Buyer’s Guide: Gibson’s Faded Series Guitars

The Gibson Faded series of guitars and basses is named for its thin, satin-like nitrocellulose finish, which contributes to their resonance and response, according to many enthusiastic owners. Because the finish doesn’t undergo the typical labor- and time-intensive sanding, recoating, curing and buffing regimen required of glossy finishes, Gibson has been able to churn out these guitars out in impressive numbers and at lower cost compared to instruments with glossy finishes.

A/B’d against much more expensive guitars, many players are impressed by their playability and sound. And while some players may thumb their noses at the finish and lack of ornate inlays and binding, Faded Series Gibsons have found fans among prominent touring artists, including Steve Hunter of Lou Reed’s band, James Mercer of The Shins, Patterson Hood of Drive By Truckers, and many others more concerned with quality and value than bling.

While the Faded series guitars have gone in and out of production at different points over the past decade, used examples still represent one of the best values in American-made instruments, regularly listing at a price point typically reserved for less-expensive imports. Here’s a look at some of the models and features that these workhorse guitars have to offer.

Gibson Faded Les Paul

The single cutaway Faded Les Pauls were offered as either carved-top Studio models or flat-top Specials. They featured covered Alnico humbuckers (490R at the neck and 498T at the bridge), Slim-Taper necks, Tune-o-matic bridges, and came in cherry, yellow, black, or brown.

Perhaps the most heralded member of the Faded Series is the P90 equipped LP Faded Double Cutaway. These guitars tend to be especially lively instruments and do not linger on the market for very long.

Even scarcer are the mighty, albeit, pricy, Faded Standard, which features a beautifully faded sunburst finish, Burstbucker pickup and the option of a ‘50 style neck. The Junior model, unlike most USA Juniors, also came standard with a ‘50s neck.

Gibson Faded SG

Likely the most common Faded Gibson available, the Faded SG wore 490 Alnico humbuckers and came finished in brown, cherry, or yellow, a Musician’s Friend exclusive.

Unlike the rest of the Faded Series, except the LP Junior, the SG was outfitted with a chunky but comfortable ‘50s style neck. An SG Bass joined the lineup in 2008. Odd ducks included white or black three-pickup models from 2007-08, and the 2012 SG HH, which utilized a wraparound bridge. The 2011 SG Classic Faded, another Musician’s Friend exclusive, brought a bound neck and P90s to the roster.

Gibson Faded V & Explorer

The daring underdogs of the Faded Series, the V and Explorer feature high gain 500T & 496R ceramic humbuckers and thin, fast necks. The Explorer came in cherry or brown, and the V came exclusively in cherry.

Buying Tips

While the Faded Models are pretty consistent, it’s a good practice to ask the Reverb Seller plenty of questions about the guitar before you fork over your cash. With so many available at any given time, you have the power to keep looking.

The earlier models, the series began in 2002, tend to be of higher quality and make for consistently great players. The finish was darker and richer and the fretboards were more precise. Furthermore, if you are shopping for an SG or a V, keep your eyes peeled for an early model with crescent moon inlays, which indicates that the guitar has an ebony fretboard.

Watch out for rough patches. Some Faded guitars, particularly in later years, frankly were not sanded enough. Grainy planes of lighter colored wood along the bevels, cutaways or sides are a good indication that a rough spot lies under the finish.

Since the Faded Series is so affordable, they make excellent modification platforms. When you buy your guitar, be sure to check for upgrades. From pickups to Bigsbys, electronics kits to Grovers, the sky’s the limit for these guitars. Gibson’s Faded Series offers tremendous bang for your buck.

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