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This heavily customized 1953 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop just sold for $35,000 – and it has an amazing back story

This week, a 1953 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop electric guitar got snapped up on Reverb.com for $35,000.

Now, vintage Les Pauls get bought and sold all the time on Reverb, but this particular one was a little different.

This Goldtop came from the collection of Linda Lee, an accomplished Chicago-area guitarist who owned the guitar for almost 70 years. What's more, Lee gave it a number of modifications – some were fairly common, but others were far ahead of their time.

Having purchased the Les Paul – serial #31581 – brand new at Biles Music Co. in Hot Springs, Arkansas in February 1953, Lee went on to make some tweaks to it to suit her needs. 

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Linda Lee's 1953 Goldtop Gibson Les Paul

(Image credit: Linda Lee/Reverb.com)
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Linda Lee's 1953 Goldtop Gibson Les Paul

(Image credit: Linda Lee/Reverb.com)
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Linda Lee's 1953 Goldtop Gibson Les Paul

(Image credit: Linda Lee/Reverb.com)
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Linda Lee's 1953 Goldtop Gibson Les Paul

(Image credit: Linda Lee/Reverb.com)
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Linda Lee's 1953 Goldtop Gibson Les Paul

(Image credit: Linda Lee/Reverb.com)

Like many Les Paul owners before and after her, Lee swapped out the guitar's original trapeze tailpiece for a Bigsby tremolo in the early '60s. What stands out though, is another one of the aftermarket changes Lee made.

"I had to stand up and play a four-hour gig in high/spike heals and it was hard to step on the reverb and vibrato foot switches," Lee writes in her Reverb listing of the guitar. "So there are toggle switches to turn on/off anything you want to use with your right thumb."

The pair of toggle switches can be found near the top of the body, just above and in between the guitar's P-90 pickups (another one of Lee's post-purchase modifications.)

Lee says that the Les Paul's gold top was professionally refinished, and also that a crack near its nut had been repaired at one point. After decades of gigging, however, it does have some deserved (no artificial aging necessary here!) wear and tear.  

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Linda Lee (second from right) with her band

(Image credit: Linda Lee/Reverb.com)
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A document detailing the history of Linda Lee's 1953 Goldtop Gibson Les Paul

(Image credit: Linda Lee/Reverb.com)

Even still, for $35,000, its eventual buyer got one hell of a deal. A gorgeous vintage Goldtop with highly unusual (for the time) modifications and an amazing, documented backstory to boot. What more could you ask for from a vintage buy?

You can hear the guitar in action, and learn more about its backstory from Lee herself, in the video at the top of the story.

To view the full listing, head on over to Reverb.

Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at guitarworld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.