2019 - Chinese Knock-Off Guitars
Here's what you need to know about the
"Chibson" Ace Frehley Guitars
Another very common e-mail I receive usually reads something along the lines of ... "I came across an Ace Frehley guitar for under $700. Can you tell me if it's a real Gibson"? Sure I can ... 'No'. Sorry to be that blunt.
Remember the old saying ... If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
I'm not entirely sure exactly when these Chinese-built guitars began surfacing around the world, but it was sometime in 2005 or 2006. Consumers who didn't recognize the guitars as being counterfeit, thought they were getting an incredible deal on an American made Gibson guitar that had been built for the Asian market. Sadly, this was completely false and many, many unsuspecting people handed over their hard earned cash for a guitar that, in my opinion, was just this side of the text book definition of 'fire wood'.
The guitars say "Gibson" on the headstock. They have a 'split-diamond' headstock inlay and block inlays on the fingerboard. In the case of the Ace Frehley models, they have Ace's face on the front of the headstock and the lightning-bolt inlays on the fingerboard. 5-ply (W/B/W/B/W) binding in all the right places. Pickguards, toggle switches, speed knobs and metal jack plates. Flip the guitar over and it has "Made in USA" and a serial number stamped into the back of the headstock. The machine heads say "Grover" on them and the guitars come with a brown, hardshell case that has "Gibson" screenprinted on it. Cool !?!?! Ya ... not really.
From this point on, I'm just going to focus on what to look for as it pertains to the Ace Frehley counterfeit models that are in circulation. Below that, I've posted a link to Gibson's website and the page that contains their information on the topic. I hope this stuff helps you out but please feel free to e-mail me if you're still not 100% sure.
Chinese-built Ace Frehley Les Paul counterfeit guitars - What should I be looking for ?!?!?!?
1.) The serial number: Gibson USA built the Ace Frehley Les Pauls between 1997 and 2001. This means that an authentic Gibson serial number will reflect this. The serialization Gibson used, at the time, has the last 2 digits of the manufacturing year (i.e. 1997 = 97) as the first and fifth digits of the serial number (i.e. 93367333). So, on an authentic Ace Frehley Les Paul, the first and fifth digits of the serial number can only be one of the following five combinations ... 9 & 7 (1997), 9 & 8 (1998), 9 & 9 (1999), 0 & 0 (2000) or 0 & 1 (2001). Many of the counterfeit models I've seen have first and fifth numbers that are incorrect (i.e. 1 & 3).
2.) The color scheme: Gibson USA Ace Frehley Les Pauls were only available in one color option; Cherry Sunburst. Any other color you come across is most likely a counterfeit model.
3.) The case: All Gibson USA Ace Frehley Les Paul cases have a black exterior and a deep blue interior with the deep blue silk shroud that has Ace's screenprint signature on it.
Each of these guitars is a counterfeit, Ace Frehley model. The blue one is even a left-hand orientation.
Unfortunately, the link for information about counterfeit Gibson products, is no longer valid. But, Gibson does have a page where you can submit concerns about possible counterfeit products (see below).
I have often received e-mails asking about counterfeit Epiphone models. To be honest, I've never seen one, in person, and I really never thought an Asian made knock-off version of a Asian made guitar, could even exist. Think about it ? Why duplicate and/or counterfeit something you already produce ?? Then, I got an e-mail leading me to a U.S.-based, e-Bay listing for an original version of an Ace Frehley Epiphone model (My thanks to Joe Mottola for the link !). What Joe initially spotted was the signature on the 12th fret. Unlike authentic Epiphone models, where the signature is incorporated into a block inlay, this signature was by itself; exactly like you'd find on one of The 300 or one of the original Gibson USA models. Then a closer inspection revealed to him that the pickups don't quite line-up correctly. When I started looking at the pictures on the listing, the first thing that caught my eye was that the headstock veneer looked incorrect ... Ace's head was too low or too far from the Epiphone logo. The back of the headstock didn't quite have the right shape and neither does the body of the guitar. At this time, I have only come across these "Ace" models in the Cherry Sunburst finish. However, I'm sure there are other colors out there.
Unfortunately, I don't currently have any pictures that are of a good enough quality to show the incorrect nature of the "Grover" tuners. But, the lettering is a little too large and subsequently the raised a little too high. There also doesn't appear to be anything ... a sticker or a stamp of any sort ... indicating a country of manufacturing.
Once again ... I hope this helps out not only Ace Frehley guitar fans, but guitar players and buyers, the world over.