BLUE BOOK PUBLICATION
Navigating LP Copies
I hope you can help me with this guitar I bought. I am more
interested in the history of the guitar than the value, but I
wouldn’t mind knowing how rare a guitar like this is. Here
is what I know: this is a Japanese Les Paul-style guitar that
has had some of the hardware replaced including the brass
nut, gold Schaller tuners, and brass bridge and tailpiece.
Also, I’m not sure what to make of all the brass hardware,
but I think I want to replace it.
impressed by the quality of these guitars and how well they play.
You are right to be suspicious about the brass hardware. Although,
I have no information about what the original hardware was, these
pieces should probably be changed. Brass hardware was used in
the 1970s and 1980s, when many manufacturers thought it sent
sustain through the roof. However, it usually just added to the
weight of the guitar and gave the poor guitarists that had to sling
this beast more back problems.
Michael in Hilo, HI
It seems like every new day turns up a new copy of a Les
Paul, and the Navigator brand is no different. How in the world
did they get away with using “Les Paul” on the headstock? In
today’s world, the lawyers
would have been hounding
the guitar copier before the
nitrocellulose was dry on the
Navigator is a trademark that
ESP (Electric Sound Products)
owns and uses on a line of
guitars. ESP started out as a
parts company that sold guitar component and replacement parts. Although the
ESP Guitar Company wasn’t formed to produce guitars until 1985,
several guitars were built from parts that bear the ESP trademark.
Navigator guitars first appeared in the early 1980s, and the earliest
catalog I could find that included them was from 1981. It appears
that ESP used Navigator for actual production instruments before
ESP guitars were put into standard production. Currently, ESP still
offers guitars under the Navigator trademark, but unlike ESP, LTD,
or XTone, they are not offered in the U.S.
From the pictures, it is obvious that this is a rip-off of a 1958-1960
Gibson Les Paul Standard “Burst.” Unlike the Standard’s two-piece
flamed maple top, the Navigator has a two-piece mahogany top
that is much less figured. Part of what makes the original Les Paul
Standard so valued is the highly flamed maple top. Other than
the gold hardware that adorns the guitar, this instrument is very
similar to an original Standard – especially the “Les Paul” logo
on the headstock. These guitars were numbered LP- 100, LP- 150,
LP-200, LP-250, LP-300, etc. and were named for how much they
cost in Japanese Yen (LP- 100 cost 100,000 yen originally, LP-250
cost 250,000 yen originally). From what I’ve read, many players are
The good news is that technology has come a long way since
then, and there are several options on the market that will increase
sustain and actually lessen the weight of the guitar. In fact, in
the July 2007 issue of Premier Guitar, my fellow co-writer, Dean
Farley, touched on this subject, recommending Graph Tech’s ivory
saddles and nuts, but there are several options available as well.
Find out what kind of sound you are
looking for and go from there.
Every catalog and/or price list I’ve
seen list prices in Yen, so I doubt
that these guitars were ever dis-
tributed into the U.S. market. With
Hawaii’s proximity to Japan, the
Navigator probably made its way
to the island straight from Japan.
However, there seems to be a niche
market for these guitars as some
have actually sold for more than
$2,000! I have a tough time valuing any copy guitar from this era
(including Ibanez) for more than $1,000, but the value is always
based on what the market will bear (several Tokai Les Paul cop-
ies have sold on eBay for around $2,000). Until the “copy era” is
completely revealed, it’s tough to say where any of these guitars
will go in value. However, as the original models from the 1970s
keep getting more expensive, it is only a matter of time until these
climb in value as well. If you are simply looking for a nice playing
guitar, the Navigator seems to be a treasure!
Zachary R. Fjestad
is the author of the Blue Book of Acoustic Guitars, Blue Book
of Electric Guitars, and the Blue Book of Guitar Amplifiers.
Guitar Trash or Treasure Questions can be submitted to:
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8009 34th Ave. S. Ste #175
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