In December 2020, I got a message from a good friend alerting me to an all-gold 1954 Gibson Les Paul Standard that was going up for auction on a lesser-known auction site. My interest was immediately piqued because I've always wanted a '50s Les Paul. As soon as I saw the listing, I knew that It was a good one: It had been played to hell and most of the finish was worn off the back of the neck. 

The bad news was the extremely unfortunate eyesore on the top of the Les Paul: Someone had decided to relocate the output jack to the top of the guitar. (I suspect that they saw a video of Les Paul playing on T.V. in the '50s and noticed that he had moved the output jack to the area where one of the tone pots was supposed to be.) The guitar was also missing a few inches of binding on the bass side of the neck from the first to the third fret. The description mentioned that some of the electronics had been replaced, but the photos really just showed that only one volume pot had been changed. 

I kept a close eye on it for the next few days and watched the price keep going up. Of course, I didn't think that I'd get a '50s Les Paul Standard for a steal. But I didn't exactly have the funds to pay the going rate for such a guitar. On the last day of the auction, I set an alert for 10 minutes before the close so that I could watch the guitar slip away while I sipped on a glass of bourbon. Somehow, the price hadn't gone up a lot more in the final few hours. So I decided, possibly foolishly, to throw out one bid at the last second. I had just sold a few guitars, so I had a little extra money that I could spend. Somehow, nobody noticed my bid and I accidentally won. 

Then came the "What the fuck did I just do?!" moment. I had been mildly responsible for a few months, and then I just blew it on an old piece of wood. Up until that point, I had hardly scratched the surface of spending more than five figures on a guitar. But I had won! I tried to justify it as I told myself that it was a great investment, that I could probably sell it for more than I paid for it, etc. I'm fairly good at justifying ridiculous purchases, after all. 

After having the world's worst experience having a vintage Les Paul shipped a year earlier, I decided that I really needed to pick this one up in person. Indiana was only a 7- or 8-hour drive from Atlanta, and I do love a road trip. The bad thing is that this was the height of COVID season, and I hadn't actually gone anywhere in months. I contacted the auction house and let them know that I would like to pick up the guitar in person. They were thrilled with that decision. I left that Monday after work and started driving north. I made it to Kentucky and got a hotel room around midnight. It was only a few more hours to drive in the morning, and then I would take ownership of one of my dream guitars. 

I pulled into Evansville, Indiana, at 1:45pm on December 9, 2020, and walked into the world's smallest auction house to pick up an all-gold 1954 Gibson Les Paul Standard. Surprisingly, I didn't need any identification to pick up such an expensive item. They unceremoniously handed me the guitar, and I walked out to put it in the back of my truck. I paused for a second before I opened the case because I knew this was going to be something truly special. 

The sun hit the guitar perfectly as I laid eyes on the Les Paul for the first time in person. It was incredible. The checking was perfect, and it had the best neck that I've ever felt. The original frets were worn and low, but somehow, the guitar felt perfect. The resonance was something I had never experienced before, and I just knew that it was going to come alive through a great amp. 

I then made the longest 8-hour drive of my life back to Atlanta so I could plug it up and enjoy the fruits of my irresponsible labor.  

November 24, 2021 — Kyle Martin

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