I'm looking for a Les Paul and I've been hearing a lot of talk that the quality of lp's declined after '96. I was just curious, if you had up to $2500 to spend on a used lp, what year/era would you get?
a 1959 les paul would cost more than your house. look into the 70's and 80's. get a custom shop if you can. either way try it before you buy it. a les paul is a personal thing.
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Well actually the deline was after 1999. The late 90's Les Pauls are among the best you can get. Both the 70's and 80's are pretty bleh, but the mid- late 90's, man they are awesome!
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thanks man thats helpful, and to the other guy, thanks for suggesting a 1959 lp, while im at it ill pick up a pre '65 strat, a few marshall stacks and a gold-plated rolls royce.
It all depends, I have bought very old guitars and LPs from people who had no clue what they were worth. I found a Pre CBS Fender Strat at a yard sale in NH for $50.00 the thing was perfect! I resold it for 1000s later wish I had a lot of those finds now because it probably would be enough to retire on. If your not lucky to come across a vintage LP cheap and there are some out there that are not bad at all. 60s thru Early 70s LPs are very nice and usually good buys for the money. Late 70s thru the the present are hit or miss you need to play them all. I have had some nice late 70s LPs but I had to weed thru them to find ones I wanted to keep. I bought a few 80s LPs and resold those ASAP they just felt and played like crap but I had some early 80s V and Explorers that were some of the best Gibsons I have owned. I don't think a lot of later LPs are that nice at all, even custom shop LPs can be very dissapointing. Don't get me wrong there are great LPs out there but it's a safari you need to go out and hunt down one that is exceptional.

With money tight right now I am sure you can score an LP that you'll love, probably much cheaper than $2500.00. I would stay away from Ebay because you will really need to play anyone you see you like. Never take the word of the seller they are going to tell you it's the best LP they ever played the same goes for a music shop. They are motivated sellers they will promise you the world to get your money. Last watch out for counterfits they are getting better and better. I would put money there are fake LPs out there in the hands of guys who do not even know they got one and these guys are collectors. I would recomend getting your self a Gibson Price guide they are not always dead on but they give you a good idea of what to pay and what to look for. I have seen some that guitar stores have taken in trade and had no clue.