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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Magnum Les Paul Guitars-A Lost Japanese Badge?

I found a Les Paul copy the other day that frankly has me stumped.  The badge is "Magnum" and it sure looks and feels like a vintage Japanese guitar!  With a bolt-on neck (minus the MIJ stamp) and a really solid feel, I asked the person selling it if they knew much about it.  "No," he said kind of sheepishly. "It looks like a vintage Japanese copy to me."  I've got a shot of a couple from Harmony Central for an example.


Here is the one I found in dark, blood red.  It's got the exact pickguard as the above example.  But notice...no higher end mother of pearl.




I realize I need to get closer and sharper pics of the red than what I have...which is fine, as I found a blue bass Magnum just the other day.  More pics on the way!  Ay-yi-yi!

Black seems to be the more popular color of the ones I've been able to locate online for examples.  The one I found was dark red like blood minus the mother-of-pearl inlays. It had silver pickups that looked pretty fragile (I'll be willing to bet owners of these guitars replaced these as quick as possible). Since I live in southeastern lower Michigan, I quickly discovered that the "Magnum" badge was sold locally at Royal Oak Music in Royal Oak, Michigan.  The music store has long since disappeared into history.  It looks like "Magnum" was sold in Chicago as well so maybe it was only distributed in the midwest in America.  There's a lot of reference to Magnums being widely sold in Australia, so they must have been manufactured in good quantities as a 'starter' copy guitar and distributed there as well.  It's so interesting where all these badged guitars end up!

Now what makes it far more difficult in pegging who made the Magnum badge is the fact that there was ANOTHER company in Vietnam who made "Magnum" badged guitars!  However, those Magnums are described as cheap laminated guitars that have a horrible sound with an approximate manufacturing date somewhere in the 1980's.  The Magnum I'm looking at is definitely from the 1970 period and solid.  There are also the famous Eastwood Magnum basses and acoustic Magnum Opus guitars which are made domestically both in the United States and Canada. 

It's clear the Magnum I found was the lower-end model because of the lack of mother-of-pearl inlays and the cheap pickups. 

But I still can't determine if this guitar IS Japanese.  Some argue that it is based on styling...it's rather similar to a Daion Les Paul from that period but god, you could say that about a lot of other Les Pauls from the golden 1970's Japanese copy era!  Others insist it's a Chinese product.  It's such a mystery.  I'm going to  go back and see if I can find a serial number on the one spotted.  In the meantime, check back...I should have those photos up soon so you can see it.  The guitar IS for sale, so if anyone is interested, let me know and I'll pass along the information on the seller.

If you have any information or want to share your Magnum, add it to the blog!

22 comments:

  1. Hey! I bought a Magnum Les Paul copy from Royal Oak music for $208 bucks in 1980! It was beige. It sucked! The pickups were single coil under humbucker covers. Sounded terrible and never stayed in tune. Traded it for an early '60s SG which could be had for not much more money back then...

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  2. I have a black Magnum LP copy that says Galaxy I on it....has pearl block inlay on a rosewood fretboard. I picked it up a few weeks back, when I saw it hanging on the wall I could not pass it up. It feels great, has a nice weight and I really like the tone. I need to replace the output plate as the previous owner or owners damaged the centre hole and I cannot find one even close to it. I've been trying to find info on them since I got it and just tonight stumbled upon your old post. Thanks!

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  3. I have a Magnum Les Paul copy purchased in Detroit around 1978. It is the maple color guitar pictured from Harmony Central. This guitar has the original paper label on the back of the neck MADE IN KOREA. Hope this helps

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  4. I picked up a Magnum LP in tobacco-burst for $80. The electronics are noisy and one of the pots doesn't fully function, maybe re-flowing some solder might help. Tuners are low quality. Pickups are flabby, I think P90s would work well on this axe. So with new tuners, pickups, electronics and some fret-work, it should be an interesting player.

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  5. Picked up a magnum les paul special copy in ebony. Its plywood but its solid as a rock is a good solid weight and sounds great when plugged in after I adjusted pups and a restring. Neck is good no sharp frets or string buzz. I measured the pups they are hot same specs as 650r 700t. Its identical to the epiphone but has a better looking headstock.

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  6. I found a blood red magnum LP with the mother of pearl inlays at a garage sale in southwest Iowa it plays good for being a cheap guitar and it sound great with a fender tube amp

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  7. Well im the proud new owner of a cherryburst Magnum LP. Its at the shop getting a setup. Looks great! My wife is pissed! Update on sound to follow...

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  8. I've wondered about these guitars for years! My cousin gave me his Magnum LP copy about 25 years ago. I had a part-time job and saved up enough to get a Seymour Duncan Distortion in the bridge and never looked back! Played quite a few shows with that thing and people from bands we played with constantly asked me if it was a Gibson custom! ;-)

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  9. I've wondered about these guitars for years! My cousin gave me his Magnum LP copy about 25 years ago. I had a part-time job and saved up enough to get a Seymour Duncan Distortion in the bridge and never looked back! Played quite a few shows with that thing and people from bands we played with constantly asked me if it was a Gibson custom! ;-)

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  10. I worked for Magnum for around 10 years. The Magnum guitar brand was owned and distributed by the Tilben Company of Madison Heights, Michigan the early Magnum from the 70's until the early 80's were made by Ibanez. The late 80's through though the mid 90's were built by Sammick and the Makers of Cort Guitars.

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  11. The Red LP above was from the Cort plant in Korea and sold thru the late 80's

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    1. John, like mentioned below do you know anything about the Flying V?

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    2. the Flying V was available as a bolt on neck and a set neck also. We also have several variations of the Randy Rhodes style guitars.

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  12. My cherry-burst Magnum Custom LP guitar was given a setup, Gibson klucson tuners, and some minor connection fixes. Its beautiful and plays well. Sounds good but could definitely use hotter pickups and a wider bridge for perfect intonation. I'm a little infatuated with this guitar, I'd love to share some pictures if anyone knows how to do that here to help determine if this is a 70's or 80's version.

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  13. Does anyone here know about the flying V made by Magnum? thank you.

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  14. I just found one with the Korea sticker.Your comments have inspired me to go for it .Needs a lot but the basics look solid.

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  15. I just found one with the Korea sticker.Your comments have inspired me to go for it .Needs a lot but the basics look solid.

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  16. I'm a Detroit native so now I understand how my brother and I got Magnum guitars as kids. We couldn't afford authentic Gibson and Fender guitars so we bought a couple Magnums at a guitar show at the light guard armory on 8 Mile. I got an Explorer copy and my brother got a Jazz bass copy. I actually still have the Jazz bass and I'm trying to refurbish it, but just found out that a genuine Fender neck is too big for the body. I think this Jazz bass is actually a 3/4 scale model. Looking at just the body, you can't tell the difference between this copy and a genuine Fender other than the size. The bridge and pickups are virtually identical to a real Fender. The tone controls give it away, but I've replaced them anyway.

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    1. holy shit, i live in detroit just bought a magnum explorer copy from a record store in dearborn. it might be yours

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  17. The serial# ticker on the back of my Magum Les Paul neck seems to read "WO.20779". Anybody know what that means or where it was made? If anybody wants to see a picture of my updated guitar let me know!

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