All About Chibson Guitars (Incl. Les Paul) – Should You Buy?

Author: James Potts | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Your first thought after reading that title is probably ‘What the hell is a Chibson? Doesn’t he mean Gibson?’ Well, a ‘Chibson’ is a portmanteau for ‘Chinese Gibson,’ i.e., a fake Gibson guitar made in China.

It is not a specific brand in itself, but rather a catch-all term referring to any fake Gibson made in Chinese factories. They are counterfeits; not approved or sanctioned by Gibson in any way.

So – should you buy one? They can’t be that bad, right? And Gibsons are so expensive…

No, you probably shouldn’t buy one. Yes, they absolutely can be that bad. And yes, Gibsons are expensive, and Gibson themselves know that.

That’s why they also produce guitars under the Epiphone brand name, to cater to the budget guitar market. Epiphones are much cheaper than Gibsons but are still made to the same rigorous standards and high-quality build specifications (similar to Squier).

Let’s take a deeper look at the dark world of counterfeit Gibson guitars.

What is a Chibson Guitar?

As previously stated, Chibson is a slang name (popularized on internet forums) for fake Gibson guitars made in China.

It’s important to note here that Chibson’s aren’t mere ‘copies’ of Gibson body shapes marketed under a different name (guitar manufacturers have been doing this with each other’s designs for decades), but outright forgeries that are sold under the pretense of being legitimate Gibsons to unwitting consumers.

A Chibson will come complete with the Gibson name on the headstock, Gibson logos on the packaging, and sometimes even ‘Gibson’ case candy.

The makers of these Chibson guitars will turn their hands to anything. Les Pauls are by far the most popular fakes, but SGs, Firebirds, Explorers, and Flying Vs have all been cloned. And of course, it’s not just Gibson that suffers from illegal duplicates – Fender, Gretsch, Ibanez, Jackson, and Dean have all been copied. But in this article, we’ll focus on the main victim: Gibson.

The Risks of Buying a Chibson

While there are rumors that Chibsons are actually legitimate Gibsons that have been made with slight defects or built after hours using certified Gibson parts and schematics, that’s just simply not the case.

These fakes are made in independent factories which will churn out hundreds of these counterfeit models every day. And they’ll be using substandard materials, old or unmaintained machinery, and in an unsafe and unregulated working environment. None of this is conducive to a high-quality musical instrument.

Of course, there are stories circulating online about people buying a Chibson Les Paul for circa $200 dollars, and when it arrives it turns out to be a pretty decent guitar that plays well and sounds good. Firstly, don’t believe everything you read online. Secondly, the chances of a Chibson being anywhere close to the quality of a genuine Gibson are slim to none – if it even turns up in the first place.

It’s also worth mentioning that the fake guitar you just spent $200 on probably cost around $10 – $20 to manufacture. That should give you a hint at the kind of standards of materials these things are made with.

Not to mention you will have no legal recourse whatsoever if you’re unsatisfied with your Chibson (which you probably will be).


China does not observe intellectual property (IP) laws, meaning once a factory gets its hands on the schematics for a product – be it a guitar, a phone, a car, or a pair of sneakers – they can produce as many ill-made copies as they like.

In the States, IP law would render this activity a crime, and legal action would be taken against the counterfeiter.

Similarly, if you were to buy a Chibson and then sell it on, knowing full well that it was a fake, you could be subject to legal action yourself.

How to Spot a Chibson

So, if you’re lucky enough to own a Gibson already, you might now be looking at it suspiciously, wondering if you’ve inadvertently paid good money for nothing more than a cheap knock-off. Luckily, there are some things to spot that can distinguish a Chibson from the real deal.

When Chibsons began to appear on the market, the main giveaway was the 3-screw truss rod cover. Gibson only ever used a 2-screw cover. However, this has long since been remedied by the fraudsters, and most fakes will now come with the 2-screw covers.

Since Les Pauls are the most commonly cloned, we’ll use that as an example. Here’s some things to look out for, both online and IRL when inspecting a guitar.

It Seems Too Good to be True

That old saying exists for a reason. A standard Gibson Les Paul will cost around $2,500. Even a used model will rarely go for less than $1,000. And of course, there are many variations – customs, specials, etc. A Les Paul on sale for less than $800 should raise red flags.

If you’re interested to know about the best places to buy used guitars, head over to this article of our site.

It Comes Without a Gibson (or any) Case

High-end guitars will come with a hard case – end of story. Even budget models come with a branded bag. If you’re buying second hand then maybe there’s a legitimate reason for the seller not to have a case, but even then that should raise questions.

The Bridge

Most fake Les Pauls have an imported bridge style, with two adjustable flat-head screws at either end. Real Gibsons have bridges that can only be adjusted by the thumbwheels

The Fret Binding

Almost all Gibsons with bound fingerboards have fret nibs, the only exception being some models made in 2014. On a fake, the frets will have been cut to fit inside the binding, rather than fitted to the neck, then bound, filed, and nibbed.

A tiny gap between the fret and the nib used to be a clear sign of a fake, but now fakes that have been properly nibbed have been reported. A legitimate Les Paul (or any guitar) that has been refretted may be without nibs, so don’t rely on this one alone.

The Headstock

There’s a number of things to check on the headstock that can determine a fake.

  1. The “Gibson” font will be excessively bold on a fake
  2. A legitimate Gibson will have a serial number printed in black ink on the reverse of the headstock. Fakes often use white ink.
  3. A real Gibson headstock will always have a winged headstock. A fake will use a scarf joint.

There’s more, too, but we won’t cover that all today, as most of the other signifiers involve taking the guitar apart. This is just a quick checklist that you can use to help you out if you’re unsure and considering buying.

Chibson vs Epiphone

So what do you do if you really want a Gibson guitar but you just cannot afford one? Well, don’t get a Chibson! If I haven’t given you enough evidence already then maybe this will seal the deal.

Gibson has their own line of budget guitars, which in recent years have improved to the point where some swear they are just as good as the high-end Gibsons themselves.

I am of course talking about Epiphone! The main Epiphone factory is in Qingdao, China, but Epiphone has been owned by Gibson since 1957, and it is an official sister company.

You only have to look at the price of some of their beginner packs to see the value. And they don’t just cater to learners. This is an Epiphone version of Slash’s signature line of Gibson Les Pauls, so there’s a pretty big name lending his weight to the brand!

My favorite is the Les Paul Standard 60’s edition from Epiphone. It’s not the cheapest Gibson-alternative, but you get a tremendous bang for the buck, in my opinion.

And it’s not just Les Pauls either, Epiphone makes certified, Gibson-approved budget versions of many Gibson classics, such as the SG, the Explorer, and the Flying V.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, if you were considering buying a Chibson, you’ve now seen the light, and will steer clear of all unofficial copies. Of course, that goes for everything, not just guitars.

If you give money to a counterfeiter, you won’t get anything near what you’re expecting. They don’t care about standards, fair trading, or customer service. You may as well throw your money away!

Opt for Epiphone if your budget is tight, or save up those pennies for a brand-new Gibson. And of course, you can always buy second hand. Just keep an eye out for any Chibson red flags!

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About James Potts

James is an amateur guitarist and home-recording enthusiast. He loves all things music related - writing songs, playing in a band, and finding the best ways to listen to it. It all interests him, from the history of acoustic guitars, to the latest Bluetooth headphones, to his (ever-growing) collection of vinyl records.

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