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Year-by-Year History of the Historic Les Paul Collection


Well-known member
Feb 24, 2003
A forum member had asked in another thread if there was a definitive list of the year-to-year changes to the Historic line. I'm sure the information is scattered about amongst numerous threads here on the forum, but finding it can be a chore. I thought it would be a good idea to try to collect the history of all changes into one thread. Once the list is complete, it can be organized into a single chart and posted on the web or possibly posted as a sticky in the Historic District.

I am going to maintain a chronological history in post #2 of this thread with milestones for each year. To contribute, just reply to the thread with whatever information you have and I will paste that data into post #2. Sometimes it may be a day or so before I get around to updating the chart with the latest posts, but I'll try to keep up on it. This chronical will only be as good as the information submitted, so try to be accurate with your information. Bear in mind that often times the changes occur mid-year, so there may be some overlap. Corrections are welcome.

I'll get things started with a few pieces of information that I know and then I'll rely on the group to help fill in the blanks.
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Well-known member
Feb 24, 2003
Les Paul Historic Collection Chronicle

* Historic Collection introduced. Models include; '54 Black Beauty, '56 Goldtop, '57 Custom Black Beauty/3 Pickup, '57 Goldtop, '57 Custom Black Beauty/2 Pickup, '57 Custom Black Beauty with optional Bigsby Tailpiece, '59 Flametop, '60 Flametop
* First 25 Sunburst and first 15 Goldtops were painted by Tom Murphy.
* Deep neck joint.
* Thin Holly head veneer.
* Silk screened les paul logo.
* Correct pickup routing.
* Les Paul classic aged inlay.
* 57 Classic pickups.
* Kluson replica tuners.
* Vintage letter styled serial#.
*"Historic collection" decal on the back of the headstock.
* Indian rosewood fingerboard.
*"AAAA" grade soft maple top.
* Regular gibson usa brown case.
* Regular early 90s style cherry sunburst.
* Cherry sunburst and heritage darkburst"
* Some models lack pickguard

* Historic parts; only pickguard, pickup rings, trussrod cover.
* Regular gibson usa white pearloid inlay.
* "AAAA" grade soft maple top.
* Darker transparent orangy cherry sunburst. (1994-1996)
* First year for the R8
* First 200 of 1994 painted By Tom Murphy
*"Historic collection" decal still on the back of the headstock.
* 1995-2002 both Eastern and Western Maple used for tops


* "Flametop" R8 introduced in Buttersctch and Vintage Red finishes
* R4 1996 up

* ID micro chip in the neck joint.
* Brass bridge saddles instead of steel bridge saddles.
* "AAAAA" grade soft maple top.
* Brighter transparent orangy cherry sunburst. (1997-199
* Pickguard blueprinted and caused a gap, revealing improper placement of the bridge pickup
* Brighter back cherry color.
* Junior 57 1997 up
* Junior 58 1997 up
* Special 58 1997-2000?
* Special 60 1997-up (when they discontinued the Special 58, they incoporated the SC into the Special 60)

* R2 1998-2003
* No pointers on knobs?

* 40th Anniversary '59 RI - Painted and aged by Murphy (100 made?)
* No R8 this year
* COA began.
* Thin body binding.
* Thin lacquer finish.
* "AAA" hard maple top.
* new vintage taste cherry and darkburst.
* Vintage style back red filler color.
* Refined parts positions and neck shape.
* Bridge pickup moved to its proper place
* R9 Plaintop 1999-2000
* Gibson Stops flame enhancing
* Limited quantity of "Killer Top" R9s, "AAAAA" tops, stamped R9K in cavity

* No R8 this year
* Vintage lifton style brown case for R9/R0.
* Lemon Burst, Tri Burst.
* Black Custom Art Historic case. (TKL)
* No COA.
* No tortoise side markers.
* Rounded fretboard inlays.
* Heavyweight tailpiece.
* '57 Classic PUP's.
* Thick jack plate.
* Thick switch plate/washer.
* Fine-knurl switch nut.
* Amber knobs.
* Gibson label potentiometers.
* Orange drop capacitors.

