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Gibson Custom Shop: Incredibly Expensive....Or Incredibly Worth It?

Many people consider "most expensive guitars" to fall into three categories: super rare ones and limited in number, custom-made models, or antique guitars in pristine condition (usually up to more than 50 years.).

With over a decade of history and legacy in music, Gibson Guitars has become one of the world's most prestigious brands in the world, known for producing the most iconic musical instruments ever built. This has made their products highly sought-after by musicians worldwide, resulting in higher prices.

Gibson Custom Shop-made guitars are renowned for offering some of the most prestigious guitars in the world. While their price tags may be considered too expensive by some, if you’re willing to make a significant investment, you might be wondering which Gibson guitars are pricier than their standard original models, more expensive than the handmade production made at the Gibson Custom Shop factory, and which ones are the rarest and most expensive options available today.

To answer that question, first, we need to begin our path down to the most exquisite collection of Gibson guitars by getting to know all there is about guitars that are made by Gibson's most expert luthiers at Gibson Custom Shop!

Gibson Custom Shop

The Gibson Custom Shop is a specialized division within Gibson that focuses on producing guitars with meticulous craftsmanship, premium materials, and historical accuracy. Unlike the standard production line, the Custom Shop emphasizes traditional construction methods and techniques that were used during Gibson's golden era. This commitment means replicating the precise specifications and methods from the original production of iconic models, such as the Les Pauls from the 1950s and 1960s. These guitars are crafted with an eye for detail and authenticity, ensuring that each instrument embodies the heritage and quality of Gibson's storied past.

One of the standout features of the Gibson Custom Shop is its use of premium materials. Each guitar starts from a higher quality base, with materials that are carefully selected for their superior characteristics. For instance, Custom Shop guitars often feature lightweight, single-piece mahogany backs for models like the Les Paul Standard, as opposed to the multi-piece construction found in standard models. This attention to material quality is crucial for achieving the desired tone and resonance, contributing to the exceptional sound and playability of these instruments.

The meticulous craftsmanship in the Custom Shop extends to every detail of the guitar. Additional processes are implemented to enhance the build quality, such as detailed aging techniques, specialized binding treatments, and the use of high-quality glue. These processes ensure that each guitar not only meets historical accuracy but also exhibits superior build quality. The result is an instrument that feels and performs like a vintage classic, but with the reliability and precision of modern manufacturing.

Special projects and limited editions are another hallmark of the Gibson Custom Shop. The team often takes on unique projects that involve rare or hard-to-source materials and intricate designs. This can include hand-selecting woods, creating special finishes, and crafting limited edition models that are not feasible to produce on a larger scale. These special projects highlight the Custom Shop's ability to push the boundaries of guitar craftsmanship and design.

The Gibson USA factory focuses on high-volume, efficient production using automated processes to create consistent, standardized guitars, while the Gibson Custom Shop emphasizes low-volume, handcrafted instruments with extensive customization and premium materials, catering to discerning players seeking unique, personalized guitars.

At its core, the Gibson Custom Shop is dedicated to maintaining the legacy and craftsmanship that have defined Gibson for decades. This includes a steadfast commitment to set-neck construction and avoiding modern production shortcuts like bolt-on necks, which are more common in mass-produced guitars. This traditional approach aligns with Gibson’s historical ethos and enhances the overall quality and character of the instruments. By adhering to these principles, the Custom Shop ensures that each guitar reflects the timeless craftsmanship and innovation that Gibson is known for.

In addition to the standard Custom Shop offerings, Gibson has developed several specialized programs and collections to further cater to discerning musicians and collectors. These include the Made to Measure (M2M) program, the Private Stock Limited (PSL) series, and the Murphy Lab collection. Each of these initiatives provides unique options and unparalleled attention to detail, allowing guitar enthusiasts to own some of the most exclusive and finely crafted instruments available today. Let's dive deeper into what these premier Gibson offerings entail.

