TRASH OR TREASURE
ZACHARY R. FJESTAD
Ibanez “Lawsuit Era” Les Paul Custom Copy
I have owned this Ibanez “lawsuit” guitar
for over 25 years and I’d like to know a little
more about it. The serial number on the neck
plate is K7709XX and as far as I know, it is all
original except for the missing pickup cover.
Can you tell me more about Ibanez’s lawsuit
guitars and how much this is worth today?
Many Japanese-copied “lawsuit era” guitars
under names like Greco, Aria, Tokai, and
Ibanez have taken on an almost cult-like status
today among many guitar collectors. While
most readers understand what a “lawsuit era”
guitar refers to, others may not and I’ll try to
summarize the term.
In the early 1970s, American guitar manufacturers (particularly Gibson, Fender, and
Martin) were experiencing a steady decline
in production quality while more Japanese-built guitars were showing up in the American
market. By the mid-‘70s, these Japanese
guitars consisted of mostly blatant copies of
popular American designs and the quality was
much better than people wanted to admit. In
1977, Gibson sued the Elger Company (the
distributor of Ibanez instruments in the U.S.
at the time) and demanded they stop producing copies of their instruments, specifically
their headstocks. Japanese-built guitars that
are copies of American designs before the
Gibson lawsuit are commonly referred to as
“lawsuit era” guitars today.
Ibanez was certainly guilty of copying Gibson,
Fender, and Martin models, among others, but
they were also one of the most proactive companies when it came to introducing original
designs. Between 1975 and 1977, Ibanez introduced several original designs including the
popular Iceman and the Artist Series. In fact,
by 1977 when Elger signed an agreement to
stop building copies, their entire line consisted
of almost all original instruments anyway.
Your guitar appears to be a Les Paul Custom
copy that Ibanez labeled Model 2391.
According to the serial number, it was built in
November 1977, which is considered a transitional period. The Gibson/Elger lawsuit was
filed on June 28, 1977, and was resolved not
too long after. By September 1977, Ibanez was
ready with their entire new line of instruments
and copies were essentially a thing of the
past. However, there was a transitional period
where models were still produced with both
copied and original designs. Your guitar clearly
has a Les Paul body shape, but it has Ibanez’s
original headstock design, a large adjustable
bridge, and an elaborate tailpiece, which are
all original Ibanez designs.
The Model 2391 was loosely based on a
Les Paul Custom and featured a mahogany
body, maple top, and clear “See-Thru” fin-
ish. Just like a Les Paul Custom, this guitar
has multi-ply body and headstock binding,
fancy headstock pearl inlays (another Ibanez
original design), and a “Custom” truss rod
cover. However, the most notable differ-
ence between this guitar and a real Gibson
is the bolt-on neck. The pickguard has been
removed, as well as the bridge pickup cover.
The volume and tone knobs have rubber
inserts around them for a better grip, which
Ibanez called Sure-Grip knobs. There is some
belt buckle wear on the back along with some
hardware oxidation, but overall the guitar
appears to be in excellent condition.
Based on the condition and missing original
parts, your Ibanez Model 2391 is worth between
$475 and $550 today. If this guitar was in mint
condition with all original parts in place, it would
be worth between $600 and $700. In comparison, a mid-‘70s Les Paul Custom is currently
worth between $2500 and $3000. The Model
2391 probably retailed between $300 and $400
originally while the Gibson Les Paul retailed for
between $850 and $950 in 1978. Other Ibanez
Les Paul Custom-based guitars include the
Model 2335, Model 2341, Model 2350, Model
2386, Model 2393, and Model 2398.
The question many of you may be asking is
why the disparity in value between a real Les
Paul Custom and a copy if the quality is comparable? No question, there is a lot of value in
a name and Gibson is the most valuable name
in the guitar world. Bolt-on neck guitars are
usually considered inferior to set necks, which
also attributes to a lesser value on the copy.
For most copy, budget, and value instruments
from the 1960s and 1970s, I’ve noticed that
they raise and lower in value proportionally to
vintage and collectible instruments, which is
the case for this Ibanez.
Copies of American guitars propelled Ibanez
as a guitar company in the 1970s, but Ibanez
really established their own trademark with
unique designs, a commitment to quality, and
their relationships with artists. While not very
expensive, I challenge you to find an Ibanez
that isn’t a treasure!
Source: Ibanez, The Untold Story by Paul
Specht, Michael Wright, Jim Donahue, and
Zachary R. Fjestad
Zachary is the author of the Blue Book of Acoustic
Guitars, Blue Book of Electric Guitars, and the Blue
Book of Guitar Amplifiers.
Questions can be submitted to:
Blue Book Publications
Attn: Guitar Trash or Treasure
8009 34th Ave. S. Ste #175
Minneapolis, MN 55425