* R9 production limited to 500 units US, 1000 worldwide due to "parts constraints"
* Custom Authentic models introduced (broken-in finish, aged hardware, Grovers)
* Dickie Betts '57 Goldtop introduced (limited edition of 114)
* R8 returns with a flametop
* Thin neck binding.
* New round edged pearloid inlay. (2001-2002 only)
* Vintage style mid jumbo size frets.
* New thick jack plate. (2001-2002 only)
* Aluminum tailpiece.
* Tortoise side markers
* Very bright red sunburst.
* Faded Tabacco, Iced Tea, Washed Cherry.
* Lifton case is standard for R9/R0
* COA standard
* Limited run of Brazilian board R9's given to award dealers. About 50 guitars in the 9 1203 to 9 1250 range all but 6 of them aged by Tom Murphy
* 38 Official Brazilian R9's

* Genuine Kluson tuners for the early units.
* Improved tuner bushings
* More accurately shaped fingerboard inlays
* Non-wire ABR-1 bridge for the early units.
* Amber tophat knobs
* CTS pots
* Owners Card (listing name, serial number and the dealership), Certificate of Authenticity, Reissue Strap, an Embroidered Les Paul Swatch and a Custom Care Kit.
* Burstbucker type 2 & 3.
* Inlay material changed to swirly plastic, corners sharpened. (only R9/R0, later for all models)
* Vintage style thin jack plate. (only R9/0, later for all models)
* Vintage style thin toggle switch washer. (only R9/0, later for all models)
* Vintage color toggle switch knob. (only R9/0, later for all models)
* Vintage style CTS pots and oil caps. not bumblebee. (only R9/0, later all models)
* Dark deep cherry sunburst.
* R7 gets Bursrtbuckers
* Left handed Historics get side dots added to the underside of the neck
* Custom Authentic loses Grovers
* 8 Official Brazilian R9's
* 5 Guitar Center R0 models built (listed as "LPR0PTKBNH1 LP 60 Plaintop")

* Brazilian boards installed from January through May as follows:
** of 4 3001-4 3150 35 of these were R4 Custom Black Beauties = 115 BRW R4s
** of 7 3001-7 3707 220 of these were R7 Customs, 4 GTs were 02 specs, 28 were Juniors = 455 BRW R7s
** of 8 3001-8 3256 31 of these were Juniors = 225 BRW R8s
** of 0 3001-0 3163 50 were G0s, 20 were Specials = 93 BRW R0s
** R6s and R9s Do not share with other models, so all 148 R6s and all 674 R9s are BRW.
* Price drop on R8s and R9s
* Truss rod cover moved away from nut
* Headstock shape changed
* Tuners arranged to be inline
* Vintage style CTS pots
* Bumblebee Caps
* Return to wired ABR
* Madagascar rosewood fingerboard.
* Eastern hard maple top
* "AA" grade eastern hard maple top.
* R9 flametop becomes less flashy due to increased use of Eastern Maple
* R8 returns with a plain top
* Burstbucker type 1 & 2.
* Gold knobs instead of previous vintage amber knobs.
* Corrected tuner positions. "V" intead of "l l" way.
* Transparent orange to regular red cherry sunburst.
* "i"dot on gibson logo moved to the correct position.
* Refined parts positions and neck shape.
* Inlays changed to swirly plastic, sharp corners on remaining models
* Special run of "Stinger Series" guitars. Music Machine "Stingers" have Brazilian Rosewood fretboards
* 50 Guitar Center R0 models built

* Cloud 9 chambered models introduced in limited quantities
* Jimmy Page signature model introduced; 25 Murphy aged guitars signed by JP, 150 Murphy aged unsigned models, 870 Custom Authentic non-Murphy aged guitars produced, run complete in 2007
* New custom shop black case.
* "AAA" eastern hard maple top.
* Silk screened logo moved to the correct location.
* Short Truss Rod Screws the right size

* TR screws return to the wrong size

* VOS finish with aged hardware introduced
* CS begins using Plek machine used for dressing frets and cutting nut slots
* Real vintage looking maple top grains/figures.

* Brighter back red filler color.
* Real honduran mahogany.............
* 50th Anniversary Goldtop (Ewwww) 157 to be built


Note: The data presented in this list is a compilation of information found in print as well as from contributions made by LPF members. Its accuracy is not guaranteed.


