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Ever seen a counterfeit Gibson? Have you ever thought about dipping your toes in the world of Chibson guitars? What even is a Chibson guitar? Where do they come from? Are they any good?
All this and more today as we explore where Chibson guitars and where you might be able to find your own (if that’s your sort of thing).
Table of Contents
- What is Chibson? What is a Chibson Guitar?
- Chibson: The Brand
- Is it Safe to Buy a Chinese Gibson?
- Where to Buy a Chibson
- Are Chibson Guitars Legal?
- Spotting a Chibson in the Wild
- Final Tones
- FAQs Chibson Guitars
What is Chibson? What is a Chibson Guitar?
Despite what it might sound like, a Chibson isn’t literally a brand of guitars. Rather, to call a Les Paul, say, a Chibson Les Paul is to refer to a counterfeit Les Paul that is usually made in China or somewhere else in the Far East.
While these guitars don’t necessarily rip off Les Pauls or other Gibson-style guitars entirely, they still appear as Gibsons to all intents and purposes. This is because they are still branded as such, bearing Gibson logos on Gibson headstocks that sometimes even come in Gibson-branded hard cases filled with Gibson case candy.
Thus, to the uninitiated, it might very well seem like you were getting a Gibson guitar. This raises an incredibly important question about ownership and copyright in the age of mechanical reproduction. Gibson themselves are guilty of stealing ideas and designs from other manufacturers, so what’s really to stop a Chinese manufacturer from doing the very same?
As far as the designs of electric guitars go, the Les Paul is certainly the most copied, at least in terms of Gibson-style guitars, though there are Firebirds, SGs, and just about any other form of Gibson you can imagine.
That being said, there is a Chibson equivalent for just about every model of Gibson guitar, and this isn’t just a Gibson-related phenomenon either. Indeed, this is a trend that occurs with just about every other big brand of guitar, including Fender, EVH, Ibanez, etc. Interestingly enough, though, there are far fewer instances of acoustic guitar counterfeiting.
Chibson: The Brand
As already elucidated above, Chibson is not an actual brand name. Rather it is more of an idea – Chinese and other Far Eastern countries containing manufacturers of counterfeit and fake Gibson guitars for far cheaper owing to the cheaper labor involved.
Where other manufacturers closely following these designs might use their own logo and branding when marketing it forth into the world, though, Chibson guitars are notable for largely labeling their own products with the actual Gibson logo. In this way, Chibson is a universal word to refer to any guitar which follows this trend.
These sellers tend to operate entirely digital shopfronts with autogenerated usernames that attempt to remain more or less autonomous. Funnily enough, the Gibson brand isn’t mentioned all that much (if at all) on the website, likely to avoid detection by any fraud detectors out there.
Instead, they will heavily allude to the nature of the product, using the word Chibson in place of the Gibson brand and avoiding picturing the headstock. This latter effort is a further way to disguise the fact that the guitar is not a genuine Gibson guitar.
Is it Safe to Buy a Chinese Gibson?
The world of guitar exchange is a place where elitism and materialism can often take hold – as is the case for much of the capitalist Western world. There is plenty of room for people to assume that Chibson guitars are simply the Gibson models that fell off the production line or otherwise made after hours and snuck out of the back door of the official Gibson factory.
This is a complete fabrication, for these guitars are made in their own factories with different equipment to that of Gibson – whether or not this is a good thing or a bad thing will depend on your budget and your moral point of view. What can’t be argued is the fact these guitars are likely so much more affordable because the labor is cheaper, something that comes with a lower standard of working conditions and support for workers.
This is nothing new, of course. In fact, this is something that guitar manufacturers have been doing for some time. Counterpart brands like Gibson’s Epiphone and Fender’s Squier offload their labor to neighboring Mexico and Japan and have done for decades. Whether or not there is a difference is ultimately up to you, though many would argue that it is easier to regulate these working conditions when they are surveilled by these more legitimate manufacturers.
Many guitarists will completely write off a fake Gibson, but there are plenty of so-called lawsuit copies of Gibson from decades ago that many still hold up as great examples of counterfeit guitars that almost exceed the quality of a real Gibson from certain other eras.