Murphy Lab

The Gibson Murphy Lab range, an integral part of the Gibson Custom Shop, represents a pinnacle of craftsmanship and historical reverence in guitar manufacturing. Spearheaded by Tom Murphy, a pioneer in the art of aging guitars, the Murphy Lab specializes in replicating the look, feel, and acoustic properties of vintage instruments through meticulous aging processes.

Tom Murphy, often hailed as the father of guitar aging, brings decades of expertise to this endeavor. The Murphy Lab offers four distinct levels of aging: Ultra Light, Light, Heavy, and Ultra Heavy. Each level caters to different aesthetic preferences, from minimal wear to extensive aging that mimics decades of use. This attention to detail allows players to choose the exact degree of vintage appearance they desire, whether they prefer a slightly aged look or a guitar that appears to have seen many years of playing.

Murphy Lab guitars are distinguished by their proprietary finishes, which are engineered to "check" or develop fine cracks over time. This checking process is not merely cosmetic; it serves to relax the entire guitar, particularly in acoustic models, allowing the wood to vibrate more freely and potentially enhancing the instrument's resonance and tonal qualities. Tom Murphy emphasizes that while distressing—adding visual wear like belt buckle marks or dings—does not improve the guitar's function, the aging of elements such as the finish and wood can contribute to sonic benefits.

The aging process at the Murphy Lab is designed to replicate the natural wear that occurs over decades of use. This involves applying specific finishes and treatments that mimic the thin, flexible lacquers used on guitars from the 1950s and early 1960s. These older finishes are believed to contribute to the distinctive sound of vintage guitars by allowing the wood to resonate more freely compared to the thicker, more durable finishes that became common in later decades.

Tom Murphy's approach is rooted in the belief that old guitars have a unique sound partly due to the way their finishes have aged. By using historically accurate techniques and materials, the Murphy Lab aims to recreate this vintage sound and feel in modern instruments. For example, the finishes used are durable yet flexible, moving with the wood and preventing the dampening effects that can occur with modern, thicker finishes.

1958 Les Paul Standard Washed Cherry Sunburst Ultra Light Aged, Washed Cherry Sunburst

1958 Les Paul Standard Washed Cherry Sunburst Ultra Light Aged, Washed Cherry Sunburst

1958 Korina Explorer (White Pickguard), Ebony, Murphy Lab Light Aged, Ebony

1958 Korina Explorer (White Pickguard), Ebony, Murphy Lab Light Aged, Ebony

1963 Firebird V With Maestro Vibrola Antique Frost Blue Heavy Aged, Antique Frost Blue

1963 Firebird V With Maestro Vibrola Antique Frost Blue Heavy Aged, Antique Frost Blue

1959 Les Paul Standard Lemon Burst Ultra Heavy Aged, Lemon Burst

1959 Les Paul Standard Lemon Burst Ultra Heavy Aged, Lemon Burst

Examples of the Murphy Lab series guitars; from Ultra Light Aged to Ultra Heavy Aged

The Murphy Lab's commitment to authenticity extends beyond visual aesthetics. Murphy draws an analogy to building 1950s Corvettes, highlighting the painstaking effort required to source and apply materials that faithfully replicate the originals. This dedication to historical accuracy ensures that each Murphy Lab guitar not only looks the part but also feels and plays like a true vintage instrument.

In essence, the Murphy Lab range embodies a philosophy of blending historical craftsmanship with modern precision. The goal is to create guitars that capture the essence of vintage instruments, providing players with the visual appeal, feel, and potentially enhanced sound of a well-aged guitar. This meticulous approach sets the Murphy Lab apart, offering something truly special for guitar enthusiasts who appreciate the nuances of vintage instruments.

Continuing from the exploration of Gibson's Murphy Lab guitars, the Made to Measure (M2M) program from the Gibson Custom Shop offers a further level of customization and personalization. This program allows guitar enthusiasts to design and order guitars with completely unique specifications, ensuring that each instrument is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece tailored to the player's exact preferences and needs.