1993 Historic Collection Catalog
Stinger Series
Keeping the Flame Alive
1958 Les Paul Standard Reissue returns to Custom Shop home
Gibson Custom Authentic: Hard, sweet magic
The wait is over: Gibson Custom '59 Les Paul Reissue debuts
'59 Les Paul Flametop Reissue stirs controversy; Custom Shop answers the call
Aged to perfection: 1957 Goldtop Reissue
Gibson Custom, Art & Historic division turns to reissues and innovation for five new models
1958 Les Paul Standard Reissue returns to Custom Shop home
Only 500 Gibson 1959 Les Paul Reissues in 2001
Gibson Les Paul Goldtop Reissue: Nice reissue, aging optional
BurstBuckers put the edge on replica Gibson sounds
1983-1993 Gibson Les Paul Reissues: Another Small Step Toward the ’59 Dream?
Gibson Les Paul Late 70’s/Early 80’s “Pre-Reissues”: On the Road to ’59?
Neck Tenon Difference - Historic vs USA (youtube)
Gibson Custom Shop Presents Vintage Original Spec (youtube)
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New member
Feb 22, 2007
I was one (if not the only one) who asked about this fairly recently, when I wanted to learn a bit more before I bought my '01 R8, which I love (naturally). This is a great idea, really looking forward to seeing the thread as it grows...


Active member
Sep 6, 2003
Another great thread started by Danelectro...thanks! and thanks to all that contribute to it!


Well-known member
Feb 24, 2003
Ok here are a few changes I can think of but I need some help in pinpointing the date they occurred:

- Burstbuckers replace Classic '57s (2002?)
- No-wire ABR bridge - only for a short period (2001?)
- Lightweight stoptail replaces zinc (2002-2003?)
- Inlays changed to swirly plastic with sharp points (in know the 2003s had this, but I'm think this actually started in 2002)
- Plastic color changes from pinkish cream to ivory cream color (2003?)
- Neck binding thinned out (2003?)
- Pickup spacing corrected (1999?)
- Top carve changed (?)
- Custom Shop decal disappears from back of neck (1994?)
- Certificate of Authenticity appears (2000?)
- R9 ships with brown Lifton case (?)

Although I don't think these are really considered Historics, how about if we include the issue dates on these Signature models?

- Dickie Betts Goldtop (2001?)
- Rossington '59 (2002?)
- Duanne Allman '59 (2003?)
- Jimmy Page '59 (2004?)


Jul 15, 2001
You mentioned the flametop R8s in 1998. If memory serves, there were no R8s in 1999 and maybe also in 2000. In 2001 they reintroduced flametop R8s (sold a ton of them that year). I can't remember when they became plaintops after that. :hank


Les Paul Froum Member
Dec 20, 2004
Yeah no 99 or 00 R8s! 2003 marked the year of the R8 Plaintop return, after 01 and 02 figured top R8s .


Active member
May 25, 2003
The R8s became plaintops in 2003; the 2003 R9s also had distinctly less flashy tops than they had in 2002. Coincidentally or not, Gibson reduced the list price on both R8s and R9s in Jan 2003, which is pretty funny considering they also added the BRW boards then and those guitars now trade for stupid money!

Anyway, the BRW boards were on guitars through the end of *May* of that year. (not April as posted on the list)


New member
Dec 3, 2001
Also in late 1997 gibson released a small run of "pre-official run" '58 figuredtops, known to dealers as "50s figured lemonbursts" on the hotsheets

They differed from the 98 r8s only in the CS logo on the back of the head stock and a larger serial number. and of course only available in the lemonburst color.


Well-known member
Jan 22, 2004
Just my $.02...I think it would be helpful if we organized this information in a grid or spreadsheet, so that features from different years, and different models don't all get jumbled together. I thought something like this could help keep all the information better organized:


Is this do-able in some way on this forum, or would it have to be done as a spreadsheet on someone's computer?



All Access/Backstage Pass
Mar 30, 2002
2001 R9's were the first to have the lightweight aluminum tailpiece and tortoise side dot markers among other changes that year.


Les Paul Forum Member
Jan 24, 2002
In 2003 the price drop was due to the down grading of the top, from a guaranteed flame top to a figured top on the R9 and a figured top to a plain top on the R8.

I think the key years in spec changes are '99 and '03.