Where to Buy a Chibson
Though it is beyond the means of this site to engage with counterfeiters and to send you forth on your merry way to buying a fake Gibson, there is still hope for you to achieve a Gibson-style guitar at a reasonable price.
While you should mostly try to avoid the kind of websites elucidated above, we would certainly recommend checking out some older examples of Gibson copies from the early-70s. Many of these guitars were made by Ibanez and other manufacturers, many of which got their start in the industry constructing copies of these guitars for those less able to afford the real deal.
It’s all too easy to be a snob about owning a real Gibson, but what are those with fewer means going to do about getting one? Sure, they can turn to Epiphone for a copy constructed by Gibson’s offshoot brand, but with all the snobbery in the music market, this often feels like second best and is regularly riddled with judgment from other guitarists.
This is all secondary to the fact that the world really doesn’t need new guitars manufactured, especially when there are so many like them already. Buying an older guitar is a great way to reuse something that still has plenty of life in it and avoid the toxic cycle of production and disuse so inherent in capitalism’s way of doing things.
Are Chibson Guitars Legal?
Though we are not permitted to offer you the soundest and most astute legal advice, it is on good authority that we can suggest that the sale of fake Gibsons within the US is unlikely to get you into any real trouble so long as it is for personal use and not for mass consumption.
It is through ordering overseas, however, that issues might arise, something that seems more or less inevitable considering the fact these guitars are more often than not made overseas in the first place.
In the US, it is against the law to knowingly import counterfeit goods, so the cheap price of the fake guitar you are ordering from overseas might not seem too cheap anymore when you factor in the jail time you might have to do alongside it. If you are willing to risk it, by all means, go ahead, though there are plenty of great old Gibson copies that you can find in the States through a site like Reverb.
Spotting a Chibson in the Wild
Though it might at first seem difficult to tell the difference between a Gibson and a Chibson, these tell-tale signs will have you discerning them apart in no time:
- The truss rod cover of a real Gibson has never featured three or more screws – any featuring more than two screws are the preserve of the Chibson realm.
- The Gibson text on the headstock of the instrument shouldn’t be excessively bold – any that are might be made by a counterfeit manufacturer.
- The fret markers might not be aligned.
- The binding might not cover the fret edges properly.
- The serial numbers and models of a large load of Gibson guitars when bought at once might not add up.
- The price might be well below the market average – this should cause alarm bells to ring as almost anyone would want to make a profit or at least get their money’s worth from selling an instrument in this way. Gibsons are inherently more expensive – for better or worse – so be on the lookout for excessively affordable deals.
More than anything, just be as wary as you possibly can and try to purchase from registered online marketplaces like Reverb or eBay as often as possible.
So, there you have it! Hopefully, you are now feeling ready and able to enter the world again with your own knowledge of Chibson guitars!
FAQs Chibson Guitars
Chibson guitars are not actually one brand of guitar. Rather, it is a term used to describe a counterfeit Gibson that is made for an incredibly cheap price in China and other countries in the Far East. The guitars are then sold for a considerable amount more than they were manufactured for but also considerably less than what a real Gibson would typically go for. Everyone’s a winner, right?
This depends on who you ask and where you get them from. Since Chibson isn’t one brand but a term to refer to a bunch of different manufacturers copying Gibson, then the quality can’t be unanimous among them. Older copies of Gibson before the era of the grand lawsuits are usually of decent quality and often sought after. Newer copies acquired from shady third-party websites are typically to be avoided.
There are a few telltale signs that make them easy to tell apart: the truss rod cover of a real Gibson has never featured three or more screws; the Gibson text on the headstock of the instrument shouldn’t be excessively bold; the binding might not cover the fret edges properly; the serial numbers and models of a large load of Gibson guitars when bought at once might not add up; the price might be well below the market average – this should cause alarm bells to ring as almost anyone would want to make a profit or at least get their money’s worth from selling an instrument in this way.
Chibsons are simply counterfeit Gibsons that are typically made in China or other places in the Far East – hence the silly name. For this reason, Chibsons are not necessarily made in one specific place but rather appear from the whole region itself.