Information and History

Most of the best Japanese replicas, excluding Tokai, were built between 1978 and 1995 in the Fugi-gen Gakki factory by Japanese luthiers, these include the "lawsuit" guitars and forced Fender and Gibson to license this factory to produce their branded products in Japan. In many cases, these Japanese Fenders and Gibsons are of higher build quality, finish and tone than the US made versions.
Orville by Gibson, Orville, and Greco were all mainly produced by Fugi-gen Gakki, although Terada was involved in the later ObG's also

Orville by Gibson

Orville by Gibson were the Japanese manufactured Gibson Les Paul, fully approved and authorised by Gibson USA. The Japanese made guitar was actually a closer copy of the 1959 LP than the Gibson USA guitar being produced at that time.
The Japanese models usually had a long tenon like the 1959 LP's, and are not weight relieved, the US Standard version did not have a long tenon and is weight relieved.

The vast majority of ObG's were made at the Fuji-gen or Terada factory,

The Orville by Gibson Les Paul Reissue series (LPR ) 1993-1994, were the top of the range Japanese produced Gibsons, they all have stock Gibson USA electrics and pickups, usually nitrocellulose laquer finishes, blank truss rod covers and fret edge binding, and were only made from late 1992 to early 1995, they also tend to have the fattest necks of all the ObG's. These are rare, and the ObG Reissue solid flametops are even rarer.

The Orville by Gibson Les Paul Standard series (LPS) 1988-1993, do not have fret edge binding and have "Standard" on the truss rod cover,..but excepting pickups, are otherwise identical to the ObG reissues.

There are some ObG LPS models which were produced in very limited numbers, like the 54 LP (stoptail and P90's), and some Limited Edition runs of (usually) 50 guitars . There were also a number of limited run series made for large Japanese guitar shops, such as Yamano, these can be spotted by the lack of a pickguard hole as they were ordered with the pickguards off, and are sometimes, but not always, solid flame tops, and one very limited run features solid Flametops, and a one piece back.
The Limited Edition Guitars usually came with their own hardcase, but all other ObG's were sold with a ObG gigbag, and so as a result ObG Original Hardcases are very rare.

Most of the ObG flametops are laminate, but there are some solid flametop guitars, these are extremely rare.
Most ObG flametops are usually quite understated, and any ObG with a highly flamed or quilted top (the LPQ models) are unusual, and normally veneer. There are some LPQ solid quilted models but again very rare. There were no Orville by Gibson Photo-flame tops.
Orville by Gibson's used the premium wood available to the luthiers.

Orville's have Japanese electrics and Orville P.A.F type pickups, (which are very nice) they are finished in poly not nitro, some Orvilles were issued with Photo-flametops, and K serial numbers were in a different factory to Fuji-gen. its now generally agreed that these were the Terada factory

Most Orville by Gibson and Orville guitars have the long neck tenon which is faithful to the "holy grail" 1959 Gibson Les Paul (which is what all these guitars were trying to replicate). 

From early in 1995, Orville by Gibson was discontinued, and in 1998 Orvilles were rebranded as Epiphone by Gibson (Japan).
These were only produced for 2 years up to 2000, the Japanese Epiphone's are really Orville's with a different headstock inlay.
There were no replacements for the Orville by Gibson models, and as such these are becoming very sought after.

The Greco Super Real Series EGF.

late 1979 to early 82 only. Some transition models in 1982..
Model EGF-850, EGF-1000, EGF-1200, all feature veneer flametops, fret binding and nitro finish,  the necks on these are of the fatter '59' kind.
As these were only produced for 2 years they are rare.
The rarest are the EGF-1200, the highest normal production model, and the ''built to order'' EGF-1800, which has a solid flametop, both of these models feature the fabled 'DRY Z' pickups, made by Maxxon, and are amongst the best regarded of all LP replicas. There was also supposedly a highly quilted EGF-2500 but it has never been documented accurately.

The Greco Super Reals generally have the fattest neck of all the LP replica's.

Greco re-issued the Super Real series in 1988 and 1989 for a few High End Semi-Acoustic models only.

Greco Mint Collection.

1982-1991(approx) All these guitars feature a long neck tenon.
Model EG59-85 upward, have Nitro finishes and some 82 transition models have fret edge binding, with high quality electrics and Greco P.A.F type pickups. The EG59-100 and EG58-120 have laminate flametops, DRY-1982 pickups and 50's style necks, some of the EG58-120's also have fret binding and are very similar to the  EGF-1200 Super Real, but with slightly slimmer profile necks, again the highest production model was the EG60-180 with a solid flametop, like the previous EGF-1800's.

Above the 180's there were also some very rare EG59-240 limited edition  models, with solid flametops, fatter flamed maple necks, gold hardware, and ebony fingerboards..

The later years, 89-91 the EG1000D appeared, which was an EG59-100 with  Seymour Duncan pickups as stock. From 1982 to 1990 Greco mint collection have an open O in Greco, In 1991 Greco returned to the closed O on the mint collection models.

The later Greco Mint collection EG59-85 and upward are very similar to the Orville by Gibsons from the same period.

