricing conventions:
- Les Paul Studio: $500 - $1500
- Les Paul Custom: $2000 - $5000
- Les Paul Classic: $1000 - $2000
- Les Paul Standard: $2000 - $2600
Once you start getting into the pricing, it's easy to see that most Gibson Les Pauls will retail in the four figures and commonly eclipse $2000.
Gibson guitars vs Epiphone
Epiphone was Gibson’s primary guitar-manufacturing rival until the late 1950s when Gibson bought them out.
Since then, the Epiphone brand has served primarily as Gibson’s “economic” line of guitars, maintaining the Epiphone name while adopting Gibson aesthetics and guitar designs.
They’ve produced many guitars that are visually indistinguishable from their Gibson counterparts.
This means that for many Gibson models, you’ll have a corresponding Epiphone alternative.
You’ll see these Epiphone guitars (perhaps frequently) as you browse.
If you'd like to see some suggestions, checkout our best Epiphone Les Paul roundup.
But, keep in mind, they are not authentic Gibson guitars.
Epiphones are great instruments in their own right, but they aren’t Gibson. Nor are they within the scope of this article.
Before you shop, make sure you note the differences between the two.
Read more: Epiphone VS Gibson Les Paul
Gibson features to look for
Most Gibson guitars have an iconic, quality-reputation preceding them, like the Les Paul or SG models.
But for general quality indicators, focus on the following specs:
- Wood (Maple, Mahogany, Korina)
Though not without exceptions, most Gibsons (and guitars in general) have their quality best measured by these categories.
Note that buying even a cheap Gibson guitar almost always means you’re getting quality, so there isn’t a lot of need to do really careful spec scanning, provided you’ve found the Gibson name in your price range.
Assuming that Gibson is our brand, it’s just a matter of finding one for a good price.
Finding Discount Gibson Guitars
I mentioned before that you can either buy a Gibson guitar that retails low or you can go about finding one used with a steep discount.
Since discounts and bargains come and go, I can’t post specific guitars or links here that will be helpful to you.
What I can do is show you how to find those deals yourself.
In this “tutorial” portion of the buying guide, we’ll use three different sites to find these discounts, none of which should surprise you.
All three of these websites provide opportunity to find nearly anything at a steep discount.
And while Gibson guitars might be more elusive, they can often be had on websites like these, far below retail value.
What we’ll do is list the most optimal step-by-step instructions for each website.
- Navigate to your nearest locality (larger cities are better).
- Search, without quotes: “gibson, guitar“
- If you get a lot of Epiphone guitars in your results, try this query: “gibson, guitar, -epiphone“
- Select the “Gallery” option (so you can see pictures).
- Sort price Low-to-High (don’t set a price range).
Craigslist is hit or miss, but when you hit, you can get some fantastic discounts.
Also keep in mind that Craigslist is haggling territory. You can make offers, ask about trades and engage in a more organic form of purchasing.
Craigslist doesn’t insure your purchase or bear any responsibility for your satisfaction.
Shop at your own risk.
- Use one of the following search terms: “Gibson Les Paul” (with quotes - or substitute your model of choice: SG, Flying V, etc.), “Gibson, Guitar“
- Add the “Epiphone” tag to any search query if you need to.
- Click the “Buy It Now” Filter
- Click on “Electric Guitars” under Categories.
- Set the price range at: $300 - $1500
- Sort by price, lowest to highest.
The wild card with eBay is their auctioning system, which can score you an even lower price if you have the patience to sit through a few days of bidding.
Personally I like the ease of the Buy It Now button, but it’s not the only option.
- Use a simple search term like “Gibson Guitars“
- Under “Show results for” click on “Electric Guitars“
- Under “Brand” click the check-box for “Gibson”
- Under the price range fields, put $0.01 as the starting price and $1500 as the ending price.
Deals are easier to spot here, since essentially all the options are used and sold by third parties.
Each of these sites have their pros and cons, many of which you’re likely familiar with.
The point is that you can find cheap Gibson guitars if you know where to look and what to look for.
Gibson Guitar Prices
Another thing you can do to help increase your odds of finding a good deal is to orient yourself with Gibson’s pricing model. For example, you can quickly see that the Gibson Memphis and Custom lines - retailing between $2000 and $8000 are not likely to be good “deal” candidates in most circumstances.
At the same time, we know that the Junior, SG Special, and Studio models are easily attainable at a reduced price.
If you know all that ahead of time, it’ll be easier to spot good deals.
Do you have thoughts or perhaps a success story to share about getting Gibson guitars for cheap?
Let us here about it.
You can get in touch via the comments section below.
See you there.
Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of C. Strife