Gibson Made 2 Measure (M2M)

The Gibson Made 2 Measure (M2 )program is all about providing guitar players with the opportunity to create their dream instrument. It offers a wide range of customizations, allowing customers to choose from various base models and then personalize every aspect of the guitar to suit their style and playing preferences. Whether it's selecting the finish, pickups, hardware, or other features, the M2M program gives players the freedom to create a guitar that is uniquely theirs.

Each M2M guitar is a custom one-off creation, making every instrument unique to the customer. This means that finding another guitar exactly like yours is nearly impossible, contributing to the exclusivity and, consequently, the very high price of these instruments. The process of creating a bespoke M2M guitar involves close collaboration with Gibson's expert luthiers, ensuring that every detail, from the wood selection to the final finish, meets the customer's exact specifications. This level of customization and personal attention results in a guitar that is not only a perfect match for the player’s needs but also a rare, highly prized work of art.

When designing your own guitar, there are numerous options to consider. Gibson is renowned for its date-stamped PAF pickups, high-quality electronics, and selection of flamed Maple tops!


Customization Offered by the M2M Program

The Gibson Made-to-Measure (M2M) program offers guitar enthusiasts an unparalleled level of customization, allowing them to create a truly unique instrument tailored to their precise specifications. Here are the key aspects you can customize:

1 - Base Model Shape

The starting point of any custom Gibson guitar is the base model shape. The M2M program allows you to select from a wide range of iconic Gibson models, including the Les Paul, SG, ES-335, Explorer, Firebird, and Flying V. Each model serves as a foundation upon which you can build your dream guitar.

2 - Body Wood, Top Wood, Neck Wood

Gibson offers a variety of wood options for different parts of the guitar, each affecting the instrument's tone and weight:

      • Body Wood: Choose from classic options like Mahogany, Maple, and Alder, each providing distinct tonal characteristics.

      • Top Wood: Options include Figured Maple, Flame Maple, and Koa, which not only influence sound but also offer stunning visual appeal.

      • Neck Wood: Select from Mahogany, Maple, or other premium woods, tailored to provide the right balance of strength and resonance.

3 - Neck Profile

The neck profile is critical for playability and comfort. The M2M program offers a variety of profiles, from the chunky 50s style neck to the slim-taper 60s profile. You can also request custom shapes to match your personal playing style.

4 - Fingerboard Radius

The fingerboard radius affects how the guitar feels and plays, especially during bending and chord work:

    • Traditional Radius: Often 12 inches, suitable for a variety of playing styles.

    • Modern Radius: Flatter options like 14 inches or more for faster playing and easier bending.

The Gibson Made To Measure (M2M) program allows guitar players to design their dream instrument with exceptional craftsmanship and quality from the Gibson Custom Shop luthiers. You can also add on finishing details with the Murphy Lab treatment, either Light Aged to Ultra Heavy Aged finishes!

5 - Fret Wire

Choose the fret wire that best suits your playing technique:

    • Vintage: Narrow and low, typical of early Gibson guitars.

    • Medium-Jumbo: A balanced option providing a good mix of playability and durability.

    • Jumbo: Larger frets, favored by many modern players for easy bending and vibrato.

6 - Hardware – Bridge, Tuners, Control Knobs & Switch Tips

The hardware options allow you to fine-tune both the aesthetic and functional aspects of your guitar:

    • Bridge: Options include the classic Tune-O-Matic, wraparound bridges, and Bigsby vibratos.

    • Tuners: Choose from vintage Kluson-style, modern Grover tuners, or locking tuners for enhanced tuning stability.

    • Control Knobs & Switch Tips: Customizable in various styles and materials, from traditional plastic to high-end metal and pearl.

7 - Electronics

The M2M program provides extensive options for the guitar's electronic components:

    • Pots & Capacitors: High-quality potentiometers and capacitors to shape your tone.

    • Switches: Various pickup switching configurations, including standard three-way, five-way switches, or custom wiring setups.