Burny

Some Burny Super Grade models follow the same construction techniques as the above, some do not have the long tenon, but up to and including the FLG/RLG-90 model, all have poly finishes, (apart from FLG's from 1980/81 ) and the higher spec models have fret binding.

The rarest and best models are the 1980/81 FLG's, 90/150/240, they all have 1 piece backs and flamed tops, the 90 being a veneer and the higher models solid, they all have a nitro finish, and a stamped ser no on the headstock back.

The most common are the early plaintops and post '81 RLG-50's and 90's, the 50's are plaintop and the 90's are veneer flametop, these have multi piece backs and poly finishes.

The post '81  RLG-120's and RLG-150's are much rarer, they all have nitro finishes, and have highly flamed solid tops, and are highly sought after. For more Burny info in depth go here


Early Tokai

1978-1982

The highly regarded,(and rare)Tokai "Les Paul Reborn" was only produced for one full year (1978/9) before Tokai decided to change the name to  Reborn old (very rare 6 months production only..), then in 1980, Love Rock.
The Love Rocks from 1980-1981 are made to exactly the same specs as the Les Paul Reborn and Reborn Old, but the latter have more rarity value. 

After 1982 the tokai production numbers and variety of models increased dramatically, and the LS-80 specs varied somewhat, some began to appear with 2 piece backs, and veneer flametops, I only stock the earlier, 1 piece backed LS-80/100/120/150/200, and post 82 LS-150/200 models, (note, most LS-120 have veneer flametops, Its rare to find a solid topped one, all my LS-120's are solid tops.) all these have the correct headstock angle, fret Binding, solid tops, (except most LS-120's), nitro finishes, and one piece backs.
The Tokai's were produced by Tokai-Gakki in Japan, but are of a similar quality to the Fugi-gen guitars. For lots more info on Tokai guitars, visit

http://www.tokairegistry.com/

and

http://www.flyingvintage.com/gcmag/reborn.html

Navigator

Probably the rarest and least well known of the Japanese Replica's, which is surprising as these are amongst the highest quality guitars from this period

1976-1980  great article here  http://www.vintagemij.com/navunch.htm

Les Paul on the headstock, one piece backs, normal tenon, fret binding.

1980-1985 -ish 

The LPS-120/150 was the plaintop  model, this had a 2 piece back for the early 1980 models then later a one piece back, some v early transition models in 1980 do not have the long tenon, but most do.
The LPS-250 was normally a solid flametopped one piece back model, and all have the long Tenon.
The LPS-350 was the highest model with a AAAA solid flametop. All models, both plain and flamed, have solid tops, usually a long tenon, and the later 120's and all the 250 and 350's have one piece backs and fret binding. In every LPS-350  I have seen, the wood used is lightweight honduran mahogony for the body, and looks like brazillian rosewood for the fretboards. Unusually for this period, there seem to be only a few models, basically a plaintop, a flametop, and a goldtop with P-90's for the LP's and a 335 model. 

Its important to realise that these were all made when ESP was a small, independent company, it seems that the early production was outsourced to Kasuga, and sometime in the early 80's ESP started to produce navigators in house, around 1984, and the reason that ESP today brands its highest models "Navigator" is due to the fact that, in Japan, the name is a watchword for the highest quality, because of the superior nature of these early, top end, models. 

Dating of Navigators to the exact year of production is very difficult, some have no markings, some have serial numbers which mean nothing, or have not been determined.pot codes can help sometimes...so my dating is estimated for most models of LP.

85-90  not much known.

New Navigators

90-95  the newer navigators as we now know then began, all solid flametops, 1 piece backs,  poly finish on the 280 model nitro on the others, no other differences.

95-onward.

The current Navigators are extremely high quality, and in my view are the best of the current LP types.

LP-380 and LP 480  essentially the same specs, just different numbers due to price changes in approx 2004/5

LP-500, LP-580, LP-600 LP-680 and other high numbered, are the super flametops custom ordered, and the model number reflects the price for the custom build.

http://www.espguitars.co.jp/navigator/

Fender JV

1982-1984

Produced for only 2 years from 1982 to early 1984, these were the domestic Japanese version, only for sale in Japan, the Squire JV were the cheaper export models. The Fender JV have Fender hardware and Pickups.  The finish on the 115 is all nitro,  the 85 body is nitro,  and the TL52-95 tele is all nitro finished also. The ST-85 and 115 also have a steel trem block, the 85 has japanese pots, caps and switch and pickguard, whereas the 115 uses all USA parts, cts pots, high quality USA caps, and USA switch. The 115 pickguards are the shielded fender USA ones..(full shielding for the 62-115, and a extra shielding plate for the 57-115, as per the originals.)

 Identification of the model number without the sticker on the neck back, can only be made by the finish, the electrics (see above) and the steel trem. In my experience, the A, B and C neck pocket stamps are not a completely reliable way of telling the model, there are  ST-115's with both A and B stamps, (although the majority are A) and there are some ST-85 with steel trem and nitro body with a C neck stamp..for the Tele's there are nitro finished 95's with both A and C stamps. However I have yet to see a poly finished 65 model with anything but a C stamp..

For more info on Fender JV series Guitars see:

http://www.21frets.com/squier_jv/domesticjv.htm