Are Vintage Gibson Les Pauls Just ’Wall Hangers’ for Rich People?

For Mark Agnesi, Gibson’s Director of Brand Experience and well-known former trader at Norman’s Rare Guitars, stories about rich people buying expensive vintage Les Pauls are nothing but a myth. Those legendary single-cutaway models manufactured between 1958 and 1960 can reach some astronomical figures among collectors. And, as Agnesi said in an interview with Guitar World recently, the buyers cherish these instruments and actually play them.

In his experience, if anyone buys the most expensive vintage stuff, they’re not going to use these as mere pieces of furniture. Mark explained:

“I have to be honest: that real top-tier stuff, the real big-dollar stuff, I don’t know anybody who’s buying that stuff that has no intention of playing it. Everyone I know that has bought a ’Burst in the last five years is playing that guitar every single day.”

The Captain Meets Mark Agnesi of Gibson Guitars

Sure, a lot of people will talk about the rich boomer blues and classic rock fans purchasing these guitars just to brag about them or to “tuck them away” safely somewhere. But in Agnesi’s experience, this is absolutely not the case:

“I think there’s this concept that rich guys are buying these and then tucking them away. That is not at all what I’m seeing.”

In fact, it’s quite the opposite — they tend to play them every day:

“Everyone that I know who owns one, it is the first thing that they pick up in the morning when they wake up, it’s the last thing they touch before they go to bed. People are playing these guitars, especially the expensive, big-dollar ones.”

Mark Agnesi Talks About The Les Paul Standard 60's Model

“The people that are spending big money on this stuff are not buying wall hangers… People might have that perception, but I’m here to debunk that perception because I’m closely involved with a lot of people that own these things. That ain’t the case!”

But despite these instruments being incredibly expensive on the used market, Agnesi says that they’re not “that precious” to the point where you can’t play them. He doesn’t mean this in a negative way but rather points out that these are, after all, fine instruments:

“They are not that precious that they can’t be played. A lot of these are already 60 years old – they’re gonna be okay! People can play them, people can bring them on stage, you can refret them if they need frets.”

Mark Agnesi Talks About The Les Paul Junior Model

And while we’re on the topic of refretting, Agnesi ensures you that replacing frets on a guitar, even if it’s an expensive vintage Les Paul Standard “Burst” from 1959, is a pretty standard procedure. Most importantly — it’s not going to ruin its value:

“When I started in the vintage guitar industry, there was still the [complete] originality thing, and I think we’re starting to turn the corner on that now, which I’m really happy about. Because people don’t seem as afraid to refret things because it’s going to affect the value.”

But Agnesi then makes a point — it makes no sense to value a guitar that’s not playable:

“We’ve said this, like: ‘If the thing doesn’t play, it’s worthless.’ So if you’re sitting here with it and you’re so worried about the value [dropping] you can’t play the damn thing, it’s worthless. Put frets on it! There are far worse things you can do to guitars than put a new set of frets on it and have it PLEK-ed, so it plays like a new guitar again.”

Mark Agnesi Talks About The Les Paul Standard 50's Model

“To me, that’s like putting a new set of tires on a vintage car that’s been driving around on bald tires. There are certain basic maintenance things that I think the industry has turned the corner on, which is a good thing. Putting new frets on a guitar is perfectly OK.”

In other news, Gibson went through an important change earlier this year by replacing their CEO.  James “JC” Curleigh — who replaced Henry Juszkiewicz in 2018 — stepped down in early May 2023, and was replaced by Cesar Gueikian. Gueikian, who was previously the Brand President for Gibson, shared this statement when he was given the lead role:

“I am honored to take on this important role with a company that means so much to me. Gibson has shaped sound for the last 130 years, and we now have the opportunity to drive the future of music and touch people’s lives for the next 130 years.”

The Collection: Cesar Gueikian President & CEO of Gibson

“We have an obligation to continue innovating across instruments, sound, and media and to continue inspiring fans and artists of all levels to create music. I look forward to working closely with our experienced senior leadership and team of incredible craftspeople to ensure the long-term success of the business.”

This seems to be a regular change as the company is now still going steady after the massive change in 2018. JC, the previous CEO, shared this statement while stepping down:

“It has been a privilege to lead Gibson, and I’m tremendously proud of what we accomplished as a team. I am ready for my next challenge and want to thank the Board and the Gibson team for the opportunity to guide this company. I look forward to seeing all they will accomplish in the future.”

Gibson NAMM 2020 Tour With Cesar Gueikian

Photo: Eden, Janine and Jim (Keith Richards’ 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard(serial -9 3182) – Play It Loud. MET (2019-05-13 19-09-12 by Eden, Janine and Jim))

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.