8 - Pickups

Arguably one of the most critical aspects of your guitar’s tone, the M2M program allows you to select from a wide range of pickups:

    • Humbuckers: From vintage PAFs to modern high-output models.

    • P90s: Classic single-coil pickups known for their gritty, articulate sound.

    • Custom Options: Mix and match pickups or request custom-wound pickups for a truly unique sound.

9 - Body, Neck & Headstock Colours/Finishes

The aesthetic of your guitar is customizable down to the finest detail:

    • Body Finishes: Choose from a plethora of colors and finishes, including gloss, satin, nitrocellulose lacquer, and various aging packages from ultra-light to ultra-heavy.

    • Neck Finishes: Matching or contrasting finishes for the neck, tailored to your visual and tactile preferences.

    • Headstock: Custom colors and finishes for the headstock, with options for unique inlays and bindings.

The Gibson Made-to-Measure (M2M) program offers guitar enthusiasts an unparalleled level of customization!

How To Make Your Own Custom Made Gibson Guitar?

We have a strong partnership with Gibson, enabling us to promptly connect with their expert luthiers. We’ll assist you in determining the specifications for your instrument to guarantee that you receive precisely what you’re looking for.

Here's a step-by-step guide to owning your very own custom Gibson guitar with us:


  1. Browse the available options and decide on your build.

  2. Contact us via phone or email to confirm the specifications.

  3. We will obtain a quote from the company. If you're satisfied, we will place the order.

  4. The instrument will be built! You don't need to worry about anything during the construction process. The build time will vary based on the specifications.

  5. We will deliver your guitar and guarantee that you will fall in love with it as soon as it's in your hands.

Gibson Pre-Sold Limited (PSL)

The Gibson's Pre-Selected Limited (PSL) series offers a unique line of guitars crafted with a blend of exceptional craftsmanship, historical accuracy, and limited availability. These guitars are meticulously handcrafted by Gibson Custom Shop luthiers to meet the highest quality standards.

The PSL series is known for its historical accuracy, paying tribute to iconic models from Gibson's past with remarkable detail in specifications, aesthetics, materials, hardware, and finishes. Each model is recreated with painstaking attention to historically accurate specs and dimensions, offering an authentic playing experience reminiscent of vintage instruments.

Some Gibson PSL guitars are made specifically for music shops or distributors, as shown above with the letter "CME" on the serial to indicate that the guitar was exclusive at Chicago Music Exchange in Illinois, United States!

These guitars are produced in very limited quantities, making them highly sought-after among collectors and enthusiasts. The limited availability adds to their appeal, making them coveted additions to any guitar collection.

Some Gibson PSL guitars are produced as limited editions with unique specs not found in the standard range, including special finishes or the use of exceptional materials, adding an extra layer of exclusivity and desirability.

These instruments are "Pre-Sold Limited," meaning they are pre-selected by distributors and music shops to be sold at their stores, maintaining their exclusivity and high demand!


Certain PSL guitars are made specifically for music shops or distributors, tailored to their specifications, and sold exclusively at those locations, enhancing their exclusivity.

It's important to note that almost all Gibson PSL guitars that emerge from the Gibson Custom Shop are not available directly to the public. Instead, these instruments are "Pre-Sold Limited," meaning they are pre-selected by distributors and music shops to be sold at their stores, maintaining their exclusivity and high demand!

The Gibson Custom Shop stands as a testament to Gibson's dedication to craftsmanship, heritage, and innovation. With offerings like the meticulously aged Murphy Lab series, the uniquely tailored Made 2 Measure (M2M) program, and the historically accurate Pre-Selected Limited (PSL) series, Gibson continues to push the boundaries of guitar excellence. Each instrument, whether a reimagined classic or a bespoke creation, reflects Gibson's decades-long legacy of producing the finest guitars in the world.

For those seeking the pinnacle of guitar artistry, explore our selection of premium Gibson guitars at Music Bliss, where you can find these extraordinary instruments that blend tradition with modern mastery.

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